Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Wow, did we really do all of that ?

Wow is it the end of 2014 already ? I've been out this afternoon with the boy and when people were saying, "Happy New Year," I kept catching myself thinking, really ? It's so hard to recall how one year compares with the last - apart from the ones where momentous things happen like getting married or having a baby - so instead I've been looking back at what I did in 2014.

Early in the year when there was still a hint of Winter in the air it was time for yet another Team Honk challenge. This year it was the Lands End to John O'Groats baton relay where bloggers used any means possible to take part. In London we were fortunate to have a lot of participants and we chose to do 'Honkopoly' visiting places on the Monopoly board. I got jailed at the Tower of London and rode a scooter dressed as a burglar. At one point Honkopoly was trending on Twitter which was a highlight and a massive boost as the day wore on. When I was on the train back home in the dark I was too tired to explain my clothing to onlookers and had no phone battery to call Hubbie, but hey what an achievement !

Honk Honk ! It's me not yet in jail. 
We finally took our son on a plane for the first (and second) time. After a few years of 'staycations' we finally took the plunge and had holiday abroad with our son. He loved the flight and met the pilot and sat at the controls going out to Lanzarote and back. It wasn't plain sailing (when is it ever with small children ?) but it was a positive experience and we decided it would be ok to do it again. He also enjoyed telling everyone he had been on holiday to Spain.

As well as having a birthday in May, I also did the Moonwalk with my lovely pal Soraya who is a breast cancer survivor. I could not believe I was doing this as I remembered that it's the single most difficult challenge I've undertaken in my life so far and for some reason I chose to do it again !  Anyway, we were overwhelmed with support (mostly for Soraya really) and it make being dressed like an idiot totally worth it.

Post moonwalk celebration
This was the year of my celebrity interviews with a run of them - I talked to Mark Steel about his love of sport - he concluded that we were probably married without knowing about it. Then I interviewed Mark Thomas who was fantastic and shares a love of the Fall with Hubbie. I met him again recently and he was kind enough to say he remembered. I also interviewed Andy Kershaw who I last met when we were both in Sierra Leone.

My lovely friend Lesley launched her new business venture Glow, in the Autumn and as part of that she organised a World Record attempt with around 30 of her colleagues. It involved a lot of us taking part in a fitness routine all at the same time across the country while adjudicators from the Guinness Book of Records watched to verify we had done it correctly. We found out later in the evening that we had indeed set a new World Record - with me dressed in a bright orange hula skirt. Oh well, it's not worth doing if you don't make an idiot of yourself is it ?

I'm moving so fast I'm a blur :)
In September this year my boy started school which has been a big milestone for all of us. At one point we didn't know if we would even ever have children so the fact that he is in school now and can write his name, is learning Spanish and is doing simple maths is just astounding. I went with both of his grandmothers to buy school uniform and at the Early Years nativity this month I was amongst the proudest parents fighting for a seat at the front of the hall.

In November I fulfilled a 2 year goal of chairing a session at the Mumsnet Blogfest about diversity and inclusion. It was nerve wracking and I was worried that no one would come or there would be nothing to say, but it was great and I hope that it's the beginning of something that will truly move things along in the world of blogging.

Not long after this - well 2 days later actually - I started a new job. It's the first time I've worked full time since my son was born so it's been a bit of a shock to the system waking up so early and always rushing to make sure I'm back to pick up my son from school. It is also, however, really challenging and reminds me that I have a brain that can do more than plan meals, wash school uniform and plump sofa cushions.

No really, he does know I'm there honest
So, in case any of you didn't already know I met Russell Brand when he advertised a couple of small shows he was doing in trendy Hoxton. He was talking about his plans for revolution and the giggling girls in the front row seemed very keen on political change from what I could tell. It was interesting to hear his ideas and to witness how he thinks. The attention he's had since then has been something else though. I share this photo here as it got such a strong reaction when I put it up on Facebook.

And finally I fulfilled a long held ambition by going away this Christmas. We had the most fabulous holiday in Cornwall in the Summer and stayed at Coombe mill which is perfect for a family like ours with a small boy who loves animals, tractors, trains and generally being outside with other kids. It was so much fun that we went back for Christmas and if you've read my last few posts you will have seen we had a wonderful stay with Fiona and her marvellous family.
My happiness jar - can't wait to read it :)
It has been a big year for all of us in the family and sometimes it's hard to remember everything so I'm delighted I have this jar. At the start of the year my sister shared this idea of keeping a record of the things that go well or make you happy and putting them into the jar to be read on New Year's Eve. I look forward to reading this aloud so I can recall all the best things before the next year begins.

