Friday, 30 November 2012

Christmas Organisation Week 5 - Favourite Christmas Songs

It is almost here, the day we put up the Christmas Tree.  If I'm honest it is probably one of my favourite parts of Christmas.  There is just something so satisfying about it. I light some candles, dim the lights and last but certainly not least, I put on my favourite festive music.  There is nothing else that gets me feeling more festive than going through this ritual every year.

So whether like me you are a lover of Christmas songs, or you hate them with a fiery passion, why not have a look at my list. I might actually introduce you to some songs you didn't know.

A Christmas Cornucopia, Annie Lennox

This isn't actually a single song, it is an entire album.  As a lifelong fan of Annie Lennox, when I heard about this album I knew I had to get it.  It did't disappoint.  Annie takes some beautiful  Christmas Carols and with the addition of her unique vocals, a 30 piece orchestra and African children's Choir creates something wonderful.  For me these songs are amazingly atmospheric, evoking a Christmas time from years gone by.  Listening to this album every year really makes my Christmas sparkle. Particular favourites on the album are Angel from The Realms of Glory and In the Bleak Midwinter.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Judy Garland

From the 1944 musical, Meet Me in St. Louis this song is one of my all time favourites.  I am a bit of a soppy bugger, and this song always brings a tear to my eye and a lump in my throat. It is sweet and just a little melancholy at the same time. The more popular Sinatra version is still lovely, but it misses that little bittersweet joy from Judy's version.  Just beautiful.

In Dulci Jubilo, Mike Oldfield

The literal translation of this song is "In Sweetest Rejoicing". It is such a bright, vibrant traditional carol. For me this carol brings to mind the joy and excitement of Christmas. I could almost imagine elfs dancing merrily to this while preparing gifts for children!

Santa Baby, Eartha Kitt

A sumptuous, indulgent gem of a song. Such fun, and very, very cheeky.  Always puts a smile on my face!  This song has been covered many times by the likes of Britney Spears and Madonna.  I think even Miss Piggy has had a go too, regardless though the original is still the best!

Jingle Bell Rock, Bobby Helms

This 1957 classic is so lively and upbeat, I love to have a good boogie to it as I'm putting up the decorations. A total classic, I couldn't imagine Christmas without it!

The Christmas Song, Nat King Cole

A lovely gentle song.  Jam packed full of nostalgia and festivity.  This used to be one of my favourites to sing in the school choir. To me this song is like a big festive wooly jumper.  Comforting and warm.

White Christmas, Bing Crosby

A true classic.  What else is there to add?

Fairytale of New York, the Pogues and Kirsty McColl

I have always loved this one, although I feel it has been somewhat overplayed in recent years.  There is quite simply no other Christmas song like it.  It is poignant, funny and bloody marvellous.  Still makes me smile.

The Little Saint Nick, The Beach Boys

Really cheery and upbeat, another Christmas tree boogie fest!  Plus it is by the Beach Boys, what's not to love?

I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day, Wizzard 

Who wouldn't love this?  It's Roy Wood for goodness sake!  I remember listening to this as a small child and it brings back some great memories and feelings.  Makes me want to cover myself in face paint and glitter.

A Spaceman Came Travelling, Chris De Burgh

I remember this one vividly from my childhood.  I thought it was a terribly odd Christmas song. Very original though.  I do have a soft spot for this one still.

Home For Christmas - Roger Whittaker

This was on an old Christmas LP we had at our house.  Back when I was little it was part of my Christmas ritual and still is.  A lovely gentle, sentimental song.  Sometimes brings a tear to my eye.

Well, I think that is a long enough list.  My own Christmas playlist has 50 songs on it and if I'm sure if I'd shared them all you would probably want to rip out your own eyeballs with a sever case of Christmas overload.  There are plenty I've missed out here, so if you want to share some of your favourites feel free!

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Reaching out and letting go

This might be something you don't know about me, or maybe you do. Although I wouldn't exactly describe myself as shy, I do find it difficult to make friends.  I just never feel comfortable approaching new people.  I will happily talk to or be friends with someone who approaches me first. I just can't seem to gather the courage to approach others myself. It is silly really.
Although I do have a small circle of close friends, none of them have children. I do know other people with kids, but their kids are all so much older than Holly. Obviously they have different interests to pursue and different commitments to us. Which I can totally understand.

