Get Christmas wrapped up with Aura

I am absolutely obsessed with Christmas (in case you hadn’t noticed) and we love all things festive in this household. We have so many cute little surprises for our family and friends – you can see our gift guides and amazing advent is practically bursting as they’re so full – now that the big day is approaching we have also been working hard on handmade gifts and our festive bakes to share with loved ones.

No matter what surprises we have planned I love to make them look wonderful for the recipient. We put a lot of effort in to wrapping presents and making the unboxing experience special for our loved ones and Aura has us covered with personalised Christmas tags so that we don’t get any gifts confused. With so many nieces and nephews we like to gift them the same things so a label for us is super important not to get things mixed up and we like to add a personal touch.

I’ve been having a mooch on the Aura website and there is so much I can share with you all – from custom tags to greetings cards and beyond there’s something for everyone wether you’re looking for items for personal use, or for businesses, maybe even to organise Custom greeting card printing for the entire class or sports club when you have a lot of people to organise cards for.

For those who are creative minded then Aura has a fabulous blog post about how you can turn those illustrations and graphics in to a side hustle and maybe set up your own printing service – along with all sorts of tutorials and blog posts to get the creative juices flowing.

My favourite idea however has to be the custom wrapping paper. This hands down beats anything you could possibly receive in the shops and adds a unique personal touch. Maybe you could get each kids name printed up, or add a pic / graphic to paper so they know the deisgn is just for them. Totally unique for a present pile picture which will certainly stand out from the crowd!

Check out the latests posts from Aura here – I just love the idea of creating my own deck of playing. Cards or tarot cards and then crafting a little box to store them all in! When it comes to party planning and hosting those all important gifts be family gatherings then signs and labels for food are a must have. Maybe you could opt for a hot chocolate station sign or something which says “Santa stop here for the Smiths Family” – you can’t get that kind of personalised touch in home bargains.

Aura also offers a rush service for a fast turnaround on orders so there’s still plenty of time to get your festive stationary organised if you have left it until the last minute

Christmas at the Lower Drayton play Barn

We have had the most wonderful time at the play barn. We love it here anyway with one of the biggest indoor soft play areas and all the usual farm animals to meet and greet but it’s had a festive make over which makes it all the more magical. When we arrived we were greeted by a friendly elf who handed us over our passports and gave us a little bit of orientation – the kids of course wanted to have a run around the soft play before we did anything so we enjoyed our adults complimentary hot drinks tokens from Honey Pots Cafe before starting our adventure.

The adventure began when we took a trip up in the “naughty or nice” lift and were greeted at the top by several elves who enthralled the kids. Stamping their passport for the first time and getting them involved in a conversation about Christmas to suss out if they’d been nice enough to meet Santa – and sure enough the kids were all invited to meet the big guy himself who enjoyed having a chat with them all and was happy to let us snap away lots of pictures. One of the good elf’s captured a family picture for us all too.

After our Santa meet the kids were given free reign to choose their own gifts from Santa’s toy shop and there were lots of different toys to choose from – all surprisingly good quality for a grotto and each managed to find something they loved before we moved on to complete our passport stamps.

Upstairs in the play barn the party rooms have been beautifully transformed in to different workshops – our first was a glitter heaven and each of the children were invited to get crafty with their own wooden decorations. Our elves were on hand to help with every step and fully prepared with all the colours and supplies they needed to achieve their stamp.

The upper soft play pitch has been turned in to a faux snow ball fight zone – with white balls and balloons everywhere this is a lovely zone for a high octane snowball tournament or a sensory moment for little ones to soak up the lights colours and textures. We had a little play and earnt another passport stamp before we checked out my personal favourite room – the gingerbread bakery.

The staging for this room wouldn’t be out of place in one of the garden centres we’ve visited recently, the attention to detail is brilliant and the kids were invited to pop on their aprons and get busy with some sweets and icing to decorate their own gingerbread cookies. Again our elves were very attentive and made sure every child had a lovely experience and a fabulous cookie to take home (or munch on).

My sister and I got a little bit emotional with the kids writing their letters to Santa, it’s the first time they’ve really been able to write their own letters – Arlo asked for robots and bakugans, Lincoln asked for a scooter and Paloma just wrote to say “I love you, from Paloma” – they spent so much time writing neatly before posting letters.

In between all of the activities we managed to head out to see the animals – Arlo asked a very patient elf the name of every single small animal and put her to the test – Rocket the Guinea pig was a firm fave and he decided to name the baby chicks after Santa’s reindeer – and then ran out of names so then we had Rudolph 2, 3, 4, 5…. You get the picture!

Downstairs at Honey Pots we opted for a couple of portions of chips and a toastie meal deal – there was quite a variety of different food options including hot/cold and lots of great looking cakes too. The kids ran around the indoor soft play for a while and then we ventured to the picnic barn with the big slides and the inflatables – we practically had this space to ourselves and spent a good hour running around like loons before the cold defeated us and we went inside.