I wish you a Happy New Year and hope that 2015 brings plenty of fun, happiness and joy.

Monday, 29 December 2014

The real Father Christmas and amazing ice skating - it's all at Eden.

I promised an update on our visit to the Eden Project while we were in Cornwall over Christmas. We were there in the summer and I was interested to see how much it changes in the winter. We had a whole day of activities planned taking in a visit to the Father Christmas experience, some ice skating and lunch as well as the land train which my boy loved so much on his first visit.

On arrival we were directed by elves to the trail where we had to find some corn to help make reindeer food to give to Father Christmas when we met him. As it was a dry day we walked all the way down instead of taking the land train saving that treat for later. 

Christmas explorer
The biomes are quieter that in the summer and if you are a regular you may recall this is an update of a photo taken in the summer when there were sunflowers planted next to the wall my boy is walking along. We found the corn and put it into the tiny velvet pouch we had been given and my boy kept it safe in his pocket. We also had a bit of a stroll round the Mediterranean biome to look for the 'reindeer facts' that included 'whisper words' to write down to show that we had taken the trail. By the time we had done this it was time to go and queue to meet Father Christmas. Our boy was quite excited as we passed the ice rink and he could see the big machine smoothing the ice for the first skating session of the day. 

Storytelling with the REAL Father Christmas ! 
One to one time with My Boy 
Now bear in mind we've seen the big man a few times this year so my boy does have some expectations. When we got to the Father Christmas experience we were greeted by singing and dancing elves who were lovely with all the children and gave a fitting introduction to father Christmas himself. I have to say he was the most amazing Father Christmas I've ever seen. From the outfit, to the rosy cheeks and the wonderful storytelling style he just had us all captivated. Each child had the chance to go up and meet him and he gave them all a special crystal to take home. Our boy was so lucky that Father Christmas spotted Jiggles the Bear and made sure he had his own crystal too.

Once everyone had met the man of the moment there were other activities to take part in. These included writing a note to Father Christmas and playing games with the elves who sing and entertain the children including showing them how reindeer food is made. The elf in this photo showed my boy how to power up the crystal Father Christmas gave him to ensure it had plenty of magic powers in it then they made light pattens on the floor. As we left everyone was given a chocolate elf which didn't last long I can tell you !
Elf and bear in perfect harmony
There are craft activities taking place inside the Mediterranean biome during the day which when we went included making peg reindeer, handmade gift tags and an elf hat with ears. Of course we had to make the hat didn't we ? My boy even took off his pudding hat so that he could wear this one instead. 

Climbing fun 
Our ice skating session was booked for the afternoon so we made the most of the dry weather and went for a play outside. These tractors are new since we last visited and they are just behind the Wee man made of recycled items that in front of the biomes. There is also a climbing area - well there were children climbing on it, so we took that to mean that's what it was for. Our boy is getting so brave now he insisted on doing it all himself until right at the end when he asked to hold my hand to get down. 

It was time for lunch and the food at Eden is amazingly good. The canteen food is prepared fresh and there is always a lovely smell when you walk around to get from one biome to the other. I had my eye on the stuffed butternut squash, but when we actually got to choosing lunch I had the spiced veggie pie with crushed potatoes and veg and it was lovely. There is always a great veggie selection and the cakes are phenomenal too. My boy had his heart set on having a cupcake so I promised he could have one after ice skating. He also had a babyccino which the lovely Leah made from hot chocolate as a special treat.

I can't keep up with him !
Then we came to the highlight for my boy which was the ice skating. There has been skating at Eden for ten years and it is in a spectacular setting with a lovely cafe to get drinks and small snacks and the skate hire and drop off is very efficient and simple. It's only the second time I've taken my boy skating and all the penguins were booked out so he had to cling onto the side rail or mine and Hubbie's hands at first, but despite a few slips and falls on the ice he was smiling the whole time. A kindly parent offered us the penguin her son's had finished with so he did get to whizz around on the ice eventually. It was great fun and the skating is open until the new year so there is still time to go. I would recommend it, but it does get very busy and the penguins get booked up early so do book in advance as the only have ten penguins for hire. 

The Eden Project is a great day out and you can do so much in one day it's worth arriving early so you can make the most of your visit. You don't need to bring much with you and the food is reasonably priced, there are plenty of toilets, cloakrooms to keep large bags and things. If you travel by public transport or bike there is a discount on entry, but there is also a lot of parking available.

