Bowood House and Gardens

If anyone is looking for a good family day out, my Mum, my two Sisters and I had a really great day out at Bowood House and Gardens earlier this year.

The only downside was that we had to contend with a torrential downpour whilst we were exploring, but we all still really enjoyed ourselves! We didn’t get to spend as much time exploring the gardens as we had hoped due to the awful weather so I think we will be re-visiting in the future so we can take full advantage! On the plus side it meant the house and gardens were really quiet!

IMG_8144

Bowood House and Gardens is in Wiltshire and is currently home to the Marquis and Marchioness of Lansdowne.

IMG_8142

IMG_8145

The house sits inside 100 acres of beautifully landscaped ‘Capability’ Brown Parkland and has been home to the Lansdowne family since the 1st Earl of Shelburne purchased it in 1754.

Over half of the house is open to visitors, with the family still living in the remainder. The places you can visit within the house include:

The Orangery

Originally designed as a large conservatory, the Orangery is now primarily a picture gallery, containing the remaining parts of the two great Lansdowne Collections of paintings and sculpture.

The Chapel

Opposite the Orangery entrance are the great doors to the Chapel. Created in the early 19th century for the 3rd Marquess by C.R.Cockerell, the Chapel is still used for special services and concerts.

The Laboratory

Through the doors at the east end of the Orangery is a small room known as the Laboratory. Here, scientist Dr Joseph Priestley, tutor to the 1st Marquess’ two sons, discovered oxygen in 1774! In those days the room was full of scientific equipment but unfortunately all were sold when the 1st Marquess died.

The Library

It was in this room that the great Bowood house parties would meet after dinner to read, play chess, sing, and talk about politics and other topics of the day.

The Sculpture Gallery

Through a small entrance hall at the other end of the Orangery is the Sculpture Gallery, created by the present Marquis of Lansdowne in 1980. Designed originally as a menagerie or zoo for wild animals, a leopard and an orangutan were kept here in the 18th century! Nowadays, the gallery houses pieces from the Lansdowne sculpture collections.

The Exhibition Rooms

A staircase at the west end of this gallery leads to the exhibition room which displays examples of 18th-century and 19th-century costumes. The Victorian Room holds (among other memorabilia of the period) Queen Victoria’s wedding chair!

Also on show in the Top Exhibition Room are the Keith Jewellery Collection, family miniatures, and the Napoleonic Collection. The Napoleonic Collection also came into the family via the 4th Marchioness; it includes Napoleon’s death mask, pieces of gilded Imperial Sèvres porcelain and other unusual treasures, such as Napoleon’s handkerchief!

The Gardens

If you can, try and get on one of the scheduled monthly tours of the Private Walled Gardens.

IMG_8138

Bowood’s Gardens have beautiful sloping lawns stretching down to the lake.  The park includes the Cascade, Doric Temple, Terrace Gardens and for children, the fantastic Adventure Playground!

Sorry for the lack of garden pictures, the rain was so bad I was worried about the welfare of my lovely phone!

A separate Woodland Garden, which hosts Rhododendrons and Azaleas, is open to the public between April and early June every year, according to the flowering season.

IMG_8150

IMG_8152

There is an on-site cafe called the Treehouse Cafe which serves lovely paninis and delicious homemade cakes! Plus lovely hot chocolates and coffees which were greatly appreciated after being soaked through to the skin! British weather hey???

Adult ticket prices are £12.50 and child prices are £7.50 – £9.50, and family tickets are also available.

Bowood House and Gardens opens again on the 1st April – choose your visiting dates wisely though as it’s not called “April showers” for no reason!

A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party

451C76B6-FEEA-43AA-9E9D-576BA64E1EC9

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas! I must admit I do struggle in the days after Christmas – I feel really down and depressed that it’s all over for another year! You look forward to it for so long and then it seems to come and go in the blink of an eye!

Anyway, if you have read my London at Christmas Time blog you’ll know that my Mum, my Sister and I go to London every December to check out all the festivities – this year we decided we wanted to do Afternoon Tea whilst we were there.

We looked at several Afternoon Tea options including Fortnum and Mason and the Ritz and tried really hard to get us into the Tale as old as time Beauty and the Beast themed Afternoon Tea at The Kensington but it was completely fully booked until the end of January!

I eventually came across this amazing Alice In Wonderland Mad Hatter’s Tea Party afternoon tea at the Sanderson Hotel. It looked perfect for what we wanted, and I managed to book it for a special price which included a free cocktail because we were visiting on a weekday!

