Posted in Christmas Activites

Making a Simple Advent Calendar…

A couple of weeks ago I decided to make an advent calendar this year for my son. He’s 10 years old and has just asked the dreaded ‘Santa’ question. Keen to still make the run up to Christmas a special time for him I started thinking of ideas.

I decided to go for a fairly simple design as it’s the first one I have attempted. The thing that appealed most to me was being able to fill it with his favourite treats. I considered little envelopes and then decided pillow boxes would be better to fit stuff in so opted for those. I thought the best way to do it was to fasten them to some kind of board.

Hobby Craft is my first stop when doing a project like this. Whilst in there I decided that a notice board would make a good base. It eliminated the need for decorating as it looked nice as it was. I picked up a glue gun for only £2 – essential for this project. Some little wooden numbers and decided to also add my sons name too. I went to the works (cheaper shop for craft supplies) to get ribbon, washi tape and embellishments.

Most the stuff I used can be seen above but here’s a list of what you need:

  • 40 x 60 cm notice board
  • Glue gun and glue sticks
  • Ribbon – at least 2m to do the edge
  • Wooden numbers
  • Christmas embellishments
  • Washi tape
  • Pillow boxes
  • Scissors
  • Name letters
  • PVA glue
  • Glitter
  • Treats or tiny toys

The glue gun is your friend in this project! I have to laugh because although I have always loved crafting a hot glue gun I was never allowed. Today at 35 years old I am nursing a blister on my finger from using it! Not a bad one but still my mum was right to not give me one ha ha!

Start by edging your advent calendar in ribbon. Use the glue gun to put blobs along the edge and stick the ribbon down and cut to size.

Next make up your pillow boxes by folding in the ends. Arrange them on your board so you can see how they look… you should have five rows of five. Once arranged on the board look at your embellishments. I chose a total of seven different ones. This gave me enough so none were next to each other in any direction.

Use your glue gun to attach your embellishments and ribbon. Make sure you think about where your numbers are going at this point. Then glue the bottom of the boxes too.

Once all your boxes are assembled check your happy with the order on the board. At this point you can switch them round if your not.

Once satisfied it’s time to attach your numbers. Using the glue gun I put mine in the top left corner.

Now you are ready to put in the treats. I thought when I came up with this idea that I would fit little toys in too but it was very difficult to find anything. The beauty of this project is you can fill it with your child’s favourite sweets and chocolate and of course some more Christmas themed treats.

Someone also suggested Lego men so I bought a set of 8 of these for £10 off eBay. I thought it would be nice to mix it up. They fit perfectly and came part unassembled in little packets which I liked.

So now it’s time to fill your boxes. Larger items like the freddo I only put one in but things like the maoms I put in four or five.

Once filled it’s time to attach the boxes. I did worry if they would hold but given the things in them are light they did. Just put a line of glue down the centre of the back of each one and press into place.

I then stuck on the numbers into the corner of each box alternating between red and white for effect.

Finally it was time to do the letters to finish off the top of the board. First I tried painting them but the paint wasn’t strong enough and the card showed through. I decided glitter was the way to go keeping with the sparkly theme of the ribbon. I used PVA glue to coat the letters and then just simply sprinkled the glitter all over.

Finally I attached the letters to the board – again with the glue gun and added some little bells in the top corners to fill the gaps. It’s important to leave your board flat for at least an hour whilst everything dries and sets properly.

So here is the finished product…

The only thing I don’t like is the ‘L’ is larger but I wanted a capital and it just came bigger! I’m made up with it and I’m sure my son will love it too, I can’t wait to give it to him. Start to finish it was probably a 2 hour project. It was easy and enjoyable!

Have you ever made an advent calendar? How did it turn out? Let me know if you give this one a go in the comments 🙂

Rachael x

Posted in Holiday Happiness

Zero Gravity Dubai… Know before you go!

I’ve recently come back from a hen break in Dubai. It’s hard to choose the best day as honestly it was so good from start to finish. But ladies day at Zero Gravity pool party we attended on the Tuesday was seriously amazing! It certainly give Ocean Beach in Ibiza a run for its money. So I thought I would share our day there with you guys.

As a party of eight we had prior booked a large bed. The cost of this was 450AED so approximately £90. Although some may think this is steep I beg to differ as it just works as a minimum spend. You use the money you’ve paid for the bed to get your food and drinks so essentially the bed is free – I mean you would spend that money anyway right on a night out?!

Once paying we headed into the pool area but not before stopping for a photo in front of the themed wall with a unicorn ha ha!