To find out more and to plan your day you can go here: If you book online you also get a 15% discount

Disclosure: We are members of Eden and paid for the Father Christmas Experience, but were very kindly given complimentary tickets for ice skating. 

Saturday, 27 December 2014

Christmas at Coombe Mill: Part Two

Oh Christmas Tree
Before we got to Coombe Mill Fiona asked if we wanted a real or fake tree - when we arrive it was here complete with lights and a box filled with tinsel, baubles and a stuffed santa for us to decorate. It's the biggest tree I've ever had and it was just such a lovely touch that really made our stay feel very Christmassy indeed. That and the log burner - which we never really got the hang of lighting, but it was so warm it didn't really matter.

My little tractor driver with Fiona
Of course some things are the same as when we stayed in the Summer like the feed run which takes place every morning - except Saturday which is changeover day and is slightly later on Christmas Day, but more about that soon. My boy loves many things about being here, but the main ones are driving the tractor and the train ride every afternoon. As he is an old hand he was not shy about putting himself forward to drive and he was lucky to do all the driving on our first day as we were amongst the first guests to arrive so there wasn't too much competition for the job.

Seasonal train shed 
My little signal man 
The train is driven by Guy who is one of Fiona's sons and he's really great with the small children. He helps them onto the train and assists them with important jobs like running the signals and flags. When we went to the Christingle Service on Christmas Eve our boy was so excited to see his hero Guy doing a reading in church. At Christmas the train undergoes a seasonal transformation with twinkly lights and also a visit from a special guest on Christmas Eve.  

Beautiful sunny Christmas eve in Cornwall
One of the things that some people asked was, what will the weather be like in Cornwall at Christmas ? I guess they were expecting it to be cold or wet, but actually it looked like this on Christmas Eve. Gorgeous and sunny and nice enough for the kids to play outdoors until quite late. 

Feeding a sheep 
Petting the donkeys
On Christmas Day the feed run is an hour later starting at ten so the animals are more vocal that usual and I can imagine they are saying, "what time do you call this ?" Also, Farmer Nick wears a seasonal costume for the Christmas feed run which does jolly things along as all the children come along in brand new jumpers, boots and - in our son's case - Spiderman hat complete with eyeholes.

Spidey and Santa: a super combination
Our boy loves this sword that is embedded in a stone on the farm. I suspect he was hoping his Spidey powers would help, but alas the sword would not budge.  He took a photo of Mummy having a go too and I was just as unsuccessful as he was. 

Grr, using Spidey powers to pull out the sword

Mummy trying too
We've now stayed at Coombe Mill in the Summer and the Winter and it's been wonderful both times. I can highly recommend it to families with small children who are active and inquisitive whether they love animals or not. There is plenty to do and lots of space to play and our boy makes new friends every time he stays. Nick, Fiona and the children make such an effort to make you feel welcome it's not like you're a 'guest,' but more like you're amongst friends. I really hope we get to stay again.

This post is shared with the #countrykids linky hosted by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill - we are biased, but we love it there :) 

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Thursday, 25 December 2014

What's all this fuss about Father Christmas ?

So this is Christmas. My boy has been telling every Father Christmas he's met (including the one that flew past last night on the International Space Station) what he wants as a present. This morning he's opened stocking presents from Santa and later he'll open some more from me and Hubbie.

When I was a child my parents didn't allow us to believe in Father Christmas at all as they didn't want to give any credit to a fat white man for the presents they had paid money for. We never wrote letters asking for presents, we didn't go to see him at a grotto and on Christmas Day we didn't know what we were getting as we weren't asked what we wanted, we got what we were given. On hearing that my school pals had gotten expensive presents and all they things they asked for I didn't think 'oh woe is me, how sad that some random character has favoured them over me.' I accepted that what I had was what my parents could afford and all was well.

I've recently seen posts on Facebook encouraging parents to consider the feelings of other children when buying for their own kids. Piously suggesting that limiting presents for your own children is a lesson to them that not everyone has a lot of money. One of these sanctimonious sorts even suggested giving a small gift from Santa and generous gifts from yourself so that Santa doesn't look like he's discriminating against poorer families (and of course suggesting you are a really generous parent).