203C4B72-8462-4215-AF5E-7F6FFB2AB9EF

We booked for 1pm and the place was empty when we arrived which was really nice – I think we booked slightly early for afternoon tea but after getting up early to catch the coach to London I knew we would all be starving by 1pm!

We sat down and they gave us the selection of their lovely teas – you get a teapot of your selected tea each so we all chose a different one so we could try each others!

6E8FA602-B581-4E4C-B0D7-DCC8A1681F9E

Here was the selection –

White Rabbit – China white silver needles infused with white grapefruit, vanilla and almond white chrysanthemums.

Queen of Hearts – Red Rose congu infused with red rose petals and a hint of vanilla and chocolate.

Mad Hatter – Green tea infused with passion fruit, guava and mango.

Cheshire Cat – Marmalade orange oolong infused with chocolate and hugging orange.

Alice – China black tea infused with hints of blackcurrant, vanilla, caramel, citrus, bergamot, blue cornflowers and blue mallow flowers.

I choose White Rabbit, my Mum choose Alice and my Sister chose Queen of Hearts – all were very different but absolutely delicious! You can also buy the teas to take home with you as well if you choose!

F499311F-2B07-454B-A62B-383384EAF908

The cocktail arrived shortly afterwards and I was a bit worried because they said it was gin-based and I am not a fan of gin but the cocktail was also delicious – they said it was a Sanderson special so I didn’t get to find out the ingredients!

7AE9D466-DDDD-435A-A54A-7EBD4471D546

Then the amazing food started coming out…. Here’s what was on the menu –

74231B63-D832-4EAC-9C9C-8DC323531D77

Smoked salmon scotch quails egg with caviar and cream cheese

3CD7FA4F-4E0C-4C18-812E-0E785DE94B3B

B7E33C3D-2ECE-4584-8BDA-E004B7343D00

Stack of King of Hearts ham and parmesan croque-monsieur

F0C74860-33BD-4134-BFB2-9C365EBF6CF9

Cornish crab bridge roll with dill, lemon, creme fraiche and avocado and White rabbit cucumber and cream cheese sandwich on pesto bread 

16622B0C-BF96-459E-96BE-C65714A8A3D3

Queen of Hearts rose and strawberry jammy dodger 

CD88AAC2-C86A-448E-99C4-8069CC942AC3

Mocha chessboard gateau

47B78E68-EC2B-48C6-9C38-7E98F087AFFC

Tweedle Dee lemon curd financier 

8B683335-3BA9-44AE-837D-BA4892A919D0

Mad March Hare vanilla pocket watch macaroon (my favourite!)

D12CC508-1F80-4735-8CCA-0367A7A67CEB

Chocolate and Pistachio Blue Caterpillar 

5A079806-15F8-4BD5-9B54-AD2844DE16B7

Wonderland Marshmallow Magic mushrooms

E583D992-F22D-4E2E-ADCA-61D93325E07F

Mad Hatters Lost Carrot and Fennel Meringue (hidden away in the “grass” in the teacup on the top – two little red shell shaped meringues – really cute!)

0098AD2C-DEF1-449A-8A16-197352D6C6E7

Alices Cinnamon, apple and peach “Drink Me” potion

BDE269B8-F6F8-43D6-9387-29E5032AA793

And if that isn’t enough you also get Sanderson’s warm scones served with Cornish clotted cream and fruit preserve!

The staff asked us if we were celebrating a special occasion and we said we had decided to do it because it was my Sister’s Birthday the Friday before and it was my Mum’s Birthday the following Saturday, so they brought them out this beautiful slate with two delicious pieces of cake on and Happy Birthday written in icing! How lovely!

A really lovely afternoon – the hotel is beautiful and the staff were amazing. I would definitely re-book to go back here again the next time we pay a visit to London!

B5348C1E-BA6B-434A-BC0F-5A31D5BEA64C

Sudeley Castle Spectacle Of Light

As my sister’s Birthday is the 1st December, we always try and do something a bit different on her Birthday or the weekend closest to it. She is definitely a winter baby and loves this time of year so we generally tie in her Birthday day out with something that is Christmas themed as well! Past days out have included a trip to Longleat Safari, ice skating at Cribbs Causeway and of course for her last milestone Birthday, an amazing trip to Iceland!