Once inside we were shown to our bed which of course wasn’t going to allow all eight of us to lie on. But this wasn’t a problem as it was more of a base. I’ve been to pool parties and not had a bed before and this is a serious pain in the arse… you need somewhere for your gang, even if it’s to dump the stuff – trust me. One thing I loved about being in Dubai as well is I was never worrying about being robbed. This is a problem in Ibiza… you always have to have an eye on your stuff. Too many opportunists about, which is not great when your dancing on a sun bed oblivious to the world drunk!

Now let me tell you the setting is amazing. There is an impressive stage for the DJ to do his thing. You’ve got a jacuzzi and the 39m glass fronted infinity pool surrounded by plenty of sun beds. Then the beach in front of that with a view of the Dubai skyline. Ahh what’s not to love?

Now I know what your thinking… yeah go on but how much were drinks? I was presently surprised to find that a pitcher of cocktail or pimms was around 169AED so that’s approximately £35. This is something you share (unless your a hardcore drinker!) so I thought that was pretty reasonable for where we were. We got through several of these pitchers though ha ha! I don’t think they are that strong to be fair but they were refreshing. Just to mention as well service was good with bar tenders floating about it was easy to grab someone to order and drinks came pretty quick.

After a few hours we decided to order some food. There was a vast choice on the menu so it was hard to choose. Sushi, salads, sandwiches & nibbles! All reasonably priced around 60-80AED so £10 – £16. I settled on a tuna avacado panini and my friend a goats cheese and beetroot salad – which was nicely presented. I like attention to detail…

We were here at the beginning of October so not the busiest time, not all the beds were full. But the vibe was great and more than enough people to converse with. Plenty of room in the pool to swim and chill by the sides or standing pouting if that’s your thing! Which you see a lot of in Dubai, the vibe can be a bit pretentious. However I didn’t let this bother me one bit! I’m more than happy to dance around the pools edge alone in my own little world ha ha! We’re here for a good time not a long time…

The music was mainly house which worked well for a pool party obviously. A saxophonist performed over the tunes throughout the day which I loved. I think this trend started in Ibiza as I’ve seen this in Ocean beach club to but to a better standard dare I say. However he was good and us hen girls had a good dance in the sunshine to him playing on the stage.

A few other things that made the day were giant inflatables in the pool, unicorn cakes brought round by scantily clad men ha ha!unicorn cup holders to float your drinks in and bubble machines blowing. Also they were doing complimentary massages or polish changes which was a lovely touch. Also worth a mention are the bathrooms… fully equipped if you wanted to go from pool party to night club. Dressing tables, hair dryers, straighteners all at vanity tables. I opted for space buns in my hair before leaving the hotel though – up and out the way… once I’m ready I don’t want to spend time in the bathroom preening… I’m only missing the party!

We were at Zero Gravity from about mid day through to the sun setting at around 6:30. The day went pretty quick which is always a sign of having a good time! We actually struggled to spend all the money we had paid for the bed as when we checked we had quite a bit left. We had all had plenty to drink and eat though. If you want a full day of fun is the sunshine that’s good value in a beautiful setting Zero Gravity is the place to be. It’s won several alwards over the last few years too including best beach club and it’s easy to see why… it will certainly be on my list again.

Rachael 🙂 x

Posted in Must do days out!

Alpaca Walking in the Lake District

I love a good animal experience… every year I search out how I can get closer to animals. So you can imagine my delight when a friend posted on Instagram about walking alpacas in the Lake District. I immediately went online and booked a private walk for me and my son Lex with the company Alpacaly Ever After – cool name right?!

We headed to the lakes, just on the outskirts of Keswick to meet our new friends. Alpacaly Ever After is located in the Lingholm estate. It is right next to Derwentwater and centres around a large Victorian country house within private woodland and gardens. Before meeting the alpacas we took time to look in the walled garden which we later found out inspired Beatrix Potter when writing Peter Rabbit… it’s easy to see why…

You could also take some of the gardens produce and make a donation if you liked… I thought that was lovely but didn’t take any as I was heading away again the next day.

Soon after we went to meet the alpacas and let me tell you what characters they were! Lex and I were each given an alpaca to take out. Mine was white and called Boo, his was brown and called Dudley. We were so excited!!

Once they were on the leads along with our guide, off we went. You walk through the estate and past the country house. Which of course provided the perfect opportunity for a photo stop.

We walked through a cherry orchard and along through the woods. The alpacas stopped a lot to graze on the lush green grass. They also bizarrely loved to walk over short trees as apparently it tickles and scratches their tummies – so cute. They didn’t pull, sometimes we had to give them a little tug to encourage them to walk! (enough grass already!) but they happily trotted along with us.

All the way along the walk we were stroking down their necks and backs. You can understand why Alpaca wool is expensive… they were so soft. We reached the edge of Derwentwater and apparently sometimes they like to go in the water, but not today (I was slightly relieved given we had forgot our wellies) my son got the coolest photo by the lake with Dudley.