I know plenty of parents who spend a fortune on their children and even heard myself tut judgementally when a few I know bought iPads for their 2 year olds. When my boy was two he got a teddy bear and some toy cars for Christmas because a) he was 2 and b) I didn't ask him what he wanted. You see, Hubbie and I decide what we consider appropriate for our boy. His first Christmas was just after he was born and despite being only 3 months old (or maybe because of it) an entire room in our house was filled with presents from doting grandparents and aunties and uncles. He had no idea - of course - so we rationed what we gave to make up for the understandable overindulgence of our loving family. We don't want to spoil him do we ?

The values you raise your children with are up to you. I am happy for my son to believe in Father Christmas - ironically my father now looks like him with his white beard, especially when he's wearing a red turban. I explain to my son that not all children live the same life as he does. That's why we give toys, food, clothes and money to support various causes that give to those who have less than us. What I don't do is give him less.

If we are going to demonstrate to our children that they deserve no more than others then where do we draw the line ? Some children live with no clean water or heat. Others are at the mercy of war and disease. Denying my son some toys is hardly a lesson in social inequality it's a self-congratulatory piece of nonsense. The people who are telling everyone to do this will be crowing about how amazing they are for showing their kids how good they are. 

If I can afford to get my son something and if he deserves it - on his own merits, not relative to any other child - I will decide thank you very much. I also don't feel the need to buy my son's love by giving him a bundle of presents. I am pretty secure that he loves me and not on the basis of what I give him at Christmas.

I waited a long time to become a parent and I won't be told by someone else what is best for my child any more than I'd tell them what to give their children.

Oh and Father Christmas has given my son some lovely things already this year - he's a pretty cool dude as far as I can tell.

Merry Christmas :)

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Does this husband come with a 10 year warranty ?

Mr & Mrs
When I was a single woman I had a list of things that I was hoping to find in my potential partner. It was things like: good kisser, kind, has own teeth and hair, financially solvent. I also had a list of things to avoid: Obsessed with sports, unkind to animals and children, small-minded. Of course when I met Hubbie I was swept off my feet and fell in love so that fact that he's obsessed with sport was more than made up for by his teeth and hair. I can sense he's giving me a hard stare at this point, so I'll also say he has many other positive qualities, yadda yadda yadda.

Of course there are plenty of things that I didn't know would be important:

  • Hubbie always takes the bins out - I can do it, but I don't have to because he does it. 
  • He pretends not to watch 'rubbish' like the Great British Bake Off, but ask him who was in it this year and he will name every participant. And he knows all about 'bingate' !!
  • Our shared capacity to take on anything that life throws at us, whether it's the drama of infertility or the trials and tribulations of adoption.  
  • We don't argue. I do, but Hubbie doesn't so it means any row lasts as long as it takes for me to realise that I'm ranting and he's not participating. Nothing diffuses a situation faster. 
  • We want the best for each other. Before I met him I wanted what was best for me, now I want to make Hubbie and our boy happy.   

What I've also realised over the years is that there are subtle things that you just don't consider when you're planning a life with someone. Things you take for granted until they come up in conversation:

A shared love of movies 

Me: Ooh, Shrek* is on. 
Hubbie: hmm
Me: You've watched Shrek haven't you ? 
Hubbie: Erm, no.
Me: (speechless)

*Shrek could also be replaced with: The Godfather, The Blues Brothers, This is Spinal Tap, The Life of Brian...

Interests in common

Me: Did you enjoy the ice skating ?
Hubbie: er, not not really.
Me: Oh, I'm sorry
Hubbie: I've never really enjoyed it
Me: No worries, you were only there because there weren't any penguins to stop the boy falling over :)

Similar tastes in food 

Me: My Mum made the best homemade chips ever.
Hubbie: I never had them
Me: What ? Your Mum never made them for you ?
Hubbie: No, we always had oven chips.
Me: That is actual child neglect. I have to talk to her about this.

A passion for politics 

Me: I just don't get why you watch Question Time
Hubbie: It's amusing isn't it ?
Me: Not really, hearing people shouting isn't that amusing is it ?
Hubbie: Oh, I don't know. At least they're all in one room.
Me: A very noisy room.

A shared vision of the future 

Me: When we've retired I'd like to travel the world
Hubbie: I'd like to travel to every station on the London Underground
Me: (sigh)

Just as well we don't argue isn't it ?

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Christmas at Coombe Mill: Part one

After our summer holiday in Cornwall we were so taken with Coombe Mill that even while we were still here we were talking about when we'd come back. As we knew our boy was starting school in September that ruled out certain dates. However, Fiona (the amazing farmer's wife and brainchild behind #countrykids) mentioned that Coombe Mill is open at Christmas. Seed planted we went home and the more we thought about it the more it seemed the perfect decision for us. 