So you can probably imagine that after the birth of Holly I felt a little isolated, as I had no friends who could relate to me. Not depressingly so, but after a few months I did start to feel alone, isolated.  I started taking Holly to soft play, and other child friendly places in the hope that we could make some friends. That didn't work at all. No one spoke to me. I tried to engage other mums in conversation but after a brief chat they went on their way.  Never to be seen again. It seems yummy mummies can be fickle. Did I not fit the requirements of their perfect mummy club? Whatever the reason, lets just say it didn't exactly make me feel very confident.  What had I said or done (or not done) that made me unsuitable for their friendship?  After the many repeated knocks to my already fragile confidence I went back to the safety of my isolation.  I didn't want to feel like the outsider anymore.  So I removed myself from the situation.

Eventually though I realised that I couldn't carry on that way. Not so much for my sake, but for Holly's sake.  So I steeled myself.  Despite my lack of confidence I clenched my teeth, and I let go of my insecurities.  I put myself out there, I reached out and finally found someone who was just like me.

We found each other, we found confidence, some fun and ultimately freedom.  Almost a year after having Holly, I can honestly say for the first time I am starting to feel like me again.  Like I have an identity, like I have a life beyond my baby.  Don't get me wrong, Holly is my life.  The air that I breathe. I honestly cannot imagine life now without my amazing girl.  I still can't even contemplate leaving her overnight though (she'll be a year old in 3 weeks).  I just know that, at some point I have to relax, to let go.  By letting go of my fears and embracing opportunities, I hope I can teach Holly the confidence that for so long I have been lacking.

So if you feel like I did, take that chance. Put yourself out there. Yes you might feel rejection, or even judgement.  It is just a necessary evil.  Yet I found a true, genuine friend, so you can too. I would rather have that genuine friendship than a whole clique of yummy mummies combined.  Besides, if someone dismisses you so easily, what does that say about them? Is that really the type of person you want to be part of your life? I know I wouldn't.

So please remember mummies, if you see a lone mummy or daddy who looks like they might need a friend, give them a sporting chance.  You might have been in the same position yourself once upon a time...

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Christmas Organisation Week 6 - Crafty Toddler Christmas Tree

So the other week we decided to go to ikea for a little bit of shopping.  I was thoroughly enjoying myself admiring all their new Christmas stock.  When suddenly amongst it all I spotted something which really got me excited.  Something for Christmas.  Something I thought would be a perfect idea for Holly at Christmas time when she got a little older.  This was it...

Cool huh?

That's right, it's a cardboard Christmas tree, with stickers!  So, at first I was thinking how amazing this was.  What a great idea. Give the kids their own tree to decorate in the vain hope it keeps them from destroying your real one.  Common sense and fun!  

As Holly will only just have turned 1 by Christmas I thought she might be a bit young for something like this just now. So I decided to get one of these trees for next year instead. I was just about to pick one up, when I noticed the price.  The tree was fifteen quid. That's right. Fifteen quid for a bit of coloured cardboard and some stickers. Now I'm sure some people wouldn't bat an eyelid and just buy the damned thing. Not me! There are far better things I could spend £15 on! Especially when you realise that once the stickers go on, that is it! The fun is done, you can't reuse it. Did I mention it was £15?  Needless to say, we came home without one. 
So that got me thinking.  Couldn't I just make something similar at home for half the price? Something which could be used over and over again? You bet I could!

So I have two possible ideas to craft a reusable kids Christmas tree.  Both are simple and I'm sure they could be used for years to come. I think if you made either of these for a toddler it would probably be easier to make it yourself, but if your kids are older they could help making these trees and have a great time doing it!  So does this sound like your type of thing? If so, then read on!

Idea One

Not bad eh?