Soon after we walked back through the woods and past the house again, back to the field they call home. I learned that altogether they have around 50 alpacas but not all of them are at the Lingholm estate.

Time to finish the experience with some hand feeding. Lex wasn’t keen but of course I loved it! The only problem was they all wanted some.

Altogether we were with the alpacas about a hour and a half. We loved every minute! I would definitely recommend this experience if you love animals. It was great to get up close and learn more about these funny quirky creatures and the setting was sooo beautiful. I struggled to pick photos for this blog post as we had so many!

Now what animal experience will be next? Any suggestions?

Rachael x

To book an alpaca experience go to… www.alpacalyeverafter.co.uk

Posted in Winning at Parenting

Harry Potter Potion Class!

When my dance school closes for the summer holidays or any other holidays for that matter… what am I to do with my time?! As much as I love the dance and it is nice to have a break the inner child in me just can’t resist putting on school holiday fun as well. So every time school breaks up I run Legends fun days or summer school and I love it!

Constantly racking my brains for new ways to entertain the children (and myself! ha ha!) I first thought of a Harry Potter potion class whilst lying in bed. I mean as a child myself there was something very satisfying about perfuming making… please tell me you can relate?! This was an activity which consisted of getting water, lots of petals off plants in the garden and stirring them in a bowl, swishing them into the sides and then putting them into jam jars to store. This would create hours of fun trying to create different smells.

So when potion making sprang to mind and was a similar concept I knew this would go down a storm at summer school. A quick google told me actually I wasn’t a genius and indeed other people had done similar before which basically made my job easier. I still thought it worth sharing my tips and experience of the doing it with a big group!

Firstly I realised I needed to collect bottles and jars of different shapes and sizes. Now my intention was to do this myself and ask other people but I kinda forgot and a trip to ikea came to my rescue. In there I managed to get all kinds of potion bottles much to my delight and I only spent around fifteen pounds.

I was ready to create labels when I checked on eBay and saw actually I could just buy those ready done too for a couple of pounds. I also came across a few links to print them yourself but as my printer is not great this was the best option for me. Once they arrived I thought carefully about which bottles to stick them on.

The labels gave little explanations under them so I was careful to put some on jars and others on bottles.

How did I decide what to put in each?! Well I just winged it. But the most important ingredients needed is washing up liquid (I used red as unicorn blood), white vinegar (which I added glitter too) and bicarbonate of soda. These three things react and foam when added together.

I added cut up feathers to one jar, lots of little leaves in one and glitter in another. I put water in all the other jars and added food colouring to change it to different colours.

I gathered a group of five children and started potion class by showing them my potion (that was with the three reactive ingredients I mention above) I did this in a jar so I used less ingredients and it would rise fast, I stood the jar in a bowl to save mess. The children were delighted when it bubbles over.

Then they sat at the table with a mini bowl each (sat in a larger one – again to catch the mess) and were left to mix there own potions. Some had obviously listened as they went straight for the same concoction as me. Some of the younger ones (I have children 3-11 years) relished in pouring in lots of glitter. I had given them all a wooden spoon each to mix their potion as well.

Now this activity was loved by all… a lot hadn’t seen Harry Potter but potion making was exciting none the less. Surprisingly this appealed as much to the older kids as it did to the younger ones. The trickiest part was after each group the bottles and jars needed refilling, table wiping etc and bowls washing and resetting up for the next lot. This was difficult to do quick enough with several children bursting with excitement for their turn!! We had other activities going on along side but none quite as exciting as this! We had to do this for five groups in total. That was a lot of cleaning up! But it was totally worth it… the children loved every second. I would do it again but I did think this would be lovely maybe as part of a smaller party.

Have you ever tried a potion making class? How did it go? I would love to hear!

Rachael 🙂 x

Posted in Holiday Happiness

Why Disney is always a good idea! 

1. Because there is no where else in the world quite so Magical

Disney has an undeniable magic about it. If you’ve never been it’s hard to explain. As soon as you enter the magic kingdom you feel it… this is really the happiest place on earth. Your worries will literally lift off your shoulders. Stroll down Mainsteet USA past the barbers, boutiques, bakery amongst the old cars tooting and horse-drawn carriages. Can you smell the freshly baked cookies? It’s not just coming from the bakery. Imagineers figured out how to pump a potpourri of chocolate chip cookies into the air which put an all-out assault on your sense of smell. Cast yours eyes to the end of the street and there is the iconic Disney castle. It doesn’t matter how many times I see it… every time is just like the first time – simply magical.