So, on Thursday we arrived here at lunchtime and it was like we'd never left. The weather is a little cooler, admittedly a lot cooler, but it's still located in a beautiful valley with the sound of the River Camel flowing just outside the door. We have a larger holiday home this time and our boy has a whole play room upstairs that he's loving. 
Santa Express 
Choo choo ! 
Keen to make the most of our time here Hubbie suggested a trip to Lappa Valley railway which was such a hit in the Summer. It is somewhat different in the winter with Zebedee transformed into the Santa Express train. We went to see Father Christmas and the boys rode the express train a few times while I stood taking in the sunshine. Yep, sunshine in December. 
farm helpers 
The following morning it was our first feed run of the holiday and the boys were all prepared for the weather with wellies and suitable attire. The advantage of being early arrivals is that the boy had little competition in the race to drive the tractor with Farmer Nick. This is one of his favourite things about being here - a close second to the railway that runs every afternoon driven by Guy (the farmer's son) at the helm. The train has also undergone a seasonal makeover and is now a glittering festive feast for the senses. 

Today we went to Padstow for a fish and chip lunch - well one of us had dinosaurs and chips, but I'll let you guess who that was (clue: not me).  We even found a playground for the boy to let off steam and he had a great time. It wasn't the warmest day, but we did get some lovely lunch, bought some fudge and even did some pasty research. Hubbie is on the search for the ultimate Cornish Pasty and the place he is convinced does them was closed today. The search continues ! 

Tomorrow it's the Eden Project where we will meet Father Christmas then we're going ice skating. I'm so excited ! 

This post is the first in a series and is featured as part of the #countrykids linky hosted by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill 

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall 

Friday, 19 December 2014

This is what a fundraiser looks like: where's my t-shirt eh ?

This time of year seems to be one where we become acutely aware of good causes and giving to others. I get plenty of charity appeals through the post and having written a lot of them in my previous life as a fundraiser I usually cast a professional eye over them and donate to the ones that I particularly feel an affinity with.

At Christmas I have a few causes I always give to including donations of clothes and blankets to homeless shelters. This year we have given to food banks all year round and I've recently been popping in mince pies and fruit cake and the odd bag of chocolate coins too. Everyone deserves special treats at Christmas don't they ?

We also found out about a toy drive to give toys to looked after children at Christmas which has been organised by the Met Police. I shared this with a few people and was amazed when some reacted really negatively to 'supporting the police.' That level of cynicism really disappoints me and it made me think about some of the campaigns that have captured the imagination in the last year and whether it's really about being 'charitable' or something else.

Fairly early on in the year we saw the phenomenon of the no make-up selfie which was not charitable in intent at first, but became about breast cancer. Plenty of women I know (and some men) posted selfies for this cause and I'm sure lots of them donated to breast cancer charities too. It really was a bit baffling to me.

More recently we saw the internet taken over by the ice bucket challenge. Celebrities, family members and pretty much everyone (and some pets) did this one. It was one of those, 'well they've done it so I will too' things, but I did admire Matt Damon's approach. He used toilet water to undertake the challenge and used the massive international interest in it to raise the issue of wasting water. As patron of a charity he highlighted how so much of the world does not have access to clean water to drink and wash never mind to tip over their heads for fun.

You probably already know how I feel about Movember, ie. men not shaving for a month to raise awareness of male cancers. Does looking like a hipster or a porn star (depending on what facial hair does for you) really improve the provision of health services for men ? Do more men check themselves or seek medical help as a result of this month long abstinence from shaving ? I genuinely don't know the answer, but if it's doing some good then why not ?

There was a moment earlier this year when a t-shirt caused a bit of stir. Not since 'Frankie Say Relax' did a slogan get so many hot so under the collar. I don't know if the t-shirt in question was manufactured in sweatshop conditions and I would hope that the decision to wear it would be left the individual. My question, however, is this: does wearing a T-shirt declaring you're a feminist deal with the gender pay gap ? Or online trolling of women ? Or Gamergate ? 

Way back when that designer bag declared ' I am not a plastic bag' it didn't have any discernible impact on climate change or - if my observations while shopping are anything to go by - on the behaviour of shoppers. The mad scramble to buy them made a mockery of the concept of 'reducing, reusing and recycling' as they changed hands for many times their real value online. 

I guess my point is that my politics don't fit on a t shirt. Charity is a political concept. The fact that it took a teenager with a life threatening disease to raise awareness and funds for cancer charities is shocking. That people were so willing to support the cause because Stephen Sutton asked them to is not.