Ham and cheese toastie meal deal from Honey Potts

Our passport had one final activity left to complete so we went to find out what the story was all about and found a movie screen with hay bales and blankets set up for a viewing of a mischievous elf story featuring many characters we had met throughout the day. It was at this point we realised we hadn’t been outdoors and absolutely needed to find the zip wire and bouncing pillow.

As the sun set we had the outdoor area to ourselves and had one final hurrah with some role play in the fire engines before we said our goodbyes to the elves and the cattle who were turning in for the night. I genuinely can’t recommend this experience highly enough. It was a fabulous day throughout and the team at the farm were working so hard to make sure every child had a magical time. The place has everything you need to capture that Christmas spirit and get you feeling festive.

Xmas at the farm is available to book until Christmas Eve – peak and off peak pricing applies – check out their website here for more information.

Our tickets today were provided for the purposes of review however as always all thought and opinions expressed are our own

Give the gift of Adventure this Christmas – Moms in the West Midlands recommend!

This year has been the year the world opened back up again and we really made the most of exploring some new places, we’ve listened to our friends suggestions and had some wonderful experiences all across the Midlands and so we thought we would recap some favourites and invite some friends, other moms (and no that’s not a typo) in the West Midlands to also share their recommendations for family friendly places to visit across the Midlands all year round.

All of these awesome places offer annual passes which are a great gift idea, and offer excellent value for money if you visit a few times throughout the year plus membership often includes perks such as free parking and additional discounts – so without further a do let’s get right in to it:

The Botanical Gardens

Westbourne Rd, B15 3TR

We are personally recommending the Botanical Gardens. I have a single adult pass because under 5’s visit for free and a membership allows you to invite one guest to accompany you for free entry. Members also get the added bonus of free parking which saves £2 on every visit. An adults pass is £42 and family passes are £67 for the year.

We visit the gardens regularly throughout the year, enjoying the peaceful surroundings in the middle of the city. With tea rooms, two children’s play areas and of course the beautiful botanicals and glass houses there’s something new to explore with every visit. Our highlights this year include access to the dinosaur exhibit and some the live music events from the bandstand during the summer.

All things Wild

Station Rd, WR11 7QZ

The dinosaurs at All things Wild

Season passes valid all year from 1st Jan are £80 per person. Discounts for four or more multiple purchases apply. All things Wild is such a wonderful place to meet so many animals but the things which our Moms in the West Midlands seem to mention over and over again are the amazing mud kitchen, the barefoot walk and the dinosaur trail – if you have dinosaur mad little ones this is a place they will repeatedly ask to visit. There are many different outdoor play areas and there’s a fabulous indoor play area here too which makes this a great all year round place to visit.

Warwick Castle

CV34 4QU

Warwick Castle (Brummie Mummie Amy)

Brummie Mummie Amy recommends Warwick Castle. With three children ranging from toddlers to pre -teens Amy recommends this as a great day out for the entire family. Their gold pass comes in at £65 and we agree that this is an amazing annual pass offer. This membership gives members year round access to the castle, gardens and grounds and Warwick Castle hosts so many fantastic events throughout the year this represents excellent value for money as a single day ticket is £16- so even if you only visit once in each school holiday you’re already saving money.

Members receive perks such as discounts in store, restaurants and on overnight stays in the knights village, complimentary parking and exclusive offers to special events and exclusive experiences.

Merlin Passes

Various locations throughout the UK

Legoland Windsor (Moms in the West Midlands)

Merlin passes had to be mentioned. These passes are perhaps one of the more expensive available but have such a huge variety of big names Family attractions under one pass it’s worth exploring – with local venues such as Warwick Castle, the Sealife Centre and Legoland Discovery there’s plenty to explore a stones throw from the Midlands.

Alton Towers – recommended by Kiri.mumto2leiversboys

Of course if you like to chase big adventures then the pass also entitles holders to visit some of the UK’s best attractions such as Alton Towers (recommended by Kiri , Thorpe Park, the Blackpool tower and so much more. Even if you created a bucket list and only went out as a family once a month you’re bound to make savings – options include a monthly direct debit to spread the cost and members receive way too many perks for me to list.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

Ox18 4JJ

The Cotswold Wildlife Park

If you ever wondered what it was like to see a rhino living the highlife then this is the place to visit, it’s almost surreal seeing them graze in front of the glorious house. This independent park is home to some one of the UK’s largest zoological collections and a fabulous day out for all. We love the magnificent play area and the variety of animals to visit. Adult annual passes are £78 and kids 3 and up £55 with family options also available.

National Trust

Various locations throughout the UK

At £78 for one adult and kids or £128 for two adults and kids this pass is one which has had so many mentions. The National trust hosts over 500 venues across the country and so if you like to travel and find new places rather than return to the same place then this is one for you. Attractions include gardens, houses and parks – many of which have historical and cultural significance. National Trust members receive perks such as free parking and a handbook which is a useful guide to all of the different places you can visit.