2. You can Embrace your Inner Child

I have been to Disney both with my son and without (he was away with dad, I’m not a cruel mother ha ha!) and whilst it can be argued there’s something even more special and magical about seeing your child enjoy it, it’s still fun as an adult too! After all as Walt said ‘adults are only grown up kids anyway’ Whether you’ve got kids with you or not you can still do all the things kids do! Queue for autographs, hug Mickey, wear Disney merchandise, collect pins, ride Dumbo the flying elephant. Nobody cares… it’s not weird, it’s Disney…

3. The Parades are Amazing

Lining up along Main Street USA or by the castle waiting for the parade is all part of the experience. There is a buzz in the air as cast members organise the area for the impending celebration. I like to arrive early and soak up the atmosphere with some popcorn or a hot dog. The parade itself is like a carnival of colour, singing, dancing, stunning Disney themed floats & of course all your favourite characters . I doubt you will be able to leave the park without humming the infectious parade song.

4. Rides aplenty

With four separate lands there are so many rides… it’s hard to pick what to do first! Their really is something for everyone. If you have younger children they may enjoy Fantasyland the most. Peter Pans flight & the teacups being popular choices. A great family choice is Pirates of the Caribbean. For the adults space mountain is not to be missed! But I’m not gonna lie… even without my son in tow I check them all out.

5. Yummy food galore

Everywhere you turn in Disney you can buy something to eat! Ice cream, popcorn, hot dogs, pretzels, Disney’s famous dole whips. Obviously a lot of food is mickey shaped and just how cool is that?! Not into food on the go? Disney does provide some table service pricey options. If you want to get away from the hustle and bustle book a table and dine in style. Personally I’ve only checked out Walt’s as I’m more of a ‘don’t want to miss anything kinda gal’ and don’t have time to stop long to eat ha ha! That said I found Walt’s really good and loved the theming with photos of him everywhere. If you want to dine properly lots of options are available so be sure to book well in advance so you don’t miss out. I always leave Disney with my taste buds satisfied but also probably a few pounds heavier ha ha! But ohhh it’s so worth it.

6. You can dine with the Characters

Want to hang out with your favourite characters but avoid the queuing? Book some character dining. I have always been a fan of Mickey and friends but you can also dine with the princesses. The all you can eat buffets provide plenty of choice and whilst you tuck in the characters come round to each table and you can get an autograph, hug and that ever so special photo. Not got kids with you? No problem! I guarantee you wont be the only adults in there just as excited as the kids!

7. Fireworks & shows

Disney is full of shows… on my recent trip to the Paris one I watched the 25th anniversary celebration which was fabulous. But I’ve watched many over the years… Finding Nemo, Fantasmic, Wishes… the list goes on and they are all amazing. For me fireworks are always the pinnacle of my trip. Nobody does fireworks quite like Disney. Throw in the iconic castle back drop and Disney music to set the fireworks too and it really is something special. In recent years they have also added effects where they project images onto the castle and water fountains either side. I don’t want to even try to explain further… just be sure to go so see it… it’s will send tingles down your spine.

8. You can shop till you drop all things Disney

In Disney you can shop till your heart’s content! Disney have merchandise nailed. Often you come off a ride and straight into a store… if your with kids you would be wise to give them a spending limit. Buying Mickey ears or a hat of some description should not be missed! It makes you feel involved and makes for great photos. For little girls being made into a princess is somewhat pricey but they look simply adorable walking round the park with beaming smiles. There are plenty of clothing options too. I love a good Disney t-shirt, sweatshirt or pyjamas. Plush toys, home ware, stationary, key rings, toys, swords, wands, you get the picture… but why would you not want to buy a piece of the magic to remember your trip!

Bonus – You can shop for Christmas decorations all year! 

If your into Disney it’s highly likely your into Christmas and guess what? Disney has a Christmas shop and it’s open all year! With twinkley Christmas lights and tree decorations you should stop by to pick up a Disney themed decoration to remember you trip. Or if your like me and you’ve been several times perhaps you can aim for a fully Disney tree.

9. It Brings Families Together

Disney is a great place to bond with your family. Disney in my eyes is the ultimate family holiday. You will not be bored, there really is something to entertain everyone, even stroppy teenagers. It is non stop and exhausting though if you want to do everything… many come away feeling they need a holiday to recover! But is it worth it? absolutely… it really is the holiday of a lifetime.

10. On a final note if your child does drive you mad some days you can buy beer! 😉 hahaha!

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I am an avid Disney fan… 10 trips over the years to both Paris & Florida and a Disney cruise. Hoping to do California in a few years. This post is based on the main Disney park the Magic Kingdom but there is so much more still. I wrote this post whilst in Paris but casting my mind back to Florida too. Do you think I have missed anything out? What are your favourite things about Disney? X