Charity is a personal choice and how you do it is entirely up to you. If it's this time of year that tweaks a reaction - whether it's guilt or sympathy or generosity - then so be it. I give all year round and do what I can if I don't have much money. I've baked cakes for Macmillan, walked all night in the cold for breast cancer charities and rode a scooter around London wearing a onesie for Comic Relief.

I'll be honest, if I was doing any of these alone it would have been pretty grim, but there are always plenty of folks willing to join in with silly escapades. There will be a new one in March 2015 that I will tell you all about very soon.

For now I'm getting my legwarmers on and doing some warm ups - between bites of mince pie and handfuls of chocolates that is.

Ho ho ho !!

I appear alone, I'm really not :)

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Air guitar, stage diving and visible pants: the Nativity uncut.

I'm not the first parent to watch their beloved offspring in a Nativity play and I'll by no means be the last. It was with some joy and expectation that I went to his school ready to see if he was a sheep or a cloud - we hadn't been given any hints you see - and sharpened my elbows to get to a seat at the front.

Once I'd assessed the room and placed myself where I could see the teeny tiny nursery children I waited with bated breath. Then the lights went down and the main cast arrived. Mary, Joseph, the wise men, the donkeys, the angels and assorted villagers. Dicky Attenborough would have been proud of the crowd scenes. Last, but cutest of all, the little stars arrived holding (pretend) candles and went to sit on the sides of the stage. My boy spotted me as he wended his way to the front and his face lit up and he waved - discreetly - at me. Remaining in character was so important to him that once he was on stage he went all method and ignored me.

Now, I've done my fair share of reviews having been an arts reviewer for various publications and also on my radio show, but this one was personal. So, taking into account that I have a family link to the show here are the highlights of my first nativity play as a parent.
  • The nose-picking child sitting at the front of the stage having a good old dig around and then noshing on the bogies. Not mine, I hasten to add.
  • One of the donkeys falling off the stage. I know this sounds cruel, but the padding prevented any serious injury - honest. 
  • A wise man crying at the side of the stage. Clearly the weight of responsibility took its toll on the poor little fella. 
  • One of the twinkling stars showing their pants - this isn't that unusual I know, but the boys getting so bored that they were lifting their t-shirts was just too funny. 
  • An air guitar section during the song 'glittering stars' which was the chance to shine for the nursery kids. My boy was a the back for the second performance of this so he held his air guitar high up so we could see it over the heads of the others. So proud :) 
All in all I have to say that it was a stunning debut and I'm keen to see what else this young whippersnapper will do in his potentially amazing career on stage. 

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Glitter and sparkle and it's not even on the tree !!

I'm not a big fan of bling, but even I succumb at Christmas and seeing all the glamour and sequins around inspires me. I've been running around so much with constant updating of to do lists that I don't know which way is up, but I still found time to get some sparkle into life this week.

Shiny shiny red and glittery :) 
Firstly, I got my nails done. I went for a festive red with some glitzy glitter tips - let's see how long they last shall we ? 

Any tips on how to wrap the ears ? 

Then I spent an evening wrapping all the presents - adding bows and bling to make them look pretty.  Neo offered to help me, but it was all a bit too much for him so he decided to rest and almost got wrapped up himself ! 

My boys putting money into the wishing well
Finally tonight we did what has become a tradition for us at Christmas and went to look at the Christmas lights. There is one road near where we live that is known for having the most amazing displays outside the homes. Every year they run up what must be eye-watering power bills to provide spectacular themed light shows for the public.

Some stunning lights here
There is an element of competition among the houses and they do try and outdo each other every year. Our boy especially loves the ones with moving characters and tonight we saw a snowman tipping his hat, reindeer bowing their heads to 'feed' and Santa Claus waving his legs out of the chimney where he was stuck.

Can you imagine paying to run these lights ? 
Of course, they don't just do this to entertain, but also to raise funds for charity and we always take money with us to donate. As our boy said this afternoon, "let's put some money in and take a chocolate." You see, the lovely folks at number 7 leave out chocolates to thank people for donations, so for a special Sunday afternoon treat we took him to see the lights clutching some money to donate to Starlight and Great Ormond Street Hospital. What a lovely and inventive way to raise spirits and money at the same time.

Who says Croydon isn't beautiful ? 
Now, it's back to crazy planning and my work Christmas party this week - wish me luck !!

This post is being shared on the #countrykids linky hosted by the lovely Fiona of Coombe Mill

 Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall