Thursday, 31 December 2015

365 Project 2015 Days 360 - 364

Annoyingly I seem to have lost a day somewhere but I wasn't going to go back through the year and try and figure out where I messed up...I'm guessing it might be when I did a huge backlog of 365 photos from when we were in Florida but I'm not going to dwell.

Taking a photo every day of the year should be easy. It is easy really especially when I have my phone with me constantly. It's changing up the photos so they don't become repetitive that I find tricky. When you are in a routine during the week of college, nursery, school, home, it can be hard to be motivated to take a photo of something other than your dinner. I will try harder in 2016 if I can. I think I might set myself themes every now and again to change the photos up a bit. If anything though, I love having all these photos to look back on over the year.

Day 360 - Having fun at a park near our friend's house
Day 361 - Going through my purchases from the Next Sale
Day 362 - Sorting Z's book cupboard
Day 363 - Cuddles on the couch with Felix
Day 364 - Out for a bike ride despite the wind and rain

Me & Mine - A Round up of 2015

I love taking part in Me & Mine and the Siblings Project hosted by Lucy at Dear Beautiful blog. It's a fantastic way to encourage me to take family photos every month and gives us the opportunity to look back over the year and see how much the kids have changed. 2015 has been no exception, as I share a round up of our photos from January to December.

In January, we enjoyed cake at a local cafe together.

In February, my friend took this photo of us at the park, in front of a huge den.

March brought the first signs of Spring and warmer weather.

In April, we enjoyed our nights in together as it was about the only time we all saw each other.

In May we celebrated our beautiful little girl's 6th birthday!

In June, we celebrated our beautiful boy's 8th birthday!

Enjoying the better weather in July!

It was time to go back to school in August, not that the kids were bothered!

In September we loved going to see Disney on Ice, a week before we flew to Florida,

Probably my favourite Me & Mine photo of 2015...taken in Disneyworld!

November was a slower month in comparison to October but we enjoyed the cosy nights in watching Xfactor.

December finishes off a fantastic year for us. I can't wait to see what 2016 holds for us.

Me & Mine 2015 - December

It seems fitting that every December I post a photo of us all on Christmas Day in our Christmas attire. This year, like last year, we are wearing our Christmas jumpers and taking a photo by our Christmas tree.

December has been a really fast month. I remember it dragging by as a child but I feel like I literally blinked and it was Christmas day. And what a Christmas day it was!

My December was filled with college essays and trying to get them finished in time for the holidays. I definitely didn't want to spend my two week off doing any college work and, thankfully, I managed to get all of my work handed in before we finished.

Husband and I enjoyed seeing Miss C in her Christmas show at school. Her year group put on a carol concert and they all did an amazing job. We were feeling very festive after watching it.

Z had a brilliant Christmas day. He was really excited to receive Lego Dimensions from Santa as well as lots of books to read. From Husband and I he received a phone. It was something we thought long and hard about but we felt it was the right time for him to have one. He text his best friend first!

Miss C loved the magic of Christmas. She was beaming when she watched her PNP video from Santa and loved having presents to open on Christmas morning. She got lots and lots of horses. 12 in total at the last count. From us, she received a TV and DVD player for her room so she can watch her favourite Disney DVDs in her room whenever her friends come over.

Mostly though, we loved being able to spend the day together, opening presents, eating lots of yummy food and cuddling up to watch Christmas movies. I can't wait to see what adventures and family fun 2016 brings for me and mine.

dear beautiful

Wednesday, 30 December 2015

Next Boxing Day Sale Kids Clothing Haul

I make the trip to the Next Sale twice a year, every year. I love it. You can pick up so many bargains and it's a great way to build up the kids' wardrobes and save a bit of cash at the same time.

On Boxing Day, I was up at 4.55am, dressed by 5am and in the car on the way to my local Next store by 5.05am. I met a friend in the queue which meant the 50 minute wait went by a lot quicker. The rain was pouring down but thankfully we didn't get too wet as we were under a shelter. It was cold though and part of me was thinking, why on earth did I get out of bed at this time to stand in the rain and the cold?

Of course, once I was inside, picking up the bargains, I totally forgot that I was a bit wet and quite cold.

I picked up a few bits for Z and for our new niece or nephew who is due any day now but I mostly got stuff for Miss C. I filmed a "haul" vlog to show off what I got. I love a good haul video especially when it comes to stuff for the kids.

I spent around £200 on everything I got. Have a watch and see what bargains I picked up.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Florida Kids Clothing and Footwear Haul

Aside from visiting Disneyworld, I was really excited to do some shopping in Orlando particularly for stuff for the kids as I had heard there were bargains to be had.

On our shopping day, which you can read about here, we headed to the Orlando outlets to see what we could find.

I had in mind what I wanted to get the kids; Converse footwear, some new UGG boots for Miss C and some Ralph Lauren polo shirts for Z. I managed to get these and more from the outlets and they were a good bit cheaper than buying them in the UK.

We spent around $600 on clothing and footwear for the kids which worked out at around £390. We probably could have gotten some more stuff however we didn't want to go over our weight allowance or the £390 per person tax free allowance you can bring back from the US.

I filmed a "haul" video of all the stuff I got for the kids so you can see what we got and the styles of clothing and footwear available in the US.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Our Christmas Day 2015

It's such a build up to this one day of the year and, just like that, it's all over. I'm so thankful that we are off until 7th of January as I need that time to recover and to exercise. The food. So much food.

The kids woke up at 8am on Christmas morning which we weren't expecting but really appreciated. They came through with their stockings, as they do every year, and opened them in our room. Z had some Minecraft figurines and Miss C had some of the Schleich horses. She loves those animals.

We headed downstairs to the living room, Husband and I armed with a cup of tea and bin bags, and the kids set about opening their presents. Z's main present from Santa was Lego Dimensions which he was so excited about. He had a couple of sets too and books. Lots of books. It always makes me smile that Z gets really excited about receiving books. He loves to read so much. Miss C's main present from Santa was an Our Generation doll and an Our Generation horse. She was also really delighted to receive a pack of Katie Morag books as they are reading them at school.

After the opening of presents came to an end, we got dressed. We decided that we would make it a tradition to wear Christmas jumpers on Christmas day because that's as good a time as any really! We had a light lunch of sandwiches and filo pastry prawns and then played with some of the new toys. My father-in-law popped up with my brother-in-law to hand in presents for the kids.

We headed out for dinner at 4pm. This was our third year going out for Christmas dinner and it was delicious as always. I ordered salmon and sweet potato fish cakes to start, fillet steak with vegetables and roast potatoes for mains and crème brulee for pudding. Husband ordered Cullen skink to start, fillet steak with vegetables and fries for mains and sticky toffee pudding for dessert. Z had sirloin steak with fries followed by sticky toffee pudding and Miss C had spaghetti bolognaise followed by sticky toffee pudding. So, so yummy!

After finishing dinner, we headed home to get in to our jammies and watch Stick Man. We loved The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo's Child so we couldn't wait to see this. I didn't think it was as good as the other two but we still enjoyed it.

We went to bed at 9pm as we were all shattered. It was such a wonderful Christmas day.

Here's a short video I made of the day...

Sunday, 27 December 2015

The Week That Was #52

Last Sunday, we had a lazy morning of eating breakfast in bed and watching Masterchef. After lunch, Z and Miss C headed to the local cooking school for a baking session. They seemed to have a lot of fun and the biscuits they made were delicious.

On Monday, it was back to school and placement. We're working right up to the holidays this year but it means we don't have to go back until the second week of January! I picked the kids up from my friend's house and we headed home to get changed and have dinner. My friends popped in for a visit and then my MIL popped in with Christmas presents for us all.

On Tuesday, it was my last day at placement for 2015. It was a really fun day and I do miss not being there when I'm on a day off or at college. That tells me I've definitely made the right decision to do a job that I'll love. After picking the kids up from my friend's house, we headed home for dinner. I made cajun chicken with tagliatelle and then we cuddled up to read a Christmas story.

On Wednesday, I started my holidays but the kids had one more day of school. After dropping them off, I headed to Asda to get some pizzas for the kids as Z was having his friend over for dinner. It was mobbed! It's crazy that people get panic buying for the sake of one day. I managed to get in and out fairly quickly and headed home to put my feet up and read my book. After school, the kids and I got our hair cut. Miss C and I had a good 2 inches taken off which was a bit scary but needed. Husband and Z went to see Star Wars after they dropped Z's friend home and Miss C and I watched Santa Paws 2.

On Thursday, Christmas Eve, we got up around 8.30 and had breakfast. I cleaned the house and friends popped in to deliver presents to Z and Miss C. We went to visit my brother-in-law and his wife at their house and Z and Miss C got more presents. After dinner, we cuddled up on the couch to watch The Polar Express with hot chocolate and some Thorntons fudge. The kids were really excited to hang up their stockings and get to bed.

On Friday, it was Christmas Day. The kids woke up just before 8am and opened their stockings in our room. We headed down to the living room to see if Santa had been. He had! The kids opened their presents and then we had breakfast. The kids' Papa and Uncle popped over for a visit and to hand in some presents and then we headed out for dinner. It was delicious. We got changed in to our jammies when we returned home and cuddled up to watch Stick Man.

On Saturday, I was up early for the Next sale. I do it every year on Boxing day and manage to get a good few bits for the kids. After breakfast, we headed to Matalan to see what their sale was like and then headed to Asda to do our shopping. The kids had some vouchers for Smyths so we headed there to let them choose some things. Z chose some board games and Lego and Miss C chose some Sylvanian Families stuff. We had pizza for dinner and then watched a movie whilst tucking in to some of the boxes of sweets we received for Christmas.

Saturday, 26 December 2015

365 Project 2015 Days 353 - 359

Day 353 - The kids went to the local cook school to do some baking
Day 354 - The Christmas story book, ready to read all week
Day 355 - Cajun chicken pasta which was yummy
Day 356 - Krispy Kremes for Santa...and me of course
Day 357 - Stockings hung up in a row
Day 358 - Merry Christmas!
Day 359 - Hitting the Next Boxing Day sale

Thursday, 24 December 2015

It's Looking a Lot Like Christmas Eve

It's a dark and dreary Christmas Eve and, quite frankly, I'm disappointed we haven't gotten any snow. Usually I wish the stuff to go anywhere but near us but it seems wrong that it's pouring with rain and there is no fluttering of snowflakes falling gently to the ground. Miss C even said she wasn't very happy that it wasn't snowing.

Inside the house though, it's looking very festive and we are ready to welcome Santa and all the magic of Christmas. We've got our Disney decorations up, the candles are burning and the tree lights are the only lights brightening our living room.

We have a few Christmas Eve traditions; we go for a walk if we can, drink hot chocolate and watch The Polar Express. We put out our plate for Santa with goodies for him and the reindeer, we hang up our stockings and then read The Night Before Christmas.

The kids are in bed after watching their message from Santa on the PNP. Miss C's face was a picture. She is at a wonderful age. Z enjoyed his too but sometimes I wonder if he wants to convince us he still believes because he doesn't want to spoil the magic.

All that is left to do is wait for Santa to deliver presents and for the kids to wake up...probably around 6am. I better get to bed now!

Happy Christmas Eve!

Christmas and What It Means to Me

I remember being Z's age, even Miss C's age, and being so excited on Christmas Eve, I wondered how I would ever get to sleep. Probably my Mum wondered this too. We were always high as kites on Christmas Eve. Living in Mexico, we took on the traditions my Stepdad had done when he was younger and celebrating Christmas. Just after midnight, on Christmas Day, my Mum would wake us and we would get to open our presents. We didn't have to wait until morning!

As we got older, we still were excited for Christmas but we kind of knew what to expect and it wasn't so much about getting new things but enjoying the break from school and mock exams. Mum always cooked a Christmas dinner. It was always delicious.

The year I spent Christmas in my Dad's house was an eye opener for me. My Dad wasn't in the same position financially as my Mum and Stepdad were but he still put on a big spread as best he could. It made me appreciate how lucky I had been when I lived with my Mum and Stepdad and made me realise that not everyone gets the Christmas they would hope for.

When I left home and moved in with Husband, we didn't really celebrate Christmas. We bought each other gifts but I was always sad around Christmas time that I wasn't near my family. Husband and his family were so welcoming in to their home and I was grateful, of course, but I still felt a bit lonely. It wasn't quite the same as the Christmas traditions we had growing up...visiting my Grandma and Grandpa in their big house in Carnoustie, all of my cousins being there and the mischief we'd get up to. Playing board games with my Mum and Stepdad and my Sister, always the joker, when my Mum would say, "this red wine is quite heavy isn't it?" and my Sister saying, "of course it's heavy, you've just opened it!"

Then we had children and my outlook of Christmas completely changed. I used to think, as a child, Christmas was the most exciting thing ever. My children proved me wrong. Christmas is the most exciting time when you have children of your own and you see the excitement in their face. Their voice rises a couple of pitches higher the closer it gets to the big day. The wonder. The amazement. The joy when they receive a toy or book they really wanted. Showing it off to you, talking fast and overly animated. It's truly magical.

This year is no exception. I am aware that Z is going to be less likely to believe in the magic of Christmas soon. A friend of mine has a 10 year old and already they don't believe and it makes me a bit scared about how Christmas will be for Z next year. Will he still believe?

Already they have presents under the tree from our wonderful friends and family who are always so kind and generous to our children. Miss C has already planned out which present she is going to open first; not the biggest one but the one from her best friend.

We're making Christmas as magical as possible for them both, just in case. There will be Christmas movies, chocolates, hot chocolate, dinner at our favourite Italian restaurant but most of all, there will be us. All of us together, enjoying spending the holidays with one another and cherishing every moment we can. Thinking about the true meaning of Christmas and what it means to me...Having my little family around me, taking away that lonely feeling I had so many years ago and making our own Christmas memories that they can remember when they are older and have their own families.

I'd like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas. Whatever you do, whoever you spend it with, enjoy the memories you are making.

A Letter to Santa from Miss C

A Letter to Santa from Z

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Dining in Disney - Day 10

On our tenth day in Disney, the boys headed off to Island of Adventures and Miss C and I stayed in the Disney bubble by heading to Magic Kingdom. Here is where and what we ate:

Breakfast at the Landscape of Flavours - Art of Animation

We had our usual breakfast meal of cereal, water, fruit and cookies but we also got a bagel to share. Husband had his steak burger and fries with orange juice.

The total cost of our breakfast was $32.50. No tip required at a quick service location.

Lunch at Pinocchio Village Haus - Magic Kingdom

Miss C and I decided to share a kid's meal of pizza and fries with a bottle of water. It was so hot, we weren't overly hungry so sharing the meal kept us going and it saved us a bit of money too.

Our lunch cost around $6.50 which included the tax. No tip required.

Lunch at The Burger Digs - Island of Adventures 

The boys fancied burgers for lunch and found the Burger Digs inside the Jurassic Park area of Island of Adventures. The burgers were really tasty!

Their lunch cost around $20 including the tax. No tip required.

A delicious cupcake from Landscape of Flavours - Art of Animation

Miss C and I decided to share a cupcake when we arrived back at the hotel. It was so good but, of course, incredibly rich and sweet meaning we couldn't quite finish it all. Miss C ate the chocolate Art of Animation logo from the top of the cake.

The cupcake cost around $4.50. No tip required.

Dinner at The Olive Garden - International Drive

I loved the Olive Garden when we visited Florida many years ago. I always remember the breadsticks being delicious. They were more like a mini baguette than a stick. We were seated quite quickly even though the restaurant looked busy.

I was delighted to see they still serve them, complimentary with your meal. We didn't have too many though as we didn't want to make ourselves full before our main meal.

Husband ordered the chicken and shrimp carbonara, Miss C ordered spaghetti and meatballs, Z ordered pizza and fries and I had a steak and Gorgonzola pasta dish.

Service was fairly quick which was great but we didn't feel rushed to eat. My pasta was really delicious but there was so much on the plate, I struggled to finish it. Husband's carbonara was good too. Miss C wasn't keen on the meatballs and, after trying one, I agreed with her. They were a bit rubbery!

We didn't bother with dessert as we were stuffed full so we paid and headed to a nearby outlet.

The total cost for our meal was $55 and we left a $10 tip.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Florida Day 10 - Magic Kingdom, Universal and Driving in Orlando

Tuesday was our tenth day in Florida and we decided to split up; boys together and girls together. Before we flew to Florida, we decided which theme parks we wanted to visit whilst we were there. Husband and Z really wanted to go to Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure but I felt that a lot of the rides would be too grown up for Miss C so we decided that instead of the boys missing out or Miss C being upset and not being able to get on certain rides, we would split up and the boys would spend two days at Universal Studios.

Miss C and I spent the morning and in to the early afternoon in Magic Kingdom. Our first stop was Tomorrowland to go on Buzz Lightyear, Astro Orbitor and the People Mover. We really enjoyed the People Mover which takes you round Tomorrowland and tells you about the different rides. A nice way to kill some time or to take a break.

After Tomorrowland, we headed to Fantasyland which was definitely our favourite land to visit. We went on Dwarfs Mine Train, the carousel and the Little Mermaid ride. We met Cinderella and Rapunzel which was fantastic as we didn't get to meet them in Paris when we went. After some lunch, we headed to Storybook Circus and went on the Flying Dumbos and Barnstormer. Miss C chose a new cuddly friend from one of the shops; Zero from a Nightmare Before Christmas.

We decided to head back to the hotel to have a nap before the boys got back from Universal Studios. It was nice to have the morning in the park and a chilled afternoon.

The boys headed to Island of Adventure and got soaked on quite a few of the water rides. Ponchos would not have kept them dry. They met a velociraptor and had butterbeer in Hogsmeade. They loved the Jurrasic Park River Adventure and The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man.

They arrived back to the hotel just after 5pm and we headed out to International Drive for dinner. We decided to go to The Olive Garden as I remember it being one of my favourite places to eat when we went to Florida as kids. We drove with the top down because it was such a beautiful evening and when in Florida...

Here is a short video we made of the day. I had a major fail by not charging my camera!

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