Last year I came across an event which was being hosted at Sudeley Castle called the Spectacle of Light. Last year was the first time they had hosted such an event and as several of us have been meaning to visit Sudeley Castle for some time, this event looked perfect for the occasion!

IMG_7117

The event is hosted after dark, and the Castle and grounds are lit up and decorated for a wonderful spectacle of light and sound. You follow a trail of light around the stunning castle grounds, magical gardens with majestic trees and into the romantic ruins where ideal photo opportunities await you! Music is also played as you wander the trail!

IMG_7129

We attended on the 1st December last year, but this year the dates span from the 8th to 30th December 2017.

IMG_7136

After you are done exploring, the café is open where mulled wine, cider and hot chocolate are served alongside other winter warmers like soup and hotdogs.

Entry times for the event are every half an hour from 5pm until 7:30pm – when we went last year we booked the latest entry time of 8:30pm, however they contacted us a few days before to ask if we could arrive for 8pm as they were short on staff – it looks as if they have reduced the amount of entry times this year as a result.

When we wandered the trail it was extremely quiet and peaceful, there were only a handful of other people who were there with us which made it all the more special! The weather was perfect December weather as well – cold but dry – we were very lucky on this occasion as I would imagine it to be a very different experience in the torrential rain!

IMG_7148

IMG_7149

If you pre-book your tickets online you can also save 10% on the ticket prices – adult ticket price is £15.75 per person (normally £17.50) and child price is £9.90 (normally £11.00). Family tickets are also available.

IMG_7154

A typical walk will be approximately 60 -75 minutes, although if you wish to stay longer you are very welcome.

IMG_7157

According to the website, they have some new additions to the event this year including an “amazing kaleidoscope of illuminated parasols, an enchanting tree energising its sparkling roots and a friendly roar in the tower dungeon!”

IMG_7160

IMG_7164

A highly recommended event, particularly for you budding photographers! We were slightly disappointed that our tickets did not give us full access to the Castle as this is a separately hosted event, however this just meant we were looking forward to re-visiting the Castle again in the daytime to see all that it had to offer!

Christmas Cornflake Wreaths

B19F4191-A820-4C9B-93D4-496D54415342

Now the kids have broken up from school for Christmas, if you are looking for a really fun, easy and cheap treat to make then this is ideal!

To make the Cornflake Wreaths you will need:

-100g soft butter

-200g mini marshmallows

-125g cornflakes

-1 teaspoon of any flavouring you would like such as vanilla or orange – my favourite is almond!

-Spinkles!

To make the wreaths –

Put a piece of greaseproof paper on a surface ready for the wreaths to set on later.

Put the hob on a low heat and melt the butter and marshmallows in a large pan. Stir continuously until the ingredients are combined.

A9E40DC4-A670-4B7B-A2F3-E73DB4D59918

Take the pan off the heat and add any flavouring you want to use.

Add the cornflakes to the pan and crush them as you stir them so they are easier to shape later on, I find the smaller you crush the cornflakes the easier it is to shape them.

F4A2917B-BF19-43E8-A3B3-EA4210A50938

Make sure all the cornflakes are covered in the marshmallow mixture.

0CDCCDF7-C5E5-432C-8BC8-28929248F4EE

When the mixture has cooled down slightly, pull off a ball of mixture around the size of a golfball and flatten it on your baking paper – sounds easy right?? This is the hardest bit as it is REALLY messy! The kids will love it! Even flattening it is hard because the mixture sticks to EVERYTHING!!! Be prepared to get covered in goo!

You should end up with nine or ten wreaths after you’ve fought to flatten them onto the baking  paper.

7F8079AE-4A1F-4A18-97C2-0D318011A1BB

Once you’ve done this, use the end of a spoon to make a hole in the middle so they look “wreath-like”.

Fairly soon after you do this and before the mixture sets, you need to decorate your wreaths! Do this however you wish but I do find that red and green holly and berry decorations look really good, and I also add a few white stars on them too!!

08384216-16BC-47FA-87F1-376CF76A9053

Finally, sprinkle on some edible glitter and leave them for an hour or so (if you can!) to allow the mixture to set and then indulge!!!

New York at Christmas Time – Day Three

We didn’t have any major plans for our third day in New York as I didn’t know how much ground we would cover yesterday and whether we would need a couple of hours to catch up on things we missed yesterday!

We started off the day by walking north to make our way to Central Park. We stopped by the Plaza Hotel on the way (the hotel Kevin stays in in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York) to take some photos – hubby said if we were lucky enough to visit New York again he would like to stay here next time!