The Grand Theatre

Lichfield street WV1 1DE

Something a little different here – purchasing a friends of the grand theatre pass for a loved one entitles them to exclusive priority booking and discounted tickets alongside invitations to exclusive events.

West Midlands Safari Park

Spring Grove, DY12 1LF

The Ice Age at West Midlands Safari Park (Moms in the West Midlands)

Moms in the West Midlands founder Sangeeta recommends the Safari Park – annual passes are £70 for adults and £50 for kids aged 3-15. As always members receive exclusive benefits including discounts in retail shops, restaurants, theme park wrist bands and more. Annual pass holders also get one free trip to Midlands theme Park Drayton Manor too so this membership offers the potential for great savings.

Giraffes on Safari (Mumof4_lifewithliz)

WMSP hosts various seasonal events including at Christmas and Halloween – during the summer opening hours are extended so you can really make the most of it. Our Safari highlights include the Ice and and Dinosaur exhibitions – not to mention the brand new route of the drive through Safari a 2-3 hour self drive experience which takes you across the plains of Africa and beyond with excellent views across the Severn Valley to enjoy too.

Lorikeet feeding (Mumof4_lifewithliz)

Arley Arboretum

Lion Lane, DY12 1SQ

For the most scenic views across the valley then a walk through Arley Arboretum is highly recommended by all. An annual pass is £30 for adults and £15 for kids. Highlights at the Arboretum for us include the fairy garden, the maze and the awesome Easter trails hosted every year. My top tip would be to check out the cafe for seasonal treats and delicious hot chocolate.

Bodenham Arboretum

Bodenham Lane, DY11 5TB

Another beautiful treasure of the midlands is this beautiful Arboretum with its five pool walk. Memberships begin at a similar £30 for adults and £20 for kids with family options also available. Bodenham hosts the most glorious winter trails and the annual pass also entitles you to visit the Living rainforest in Berkshire and Batsford Arboretum in Gloucester. Arlo’s favourite experiences at Bodenham include the working farm you can visit right in the middle of the woods, and feeding the fish in the lake because they come right to the surface.

Park Hall Farm

Park Hall, SY11 4AS

Twelve month memberships available at £48 with families of four at a reduced rate. Based in Shropshire this is another delightful day out with animals to visit, play areas to explore and our favourite – the barrel train ride. Members also receive a discounted Santa experience too.

Birmingham Museums

Various locations

We are all incredibly proud of our city and our diverse history and thriving culture. The Birmingham Museums collectively have eight different places to explore across the region and membership gets you unlimited year round access to all of these places – Thinktank in the heart of the city centre is home to the immersive mini Brum play village and the science garden and I think the pass is worth it just to be able to visit on a regular basis. A family membership is £95, adults £35 and kids/concessions £30. Membership perks include discounts in cafes and shops as well as exclusive member events.

The eight Birmingham Museum attractions are: Sarehole Mill, Thinktank Science Museum, Blakesley Hall, Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Soho House, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Weoley Castle and of course Aston Hall

360 Play

Kingfisher Shopping Centre, B97 4EU

360 play Redditch (Brummie Mummie Amy)

When you’re stuck for something to do on a rainy day then soft play is the answer. We are lucky to have some awesome indoor playgrounds in and around Brum, and many of them offer annual passes. One of the most popular suggestions from our Moms in the West Midlands is 360 Play based in The Kingfisher Centre in Redditch. This fabulous area has its very own merry go round, a huge soft play frame to explore and immersive play experiences with props too.

A peak membership pass for a year is £95 (currently on offer for £70) and is for one adult and one child. The best bit about this is the adult can be different for each visit so you can send mum, dad, grandparents or a childminder. Membership perks include discounts on food and special event tickets.

Twycross Zoo

Burton Rd, CV9 3PX

Image credit: Brummie Mummie Amy

Another awesome animal based attraction in the Midlands is Twycross Zoo. Recommended by Rebecca from House of Stew and many other local mums, passes are for Adults £65 and kids £50. This year round pass entitles you to visit every day (except for Christmas Day) and includes special events such as Easter and Halloween. With hundreds of animals to meet, and awesome indoor and outdoor areas to explore this offers a fabulous family friendly day out.

Twycross Zoo (House of Stew)

I’ve shared a blog post before covering some of our favourite family friendly farms in the Midlands and it’s delightful that many of these offer annual passes. Highlights for us include:

Hatton Adventure World

Dark Lane, CV35 8XA

Exploring Hatton (Kayla_89_xo)

Reccomended by Kayla_89_xo and many other moms in the West Midlands, Membership for the farm is £96 for individuals with a variety of family pass options available at discounted rates. We love Hatton and it’s year round family friendly events – the indoor facilities including the animal barn and soft play make this a fabulous place to visit whatever the weather and an added bonus is the beautiful surroundings and the shopping village with its array of stores to explore.

·         Unlimited entry to Hatton Adventure World all year round

·         Entry to Snorty’s Superslide Mania indoor soft play

·         3 members newsletters every year full of exciting news

·         Exclusive Members offer vouchers 3 times a year

·         Invitations to 3 exclusive members events at the Adventure World

·         Discounts on children’s birthday parties and Laser Combat parties at Hatton

·         Discounted entry to meet Father Christmas

· Complimentary and exclusive Hatton calendar every year

Birds of Prey experience at Hatton

Attwell Farm

Seafield Lane, B98 9DB

Attwell Farm is one of the places the kids request to visit most often for several reasons – recommended by Abby and Olivia Attwell Farm has the most awesome bouncing pillow and the “real” decommissioned fire engine. The kids always enjoy the huge soft play, sand pits, outdoor play areas and of course meeting and greeting the variety of farm animals too. As a grown up I can confirm that the cafe serves the most devious cakes and there’s always plenty of seating in the soft play which is an added bonus. Adult memberships £72 and kids £80.

Drayton Manor theme park and Zoo

Mile Oak, B78 3TW

Thomas Land at Drayton Manor (BrummyMummyDiaries)

Recommended by Hayley – Brummy Mummy Diaries, Just 40 mins drive from spaghetti junction, in Tamworth is Drayton Manor – home to 100 rides and attractions including Thomas Land and a zoo. With the annual pass you can visit whenever the park is open (check the website for closures) and enter seasonal events too. Family Pass for 4 people: £340 (£85pp) – Age 12+ £99pp – Age 4-11 £85pp – Age 2-3 £65pp and of course Under 2’s go free.

Members receive exclusive perks such as 20 £20 passes for family and friends to further share the gift of adventure as well as discounts to on site shops and restaurants, special events and hotels. Annual pass holders also receive a complimentary ticket to West Midlands Safari Park.

Dudley Zoo and Castle

Castle Hill, DY1 4QF

In the heart of Dudley is the famed zoo, the zoo itself features enclosures with the unusual Tecton architecture which attracts a mixed bag of opinions from visitors, especially as they offer a stark contract to the 11th century castle ruins – it’s unsurprising that the zoo has a protected status. Dudley zoo is a shining example of how attitudes towards conservation have grown over the years and the changes the zoo has experienced alongside its history are what makes us proud to have such a place on our doorstep. There’s such a wide variety of animals to meet, including some of the worlds rarest animals.

This annual pass is one which delivers the most value for money in the Midlands – adults £49 and kids £32 which offers unlimited entry for a year and you can also get a £15 annual parking pass too.

English Heritage

Various places throughout the UK

English Heritage is ideal for fans of historical architecture and for budding explorers. It’s most famed attraction is perhaps the beautifully mysterious Stone Henge but English Heritage proudly boasts over 400 attractions nationwide. Memberships start at £64 for one adult and up to six children. Perks include discounted entry to Warwick Castle and many other attractions as well as free parking and delivery of magazines and a members handbook.

Conkers

Rawdon Rd, DE12 6GA

Visiting Conkers – (House of Stew)

If you’re looking for the ultimate place for outdoor adventures then Conkers is it. Suggested by Rebecca – House of Stew – Membership is £18 for kids and £28 for adults with various family packages. Conkers is home to acres of woodland / forest to explore and has its very own ropes course which is great for an adrenaline rush. The barefoot walk is a highlight for a sensory experience and on rainy days there’s plenty of indoor activities to encounter too. We’ve visited so many times and still haven’t managed to experience everything Conkers has to offer. There something for all ages here to enjoy.

Ironbridge Museums

M54 J4 or 6 based on the attractions you wish to visit

Another place which has had so many nominations is the Iron Bridge Museums – with a family pass for one adult and up to four children costing £47 which gives you entry to all of the attractions including Blists Hill Victorian town. The iron bridge gorge itself is a world heritage site so well worth a visit.

Hawkstone Park Follies

Shrewsbury, SY4 5JY

The follies are open on selected dates throughout the year but a membership is still worthwhile as there’s so much to see and do. This is the kind of place to visit with your walking boots on and head out for a great hike so perfect for outdoor explorers and adventurers. This English Heritage attraction was one of the most visited landscapes in the 19th century but forgotten about and allowed to become overgrown until a huge project in the nineties set to restore it to its former glory. The views you can find at the follies and second to none and there are surprises to encounter throughout including a shell encrusted grotto, the Swiss bridge and gingerbread hall.

Black Country Living Museum

Tipton Rd, DY1 4SQ

If you’re looking for the best fish and chips in the midlands then the Black Country Museum is the place for you. This open air museum is where history comes to life, and it’s an experience quite unlike any other as buildings such as shops, houses and even a pub have been reconstructed to show what life was like for Black Country residents during the industrial revolution and beyond. They even host Peaky Blinders themed evenings and members of course receive discounts on special events, food, drink and additional tickets for friends and family alongside free parking. The best thing about a visit is the team of actors who do an excellent job of bringing the experience to life. It’s hard to explain but they have an awesome TikTok page you can visit to get a feel for the work they do.

Birmingham Wildlife and Conservation Centre

Pershore Rd, B5 7RL

Affectionately known by locals as “the nature centre” which was it’s name many moons ago, it’s hard to believe that such a lovely variety of animals lives behind the fence along the Pershore road, adjacent to Cannon Hill Park. A family season ticket is £86 (two adults and three children). This season ticket grants you year round access – highlights include the red pandas, the new pair of otters Charlie and Ceri, and the reptile house which is home to all manner of creatures. The conservation centre has its own cafe with an indoor play area too which is a bonus for rainy days and ideal for little ones.

Weston Park

Weston Under Lizard, TF11 8LE

A family pass for Weston park is £75, or for individual adults £30. This stately home is unlike any other in that nothing is “out of bounds” so you can bring a football, or take the kids bikes and scooters along to enjoy the space. The woodland adventure playground is one of the kids favourite play areas to visit, and members can also enjoy discounted (or free) entry to many events throughout the year including festive experiences and the summer fiesta.

Trentham Gardens

Stone Rd, ST4 8JG

Membership to Trentham has its perks – such as early entry – so members can arrive an hour before everyone else and priority ticket purchase for special events. You can also bring along family and friends at a 20% discount. The year round fairy trail at Threntham is one of the best trails in the Midlands to explore with beautiful sculptures around the gardens and then Trentham Gardens always hosts excellent trails for Easter too. We love visiting to walk around the vast lake which hosts many water sports and we can’t wait to come back next year and take a trip on the Miss Elisabeth boat and maybe bring our fishing rods for a quiet afternoon of fun.

Monkey Forest

Trentham Estate, ST12 9HR

Monkey Forest (mumof4_lifewithliz)

A stones throw from Trentham gardens is monkey forest – adults passes are £30 and kids £22. Liz from mumof4_lifewithliz has recommended this attraction and so we are avidly waiting for the announcement of the beginning of the 2022 season. Members not only get to visit throughout the opening season but also can few proud that memberships contribute to the valuable conservation efforts Monkey Forest is making.

If you have any top tips which you think local mums would be interested in hearing about, or if you’re a local business and want to be featured then please get in touch – we can’t wait to hear about your amazing adventures!!

The enchanted garden at Webbs of Wychbold – review

Quite possibly the most beautiful festive experience I’ve ever had. It’s impossible to describe just how magical the light trail around the riverside gardens is but I will do my best – my pictures do not do this justice at all. Arlo at age four was enthralled throughout and I was left feeling quite emotional and overwhelmed by the environment, especially when we walked through the woodland path and found a rainbow bridge having recently lost our pet cat.

We usually visit Santa at the grotto Webbs Garden Centres – this event is entirely new and the attention to detail the team have put in to decorating the gardens is truly remarkable, it’s a beautiful place to visit anyway but this is something else. There are the most beautiful light installations throughout, with different themed areas and displays to happen upon, and lights placed in some of the best places to also showcase the beauty of the gardens themselves. Plenty of different spots to pause for festive family photos.

I highly recommend this to families looking for a festive experience. Arlo is four and so found them entire hour we spent in the gardens magical – he recognised the stories behind the gingerbread man and the Jack and the bean stalk displays but his favourite element was the woodland walk with all the different animals. The entire experience took us about an hour.

The theme is based on fairy tales you will instantly recognise with large books throughout featuring popular quotes. The entire garden is filled with Christmas music and sound effects as you walk around I’m not sure if they’re on a loop or there are motion sensors as each display had its own unique sounds. We heard “fe fi fo fum” as we passed the giant and ran across the bridge as we heard a troll.

If you’re familiar with the gardens you’ll know exactly what I mean when I say that Santa is near to the hobbit house, in a purpose built hut, and he was lovely and chatty with Arlo, reminding him of course to be good and to leave him a mince pie on the big day. Just before we turned the corner to greet him snow machines were bursting out flakes from their spots hidden in the trees and Arlo gasped in amazement.

The important info:
adults £16 / kids £10 / under twos free off peak (£18/£12 through December) book here

Suitable for prams and wheelchairs throughout as the entire route is on pathways

Open from 4.30pm. And this was just right for us as it began to get dark as we entered.

There are lanterns to purchase at the beginning £3 each or two for £5

A little hot chocolate hut in the middle selling some festive treats like candy canes etc.

There is a pop up marquee at the end with a toasty fire, drinks and snacks to purchase. Arlo had a kids hotdog and chips and I drooled at the red velvet cake.

You greet Santa near the end of the experience, you don’t book, just have a little chat as you pass by his hut and of course take some pictures – his elf gives the little ones a set of stickers and a badge.

There are also the Hygge pods close by to book for a special treat £25 per head for a festive afternoon tea and Prosecco (minimum four people)

Of course the garden centre is open too and worth popping in just to see the displays inside and make some festive purchases. Arlo loves the sing along snowmen right at the entrance. Webbs of Wychbold is the place to visit to invi tree the festive spirit in for 2021.

My new golden locket – gift ideas for mums

Golden inscribed locket

I am absolutely besotted with this new golden locket sent out to me to review and share with you all because it’s an ideal Christmas gift idea. I’ve never owned a locket before and so this piece is really special to me. Mainly because it’s so personal and carries a lot of meaning. I’ve worn it every day since it arrived.

This piece is a gold plate on sterling silver heart locket by LOVELOX. This perfectly poised piece showcases exquisite engineering, with the hinge seamlessly designed into the flow of the heart and the clasp barely breaking the clean lines of the locket. The locket is beautifully finished with expert engraving and two delicately placed photos for a very special gift experience

I opted to add the words “little Dino” to my locket because I named Arlo after the lead character in the movie “the good dinosaur” and one of his middle names is “Rex” – it’s only natural that he’s become a huge dinosaur fan himself and sounds like one when he’s running and stomping around the house so it just made sense to add these words. I love the idea of personalised jewellery and these lockets can be engrave with up to 18 letters on a variety of fonts and sizes for a truly unique piece.

Inside my locket

There is space for two images inside this locket and I uploaded a couple of my favourite pictures of Arlo to hold close to my heart – the image on the left is from the day the first lockdown ended in summer 2020 and we went out for such a beautiful walk in the evening together in the meadows which is a memory I will treasure forever. On the right is Arlo on his first ever Christmas looking adorable. The festive season took on a whole new meaning when I became a mother and it was a magical day for us both.

These lockets can further be customised by choosing your chain length and then they arrive swiftly via delivery having been engraved in the U.K. and are presented in beautiful boxes which are ideal for gifting. This is the kind of piece which I feel anyone receiving would appreciate as it makes for a very thoughtful gift idea and is a timelessly classic piece of jewellery which can be worn with everything.

The haunted castle – Warwick Castle at Halloween

We love all things spooky – Halloween is bigger than Christmas in this household and so we jumped at the chance to attend a press day at Warwick Castle at the launch of their Halloween extravaganza. With all sorts of spooky attractions there’s great fun for all the family to enjoy with the castle providing the perfect backdrop to events.

We arrived before lunch time on a crisp Autumn day and were given our map and information about new events attractions for the half term and so spent a little time checking this out, planning our day and deciding which way to walk – there’s a handy app to download with all of this information and we booked some of the free attractions using the app but the team are abandoning this process for a walk up process.

So first things first – the boys wanted to see the Falconers Quest. This is the birds of prey show which takes place on the lawns at the back of the castle in front of the boat house and I have to say as a bird fan, it’s truly magnificent to behold. The show is the most exciting bird show I have ever been lucky enough to see with a sound system playing out an immersive story about the quest of a young man who dreams of working at the castle and has to prove himself. The birds swoop overhead throughout to the delight of the audience and I can’t put into words how breathtaking this experience truly is.

As the show finished we ambled up the lawn and to the castle – taking a rather backwards route and we quickly started to notice some strange happenings. With a headless horseman standing proudly in the shadow of the keep Arlo was quickly immersed in to Halloween mode. The team of animators working in the grounds really made the day special – we found that wearing costumes helped us to stand out and that they all wanted to engage in conversations about how to find the horseman’s head and who could have possibly cut it off.

On the lawn at intervals throughout the day were troll hunting and spell casting sessions held by more characters which delighted the children who gathered around to wave swords and wands around frantically. Arlo’s four so was just the right age for this and nothing was too “spooky” for him. We sat at nearby picnic tables to enjoy our packed lunch but noticed families around us enjoying pizzas from a street food stall which smelt amazing. There are various outlets dotted around for food and hot drinks.

In the courtyard grounds of the castle was “dead centre stage” and all long day various performances kept the crowd entertained – from puppets to a ghoulish disco and more. There was plenty of bench seating available for us to sit down and enjoy the shows – most of the time the kids were jumping around at the front and enjoying the music accompanied by ghoulish knights and ladies. It was here Arlo met the court Jester who I have to say was the kindest soul we met all day and he really took the time to engage with all the children who were shrieking with delight.

We went and walked along the castle ramparts to take in the views – this isn’t for the faint hearted because the spiral staircases and dizzying heights combined with the spooky Halloween vibe do send shivers down your spine but we felt proud (and somewhat relieved) to have made it!

Upstairs down scares was set up in the main Castle. I’ve done lots of scary mazes at various attractions so had a little idea of what to expect but for Arlo this was a first. The team who set this event up must have had so much fun coming up with concepts for each room, and again a fabulous team of actors and animators entertained us with more spooky humour which was pitched just right for kids – apart from the final room and jump scare with ghosts which had me screaming and running for the doors. I’d avoid this one if you have kids who are easily scared. I won’t ruin the surprises with pictures, it will take about fifteen to twenty minutes to wander around through the rooms and enjoy the experience.

The witches tower was the attraction which was in highest demand. There was no filming allowed for this experience which was truly unique – essentially an immersive story time for little ones with “Nightshade” the witch telling us all about her plans to turn a prince in to a frog and then getting us involved in the trouble. Again the attention to detail with the staging of the entire tower experience, from decor running up the stair well to the props in the entrance was magnificent – there was something spooky to spot everywhere you looked and I admire the creativity.

The Warwick witches are just fabulous. Staying in character seamlessly and pausing for photos with every single person who asked whilst also managing the entrance to the attraction. There are so many awesome opportunities to take pictures at the Castle that I’ll be sharing Halloween content for days. I’m not sure they expected a mid thirties witch to join the queue of five year olds in fancy dress but I felt right at home next to the cauldron!

Thank you so much to the team at White Tiger PR for inviting us again to enjoy this experience – we had a great time and highly recommend the Castle at Halloween for families looking to book a spooky adventure and also enjoy a full day out. We managed to clock up 14,000 steps through the day and didn’t leave until 5pm. There’s also a whole host of castle after dark experiences to book and of course the grounds and usual exhibits to explore and enjoy too.

Warwick Castle, Warwick, Warwickshire, CV34 6AH
The Haunted Castle runs from 23 -31 October 2021, from 10am to 5pm daily and features over 20 spellbinding shows and attractions.
www.warwick-castle.com, 01926 406610
Day tickets from £26 per person (3+).

Children under three receive free entry.
Visitors can download the Warwick Castle app to see showtimes and a detailed map to make visits even easier

Stocking filler ideas for 2021

With only ten weeks until Christmas Arlo has already started to point out items he wants to add to his Christmas wish list, and of course as a parent I want to do my best and get him some awesome gifts, however when I think back to my childhood, the most memorable gifts have always been the funny little things. My parents used to fill my stocking with the traditional chocolate coins and a satsuma but then my dad would find the most random little things which made us all laugh because they were so unexpected. Now it’s my turn to continue this tradition and Wicked Uncle has me covered.

Wicked Uncle asked me to check out their website and choose some of my favourites, and so I have had a good browse and here’s some of my favourites – all coming in at under £10. Not only ideal stocking filters for kids of all ages but maybe also great for random Secret Santa gifts too.

Dinosaur torch and projector £6.95

My dad always popped a torch in the top of our stockings, probably so that we could open everything in the stockings from bed without waking them up too early on Christmas morning. I’m continuing this tradition and love finding unique items for Arlo – this was last years and he loves the three little discs which rotate with different dinosaur images. There are also different options for animal and unicorn fans so all the kids can have “the same but different”

Retro Box of sweets £5.99

It’s almost a given that it’s okay to have sweets first thing on Christmas morning. I love the idea of a box filled with retro classics such as fruit salads again because it gives me nostalgic childhood memories.

Unicorn Poo £4.95

I do not know what the fascination is with slime and sticky things but the kids love it. We have made all sorts of random mixes this year but have never managed to create a rainbow without mixing all of the colours together so this will make them all smile – I love finding weird and wonderful gifts which have a private joke – guaranteed this is the gift they will remember in twenty years time and not the high value items I have been attempting to source for months.

Paper planes £8.95

I love little creative gifts, the kind of thing the entire family can get involved with. I have a feeling that after dinner that we will be hosting a paper plane tournament and everyone can get involved with this kit which has enough for sixty planes. I just know that my dad will love doing this with the kids which will free me up for a little afternoon nap.

Chocolate frogs with Popping Candy £5.95

We are avid Harry Potter fans in this household and if you are too then you will know the significance of chocolate frogs. The popping Candy surprise in these will make everyone smile and again it’s one of those gifts which everyone will understand the personal significance of.

Here’s a little pic of Arlo on his first Christmas – I popped him in my stocking, the same one I’ve had since I was a little girl and my parents have now given this to me to continue the traditions. I am really looking forward to this year as it’s probably the first year Arlo truly understands what’s going on and he’s totally bought in to the magic. I can’t wait to create some memories and have a Christmas filled with laughter and surprises! I think I’m going to surprise my parents with a stocking filled with little surprises reminiscent of christmases past.

Neon Frame £16.95

The team at Wicked Uncle are working with me on my Amazing Advent and are offering one lucky reader the chance to win this awesome light up neon frame which will make the ideal gift for creative types.

Tap this picture to enter the free giveaway. T&C’s apply click here for more info. Giveaway closes on 1st December

This blog post is sponsored by Wicked Uncle

A bee in your bonnet – A beehive hat DIY for the Easter bonnet parade

Easter bonnets are a tradition I remember participating in when I was a little girl. I was so excited when the nursery asked us to get craft as parents as they’re having a bonnet parade this week before the holiday break, but of course when I asked Arlo what he wanted to make he didn’t have any traditional ideas. In fact he was adamant he wanted to go as a dinosaur and so we were tempted to glue some feathers around a T. rex mask but I didn’t think that would go down too well with other parents.

So I began by reading for an Aldi brochure I’d picked up full of Easter food and the first thing he noticed was the giant beehive Easter egg and so that was his mind made up, and I’m not one to shy away from a challenge so I looked around for things I could use to make a beehive shape. Opting for a small plant pot and half of a plastic wine glass of all things.