A handmade cardboard tree. Get yourself a large piece of cardboard, cut it out into a Christmas tree shape and paint it green.  If you are really crafty you could cut two interlocking tree shapes and make a three dimensional one similar to the ikea one.  I think a flat one would be just as good though, as that means you can hang it on the wall easily.  Make some cardboard Christmas tree decorations to go on the tree. Cut whatever shapes you like.  Candy canes, stars, round and oval baubles, etc.  Paint or colour them in, add any decoration you want, glitter, sequins, you get the idea.  It can be as fancy as you and your kids want it to be.  Glue some velcro tabs onto the tree and the back of your baubles and you are all finished!  You and the kids can now have fun decorating the tree over and over again.  As you can see from the picture above I'm not the only person to have this idea.

Idea two 

How cool is this?

Pretty similar to the idea above, but using coloured fabric or felt instead of cardboard. You can make it as fancy or simple as you like. You could either cut out plain shapes for baubles or make some fancier ones by sewing or adding embellishments like glitter and sequins. It seems I'm not the first person to have this idea either, as I found a lovely example of one on Craftsy (pictured above).

So that is pretty much it!  Fairly simple if you ask me! What makes it even cooler is that as you will be using Velcro the kids can take off the baubles and stick them back on as often as they like. Day after day, or year after year if it is a big hit! As I said, Holly is just a bit too young to appreciate something like this just now, but rest assured we will be making one for next year!  Although, we might even make both!  So do you think this is a good Christmas craft idea?

Product Review - Remote Control Candles

So it seems winter is officially here. The dark nights have arrived and as I don't have an open fire in my house I feel the next best thing to make my house feel all festive and cosy is to burn a few candles.

However, since I have an 11 month old who has just started toddling I've been apprehensive about lighting candles.  Of course I always keep them well out of reach, but accidents can happen so I tend to only have my candles lit when baby goes to bed.  It seems I've found a solution though....

Cosy Candles...

These LED remote control candles from Paramount Zone are an ideal alternative to real candles.

These candles are flameless and and don't heat up at all so you don't need to worry about fire or burns.  They can be used just about anywhere, and as there is no real flame to be blown out by wind you can even use them outside if you want.

I love the fact that they work by remote control too.  Not only can you turn them on and off at the touch of a button, but you can adjust the brightness, choose whether you want them to flicker or not and there is even a timer function.  This means the candles will switch off automatically after 4 or 8 hours, which makes them a nice relaxing alternative to using a night light I think!

I was also very impressed by how realistic these candles are.  The candles have a real wax finish and flicker as real candles do, so unless someone spots your remote control they wouldn't be able to tell the difference between these and a real candle!  If you want to see these brilliant candles in action you can watch THIS VIDEO.

You get three candles in a set (for £12.99),  a small, medium and large candle.  This would make them ideal for a decorative centrepiece on your Christmas dinner table, and you don't have to worry about then burning out (glow time is advertised as 50000 hours) or spilling wax on your best table cloth!

I think these candles are superb.  They look realistic and have so many uses.  I also think they are great value too, I'm going to save a lot of money not having to replace burnt out candles!

I think these would make a great Christmas gift for any candle lovers like myself,  but if you are looking for some more great gift ideas there are some fantastic ones HERE.

Disclosure: This product was provided to me for review purposes.  All opinions expressed within this review are honest and my own.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Are you a dummy dummy?

I thought long and hard about writing this post. Someone said something on Facebook the other day, which although I know is silly, really got under my skin. This is the direct quote as taken from Facebook.

"People kept telling me to give ma girl a dummie when she was born and am glad i didnt cos the wee one has went 6 months without. All she needs is loads of cuddles n kisses from mummy n daddy xx love our little munky to the moon n back."

Quickly followed by,

"kids dnt need them,a little tlc and they are sound haha dnt know if its cos i have a gd baby haha but nah ill never give her dummie havent even thought bout it haha xx"

This was also followed by comments stating that parents who use dummies are useless and neglectful and only use them to shut their kids up.

Firstly I'd like to say well done to my friend on not giving into pressure and giving her baby a dummy. I genuinely mean that. I'm really glad she could manage without. That said, there is no need to make any one else feel shitty for using one. She managed, in the space of a couple of sentences to make me feel like the shittiest parent in the world.

My main issue is how totally judgemental she is being. Not all parents have the same experience as her. I gave my daughter a dummy, and it was certainly not to shut her up. Before I gave her it I had been totally against the idea. So if you don't agree with the use of dummies either please take a moment to read my story below.