589D6BDF-95B2-4541-910F-8E52E22EADF5

We then stopped and had another tasty breakfast at a café on Columbus Circle! It was AMAZING!

8EACF150-995D-4AB9-8A2A-CDF985F74F1A

We then crossed the road to visit the Columbus Circle Holiday Market which was another market I knew I wanted to visit. The location is great – perched in between the hustle and bustle of the city and yet also on the edge of Central Park.

C3F67E69-8C98-4709-B61C-B79D5C22F47C

I really loved this market, lots of lovely stalls and the food stalls were amazing! Check out my poo emoji and little lamb macaron I bought while I was there!

There was also a stall selling giant S’mores and the most amazing hot chocolates I have seen!

7FCD3E9B-5A37-4ABD-8750-5ED2815C6EBA

After our visit to the market we went to visit Central Park and spent a good couple of hours walking round to see all that it has to offer. Here are some of the amazing things you can see in this massive park:

F28A3609-C9E1-494C-BC6A-2CE57DF4ADD9

DB8A92D1-95C3-4FF5-AC57-FBD1B143E924

FB87FA64-C016-4CAA-BDB6-501A5AFB81EC

Central Park Zoo

We visited Central Park zoo the first time we visited New York, so we didn’t visit this time. Still, it is a great day out and well worth visiting if you get the chance. You’ll find over 130 different species ranging from Snow Leopards to Tropical Birds in here! Prices start at $18 per adult ticket.

Wollman Rink

This looked like a lot of fun and was much cheaper than the rink at the Rockefeller Center (starts at $12 per adult). The rink also seemed bigger and far less busy too!

E45B16CB-4B95-456D-9100-77F082F5C9A2

Wollman Rink was opened in 1949 and has been a favorite attraction of Central Park ever since. In the autumn and winter, ice skating at the rink is one of the most popular things to do in Central Park. It’s lovely to skate with the city’s skyline looking down on you!

Loeb Boathouse

The iconic Loeb Boathouse offers boat rentals and gondola rides, as well as a very exclusive expensive dining experience!

0B990C4C-2182-4831-8C37-F25C52BED9F4

Calvert Vaux designed a wooden structure of the boat house that would last from 1873 until 1954. The beautiful, two-story, Victorian structure was eventually torn down, but its original purpose was carried on by its replacement, now known as the Loeb Boathouse.

Carl M. Loeb opened the new, red brick and limestone Boathouse in 1954. In addition to its traditional functions, the new Boathouse is also the site of the Boathouse Restaurant.

Pilgrim Hill

We wanted to visit here because this is where everyone goes sledding when there’s thick snow on the ground! We were hoping there would still be some snow when we got there but unfortunately it had all gone! Still a very pretty place though!

FE90D97C-73F5-4BE5-8E9D-5CB8B6895813

Alice in Wonderland

Located just north of the Conservatory Water at East 74th Street, Alice in Wonderland stands eleven feet tall in bronze, surrounded by the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit and a few of her other friends!

The Dairy Visitor Center

The Central Park Dairy, which now serves as an information center and gift shop inside the park, was originally intended as a source of fresh milk for children in the late 19th century.

B264E3CF-721D-42A7-9BFF-F8FD0CF4CA10

The Dairy was constructed in 1870; at this time, fresh milk for children was difficult to find and desperately sought after by parents. The Dairy was built at the southern end on the park, originally the children’s section, to provide milk and snacks for children in the cool and relaxing atmosphere near the Pond.

Plus there is loads, loads more to do in Central Park than this, you can easily spend a couple of days in Central Park checking out everything it has to offer!

After a few hours and a LOT of walking around Central Park we walked back towards the hotel and stopped off at Times Square where I checked out the “it’s always Christmas” shop! There has been a Facebook video going round which showed footage of the inside and outside of this amazing store so I was really pleased I got to visit!

24B7E8F9-ACD0-4192-9030-CCF2F8870B0A

A92A1282-AB15-4DC9-912B-844376538D5B

I also spotted this amazing little cupcake store on Times Square called Baked By Melissa. They sell adorable little bite-sized cupcakes in some amazing flavours! I bought a pack of six but wish I had bought more! They are only bite-sized after all!

287A446D-3D98-4367-A42B-5BA185804A1A

AFCE6CC9-CD63-4ECD-81BE-64D69A02E90B

I also went into a brilliant deli and bought a rainbow bagel which had almond butter in! Delicious!

After a pit stop to stuff our faces we ventured on down to Macys Department Store. I wasn’t too bothered about doing any shopping as you could spend all day in this amazing store, but I wanted to visit their Christmas department which is called Holiday Lane! I’ve seen a Facebook video of Holiday Lane too so I knew it was going to be spectacular!

I have never seen so many beautiful trees and decorations and stuffed toys and wreaths and Nutcracker Dolls! I really was in my element!

F83ED750-C4F1-4884-B62E-B0137D1CCF7B

After a long final day we visited Times Square and splashed out on a HUGE slap up meal at Applebee’s which is one of our favourite American restaurants. I love the pretzels with beer cheese dips for starters and four cheese macaroni cheese with chicken on top, absolutely delicious!

24697524-6457-404B-8496-CF7AA82E0D69

The perfect end to a perfect holiday! Our three nights here went so quickly but we all got to see things we wanted to see and do things we wanted to do, and most importantly we got to spend time together. A truly magical place this time of year, if you ever get the chance to go, grab it with both hands!

Until next time New York!

New York at Christmas Time – Day Two

We were all up earlier than I had expected us to be (stupid jet-lag!) but this meant we could get ready and be out stomping the streets of New York as early as possible and cover more ground.

We put the TV on as we were getting ready and were mortified to hear that there had been an attempt to set a bomb off only a few streets away from our hotel but thank god no-one was seriously injured or killed. I take my hat off to the authorities who have to deal with terrible situations like this – they are all so skilled and well trained and professional throughout and I have to say, despite being only a couple of streets away from where disaster could have struck, I never once felt unsafe knowing the best of the best were out there protecting us all. I think it is fair to say that terrorism failed in more than one aspect that day.

Anyway, on a brighter note, off we went on Monday’s adventure. We walked a good twenty minutes to go and have breakfast at Broadway Café – we always have breakfast here at least once during our trips to New York. It is a brilliant place with so much choice, I challenge you not to find something on the breakfast menu that you like! If you get the chance you must pay them a visit!

After a hearty breakfast of pancakes with crispy bacon and maple syrup and omelettes, oatmeal and sausage sandwiches, we carried on walking South down Broadway, admiring all the shops and window displays.

96A2AEA9-B901-4EF3-BEBF-9BB7B802E187

On our way to the Financial District we came across the Flatiron building – such an amazing design! It was originally called the Fuller Building, is 22 storeys high and was completed in 1902. The name “Flatiron” comes from its resemblance to a cast-iron clothes iron. The building is often described as “one of the worlds most iconic skyscrapers and a quintessential symbol of New York city.” It is certainly very amazing to look at!

83DB5512-06D6-40B8-966D-A4DCF298B498

We eventually arrived at Washington Square Park, which looked beautiful as it still had some snow on the ground. The park is a 9.75 acre public park in Greenwich and is one of the best known parks of New York city. At the northern gateway of the park you will find the Washington Square Arch (in the second picture).

D32ACFA1-691D-4BD8-8E4F-E421A1498B70

BB129054-4019-4EE7-9E48-25F6DEFB84AC

CCCAF3D8-ECF1-44AF-B05E-FF29A8708C0E

We also stopped off at Sugarhut and spent a fortune on sweets! I have never seen so many different types of sweets and treats! I was like a kid in a toy store! You don’t get sweet shops in the UK anymore really do you? It’s mainly the supermarkets you have to get your sugar fix from!

853B0C6B-B29D-400B-88CA-07B330A27BA7

We carried on walking down Fifth Avenue for a few more miles until we reached the Financial District and One World Trade Center’s Freedom Tower. The last time we visited New York in 2013, they were still building here and we all said as soon as the observation deck was finished that we would come back to visit.

35842742-C11C-477C-9202-D4A4C8CFF2B8

One World Trade Center (also known as WTC of Freedom Tower) is the main building of the rebuilt World Trade Center complex. It is the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere, and is the sixth tallest building in the world! The new skyscraper stands on the site of the original 6 World Trade Center building. The building’s architect was David Childs, whose firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill (SOM) also designed the Burj Khalifa and the Willis Tower.