The main thing to consider with things like for children is wearability – so you’ve got to consider the weight of everything and how to stick it all on securely. The plant pot we used had holes so I threaded wool through the base before sticking the two halves together so that I could tie it in place.

The beehive was wrapped in wool and I experimented with three different kinds of glue to make sure it stuck before we painted it a lovely golden yellow shade. It’s a little on the interpretive side but you get the gist of things. Then the next thing we needed was bees – and as it’s Easter it seemed logical to use some little egg decorations we had from Poundland.

So we added more yellow paint and cut out little cardboard shapes for wings – we left the little strings on the eggs and then it was easy to hang them up to dry, and then we dipped the bigger end in to white paint before using a chalk pen to draw stripes and smiles ….. and of course adding googly eyes to complete the look.

Meanwhile we set to work decorating the base of the hat – opting for a brim of fake grass and then some scrunched up tissue paper to make the base. I didn’t cover the top until we had secured the beehive in place as I wanted to make holes in the too and then hide these.

Whilst putting all of this together we had inevitable conversations about bees and Arlo confidently explained that bees make honey and so we had to add in a little honey jar too – a plastic shot glass with a roll of paper inside labelled “hunny” and then covered with a scrap of gingham paper tied in place with elastic .

Then once all of the little components were in place it was a case of securing it all to the hat, and then adding flowers and leaves to decorate.

There we have it – Arlo’s Easter bee in a bonnet! 🐝

The Easter trail at Trentham Gardens

We have been out and about again today and this time our travels took us to Trentham Gardens, which are amongst the finest in Britain. A week ahead of Easter there has been a Beatrix Potter themed trail added to the grounds.

You can book online to visit the gardens. Tickets are £12 for adults and under 3’s are free. The Easter trail pamphlet is an additional £2.50 and can be exchanged at the end of the trail for a treat. We took the pre booked line at the entrance and avoided all of the queues, you do have to select an arrival slot time but if you’re early the ice cream shop is open and there’s also toilet facilities to use at the entrance.

Trentham Gardens site has a wealth of activities to participate in, we were given the winter and spring spotters guides and a historical one too, and it was fascinating to see the remains of Trentham Hall too. The extended site also includes a garden centre and a shopping village which will hopefully bounce back to life as soon as restrictions lift and with free parking this in itself is a grand day out, that’s without mentioning the monkey Forest and Tree Top Adventures (must be booked separately) which are also set to re-open shortly. There really is something for everyone here.

The extensive grounds at Trentham circulate the beautiful lake which has a mile long walk you can amble along at your leisure and there’s plenty to see and do. Arlo took along his own camera today and was busy capturing the ducks as well as spotting the infamous Jeremy Fisher along the trail.

The upper flower garden is where the majority of the Peter Rabbit trail was located so all of the markers can be found along paths which are easy to navigate with pushchairs, and it’s not too challenging for little ones. With such a vast area to explore we found that we had plenty of space and didn’t at feel like our social distancing was compromised. It feels as though spring is about to burst in to life with daffodils and early bulbs blooming to bring the first wave of colour through in the gardens.

Arlo was delighted to explore the display’s created for every single character, we were looking for letters on wooden eggs to complete a puzzle. He’s just starting to recognise letters and so as soon as he recognised a character from the books he ran ahead to find the “abc” for us. Then once he finished examining the displays he looked up to see the surroundings he would pause to catch his breath. The placements have been very carefully chosen with lots of open space and to take you around to some of the best corners of the gardens with great vantage points.

We also decided ahead to purchase the fairy trail pamphlet for an additional £2.50 – these permanent sculptures by a local artist are dotted around the gardens and the lake and you will encounter many of them if you keep your eyes peeled whilst looking for Peter Rabbit and friends. There is a one way system now around the gardens so some of these are harder to spot if you’re determined to finish the trail but this change helps the social distancing. Wanda the mermaid is a new addition and can be found basking in one of the fountains.

Hunka Munka the mouse was holding the last clue to find, and once we had all the letters we had to unscramble them to find a word to complete the trail. (I won’t post the answer spoiler.) The walk took us about an hour as we paused to feed the ducks in the stream and ambled slowly along and we then got the chance to play in the adventure park – the slide, maze and the barefoot walk remains closed but all of the other apparatus including the sandpit were available for Arlo and others to enjoy. We also went up behind the maze in to the open field where sheep were grazing just to say a quick hello.

We retraced our steps back to the lake and noticed that the Italian tea rooms were open to provide takeaway food and that there are also “pods” are being set up for family bookings which will provide fabulous views across the lake for afternoon tea. The toilet facilities here are also open. We sat and enjoyed our picnic and trail treats watching the nesting moorhens before continuing our casual stroll – I hardly noticed I’d achieved my 10,000 steps for the day.

We can’t wait to come back and visit as the seasons change, we want to finish the trail and visit monkey forest next time. I highly recommend Trentham Gardens as a Midlands based family friendly attraction. Click below to book.