Our Dummy Story

Before H was born we had decided that she would NEVER be given a dummy. Not our precious girl, not EVER.

Fast forward to a few weeks after H was born. Our sleepy, contented peaceful baby was gone. Cue week after week, night after night of my poor little girl screaming from early evening until the early hours of the morning until falling into an exhausted sleep. Then waking every 45 minutes unhappily to start the process over again. H was in such distress, this was not normal baby crying. Her face was twisted in agony and bright red. There was practically nothing I could do. We tried everything. No amount of TLC, cuddles or singing helped. She was breastfed on demand, rocked, bounced.  We pushed her in the pram, we took her out on the car, propped her up, massaged her, bathed her. She mostly slept on my chest and even that didn't help. We tried so many things I can't even remember them all to list them here. We asked the doctor and HV repeatedly for help, nothing they suggested helped either. The final piece of advice we were given was this....

Some babies are just like that. You'll have to be patient. She'll probably grow out of it in about 5 months or so.

Yup, that was eventually what we were told.

My partner and I were just devastated for H, to see H so clearly in pain or distress was heartbreaking.

I can honestly say it was probably the worst thing I have ever had to deal with in my life. I would have sold my soul to the Devil if that would have taken away my baby's distress. People kept suggesting trying a dummy, but I was so against the idea that I wouldn't hear of it. I was barely coping. The fact that there was nothing I could do to help my baby made me feel like the worst parent in the world. I would cry continually whenever H wasn't in my arms ( I wouldn't do it in front of her in case she sensed my distress, although she probably still did). I wouldn't admit defeat. I wouldn't even let family members take H to give me a break as I felt I would be failing her. (Stupid I know).

Eventually after months, my partner and I sat down and agreed that a dummy was the only thing we hadn't tried.  We thought we may as well try one, as it probably wouldn't work anyway. We would finally try using a dummy but we agreed we would only use it when H was distressed.

So what do you think happened? She took to the dummy straight away. She was still distressed at times, but it seemed to have a much more calming effect. Her bouts of uncontrollable crying we're halved almost immediately.

Had I known that from the outset I would have not had the slightest hesitation to give her the dummy. Anything which would alleviate my darling child's suffering for even one single second has to be worth it. If I had the choice again, I wouldn't hesitate.

So where do I stand on dummies now?

If H had been a happy contented baby, I would still never have given her a dummy. If I had another child who was contended I wouldn't offer a dummy either.

However, if I had another poor little baby like H, I would definitely consider it as an option if nothing else seemed to work. If it would alleviate the distress of my child absolutely. Who would want to watch their child suffer if there was something they could do to prevent it?

I bet you are wondering if H still has her dummy at 10 months? Yes she does. We kept to our word though and only used it when she was in distress. She does not get a dummy during the day (and never did) at all (unless distressed due to illness). She doesn't miss it at all. She is a happy, smiling little girl who likes to be vocal so why would she need it? She does still get her dummy at nap time and bedtime, which she sucks until she falls asleep then spits out, so for about 5 mins really. We are hoping to phase that out very soon too though.

I would certainly never give a dummy to shut my child up, and I am utterly offended by the implication that I would.

Where do I stand now on the dummy habits of others?

How you choose to raise your child is your business. I may not agree with it, but I don't know your situation so I have no right to judge. If you want to give your baby a dummy so what? There are far worse things you could be doing to your child. If you and your family are healthy and happy, that is surely all that matters.

So what is your view? Is a dummy a sign of bad parenting? Was I wrong to give a dummy to my baby? I'd love to know what you think.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Christmas Organisation Week 7 - My Favourite Christmas films

So this post isn't going to be about organising.  I've got some more of that to share with you next time.  I felt this week we deserve a bit of a break for all our hard work so we are going to be a little self indulgent!

Now I know it is a bit early to start watching them, but I wanted to share with you my favourite Christmas films.  As Holly gets older she seems to be taking a bit more interest in the TV.  Not that I want to encourage too much TV watching of course. Still, it gets me thinking that soon she might be able to enjoy watching films with mummy and daddy.  The idea of snuggling with my family watching Christmas films fills me with excitement and joy!  So I've been thinking about Christmas films a lot lately because of this!  Now, not all the films on this list are maybe going to be appropriate for Holly yet (or for a long time), but these are my favourites and I hope when she is old enough they become Holly's too!


This film isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea, but it has laughs and scares, cute kids and teens with more than a few nasty little monsters thrown in for good measure.  Despite the danger, I still wanted a Mogwai!


Bill Murray is hilarious in this film.  So funny but touching too. This film never fails to make me feel warm and fuzzy inside!  Look out for the fairy with the toaster though! 

Muppet Christmas Carol

Mock me all you want, but this film is probably my favourite adaptation of A Christmas Carol! Yes I know it's the muppets! It is well written and the casting of Michael Caine as Scrooge is great.  Some really brilliant festive songs thrown in too, I challenge you to watch it and not feel festive!

The Snowman

Beautiful, atmospheric and gut wrenchingly poignant.  If I let Holly watch this we might have to skip the ending for a few years!

It's a Wonderful Life

 Truly magical film.  Has me in tears every time. Christmas wouldn't be the same without it.

White Christmas

Amazing, festive and musical! So festive it's like being whacked in the kisser with a Christmas tree!  What else is there to say.

Santa Clause the Movie

Loved this film as a child and even had the accompanying book which I would look at for hours.  Loved how the elves used their beards as paint brushes!

Watership Down

 This film has been shown on TV every Christmas in my living memory.  Look through your TV channels and you are guaranteed to find it somewhere.  I don't think it is truly Christmas if this isn't on.  No matter how creepy/scary and downright sad this film is, I love it still.

Home Alone

I will always have a special place in my heart for this film.  So fun and festive.  Also, I always wanted to live in the McAllister's house. It looked amazing.  In fact, I think I would still like to live there!

There are so many more I could add to this list but it would go on until next Christmas!  So do any of these make your list? Or are there a few I have left out? Would love to know what your favourites are!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Christmas Organisation week 8 - Homemade Mini Christmas Trees

Well hello there, are you feeling festive yet?  Well if not, don't worry.  It is a little early yet for all that!  If you are though, don't let me stop you busting out the festive cheer!  Either way, I hope you enjoy today's blog post!

This post is mainly about gathering your ideas.  I haven't made any decorations yet myself as I wanted to get my cards and gifts done first before I started on the fun stuff. In the next few weeks as we get closer to Christmas I will be doing posts on my decoration projects though, but at the moment I just wanted to give you something to get you started as the weeks are flying in and I don't want to give you ideas and no time to make them!  So enough of my prattling on, lets get started!

Today it is all about Christmas trees.  I've had a good gander at Pinterest and seen some great stuff.  I do love Pinterest, it is a great place to gather ideas.  I do have an account but I never seem to have the time to actually pin anything.  I generally just find the idea I want and I'm off!  Also, I can't afford another internet addiction. Twitter and Ebay take up enough of my time!  Anyway, below I'm going to share with you a few little gems of ideas I've found through Pinterest and general googling!  Links to the websites with instructions are all below if you are keen to start crafting!

Plain Paper Christmas Trees

Found this simple idea on, with full instructions these are so pretty and all you need is some paper!  You could even use some patterned paper or add some glitter!

Cupcake Case Christmas Trees

This cute and crafty idea comes from The 36th Avenue where you'll find the full tutorial, and guess what? It is really easy!

Tissue Paper Christmas Trees

Check out these beauties from the fabulous Spunky Junky.  Another fabulously simple idea which needs minimum supplies.

Yarn Christmas Trees

Bright, colourful and ridiculously simple to make, what's not to love about these trees from I DO invitations by Michelle as featured with a full tutorial on Living Locurto.

Glitter Ribbon Trees 

Being the human equivalent of a magpie, I adore these glittery trees from Artsy-fartsy mamma.  Fabulously festive!

Glitter Cardstock Trees


More glitter here from Landee See, Landee Do.  Trees covered in beautiful glittery flowers.  You could even change the design and use star shapes instead, or any other shapes you like.  You could even use buttons instead of paper shapes!

Pearl/Bead Christmas Tree

Another favourite of mine is the bead tree as made by Gray Matters.  Use any colour string of beads you like or you could use individual beads or pearls and glue them on in any patter you like.

Hope you like the ideas I found.  The internet is certainly full of some very crafty and innovative people! 

Christmas organisation week 9 - Homemade gifts

 Firstly, sorry this post is a week late. Had a busy few weeks and I'm afraid I had to prioritise some other things. Still, better late than never I say! Now, this isn't going to be so much a how to guide, more a gift idea guide.  I will however link you to some lovely websites though that will show exactly how to make these lovely homemade gifts so don't worry! Below you will find a guide to homemade gifts, ranging from some very simple ideas to some that require a bit more time, and possibly skill to put together. Hopefully there is something for everyone!

Easy Peasy Gift ideas

Christmas mug

A personalised mug is a great cheap gift.  Buy some cheap plain mugs from a pound shop or supermarket and a sharpie pen and that is it!  Apparently all you need to do is:

  1. Use a Sharpie pen, draw a design of your choice on the mug.
  2. Place in the oven at 180 C/350 F for 30 minutes.
  3. Leave to cool completely before washing or using.

I haven't done this yet but I plan to try it over the weekend so will update this post then to let you know how it went.  I've been looking on Pinterest for design ideas for this project and found some great ones HERE if you fancy a wee peek! There are some great designs!  These mugs are good for supplementary gifts or for a teacher. You could get your child to draw or write something nice for their teacher on a mug. If you think the mug is too simple a present you could fill it with something. What about some homemade chocolate truffles, or christmas candy canes. Or a little hot chocolate package with some mini marshmallows?

Who says it even has to be a mug though! What about a bowl or plate?

Christmas baking

If you already bake for your family, or always get complimented on your baking by others then why not bake some gifts? Just make extra batches of any Christmas baking you usually do and package them in a jar with some ribbons or however else you'd like and you are done!  For those of you who want to try some baking and need some easy recipes look HERE.  There are some really nice festive recipes and most take an hour or under to prepare.  My personal favourites are the Baileys and white choc fudge, festive Jammie Dodgers and peppermint candy canes! Yummy!

If you are looking for glass jars to put your baking gifts in, most pound shops have then.  Or what about this  PRESERVE JAR from Wilkinson at only £1? Or this JAR from Ikea for 80p? You could always just recycle some old glass jars from the kitchen though! You can decorate the jars however you like, ribbons, bows, tinsel and homemade labels.  The more festive the better!

A Wee Bit More Effort Gift Ideas

DIY candles

There are a few ways you can do this.  You could use old wax from leftover candles or buy WAX PELLETS and colourings in a craft shop or online. You can even add scented oils if you like! Obviously reusing old candles will save you the most money though.  I used to be quite a proficient candle maker and I actually found it to be a very relaxing and enjoyable hobby.  If you have no idea how to make candles, HERE is a great guide to making candles. So simple to do, but make sure you allow yourself plenty of time!

As the guide says, you can make candles using moulds or you can simply make jar candles using any old candle jars you already have or buying new jars/containers.  Why not get creative and make a beautiful teacup candle?  You quite often find gorgeous individual teacups in charity shops for a few pounds.  I love candles, so I think candles make brilliant gifts!

So pretty!

Hand Painted jewellery/memory/keepsake box

This is a simple idea, what makes it more difficult can be your skill level in terms of painting, drawing etc.  You can buy a plain WOODEN BOX from craft shops, ebay or amazon quite cheaply. You can literally paint it using any design you like and you can personalise it with someone's name.  If you aren't good at painting you could decoupage it instead.  You can add sequins, jewels, buttons or bows if you like.  Here are some pics of finished boxes to inspire you!

Well that's all folks!  I could go on and add so many more gift ideas but this post is far too long already! If you still need more ideas why not check out Pinterest, it is always a great source of inspiration!  Hope you like some of these ideas and would love to know if you have any great ideas you'd like to share!

Want to check out the week 8 post?  It's all about making Christmas decorations, starting with some very sparkly Christmas trees!  You can check it out HERE!


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