94F6F796-82F2-4DB3-A07B-8178DCC0AA3D

Construction of below-ground footings and foundations for the Freedom Tower began on 27 April 2006, and when we visited Ground Zero in June 2009, all work was still being completed underground at this point. One World Trade Center became the tallest structure in New York City on 30 April 2012, when it surpassed the height of the Empire State Building. When we visited New York in May 2013, the work which had been completed was incredible – the Tower was almost complete and the final component of the Tower’s spire had just been installed, making the building (including its spire) reach a total height 1,776 feet! The building is 104 standard floors high, but has only 94 actual stories. The height of 1776 feet is deliberate, as it references the year the United States Declaration of Independence was signed. The building officially opened in 3rd November 2014, and the One World Observatory opened on 29th May 2015.

The tower has a three-story observation deck which is located on floors 100–102. The actual viewing space is on the 100th floor, but there is a food court on the 101st floor and a space for events on the 102nd floor. Admission to the Observation Deck is $39 and is well worth the price.

Once you have passed through security you enter a lift which takes you up to the 102nd floor. During the lift journey, screens on the walls of the lift light up and show you how the skyline of New York has developed since the 1900’s. Once you leave the lift you are escorted into a theatre type room which shows another video of New York, its residents and its developments over the years. The video is extremely moving, and once the video has finished, the black back drop lifts up and shows you a beautiful outlook of this amazing city! I cried at the time and thinking about it again as I type this it has made me tearful again! It was so moving and very tastefully done.

You then leave the theatre room and explore the observation deck where you can take some absolutely amazing photographs from all the viewpoints of the city. Keep an eye out for the Brooklyn Bridge, The Statue of Liberty and of course the incredible Empire State Building.

Photographs really do not do it justice, the view is exceptional and I could have stayed there all day looking out at this amazing place.

6D317E37-2558-46ED-BED1-FEDC40998180

We didn’t visit the National September 11 Memorial and Museum on this occasion as we visited on our trip during 2013, however I urge you to go and visit if you get the chance. I will cover more on the Memorial and Museum in my next New York blog which I hope to publish early next year.

After our amazing (and very emotional) visit to the Freedom Tower, we wandered down further into the financial district to see Wall Street and it’s infamous “Charging Bull”. Despite being to New York a couple of times before, we have never got around to seeing him so we were pleased we got to this time!

F8E898AB-48D7-477C-984D-BA956CD8A1D7

We then started making our way back up Fifth Avenue towards our hotel and on the way we visited the Union Square Holiday Market. I was really looking forward to this market but to be honest I was rather disappointed. There were nowhere near as many stalls as I had expected and I couldn’t find any of the stalls I had ear-marked to visit which was a real shame! A very pretty market in the centre of Manhattan but I left here empty handed!

When we visited Union Square market I had made a note to visit a nearby bakery/restaurant called Union Fare, I am so, so pleased I did in the end because I managed to get hold of one of their famous Red Velvet croissants (a red sweet flavoured croissant filled with a delicious cream cheese flavoured filling) and a Birthday Cake croissant (a croissant with multi-coloured sugar strands running through it filled with a white Birthday cake flavoured filling which is again filled with colourful sugar strands)! Delicious! I also bought a very colourful Sugar Cookie which I saved to eat later on when we got back to the hotel!

6001B9C3-7BF3-4823-8799-5CA7CE6CBECC

101BB93A-8F64-4450-8D4F-DC4EB648FAA0

F1F6E8F5-0487-4005-BA97-D70F0489DD25

As we continued on we came across Gingerbread Boulevard in Madison Square Park.

Gingerbread Boulevard features a life-size Gingerbread House, with ginger “bricks”, a “frosting-covered” roof and is covered in candy canes, gum drops and more.

2E4921DF-FC83-4DFF-B776-E8C23008E6C4

You get to go inside the house where there is a fire lit and a fully-decorated Christmas tree. Inside are TV screens which show the Gingerbread Man decorating his Christmas tree and then running past the windows of his house – it’s probably more for the children but we enjoyed it and thought it was really cute!

It was a bit of a surreal experience but a really good laugh and a great photo opportunity! Plus the house smelt absolutely delicious! We didn’t have to queue to go in and there was no charge so I would highly recommend visiting Gingy in his Gingerbread house if you have the chance!

After finally getting back to our hotel (after a Dunkin’ Donuts stop on the way!), we checked our phones which said we had walked the equivalent of a half marathon!

61928F43-B9D1-4DD6-94DC-86D7E4AE1C9C

We decided we wanted to go back to the Rockefeller to do the ice skating tonight (even after walking all that way!) as the forecast was rain for the next day, so after a quick rest at the hotel we wandered back over to the Rockefeller Center.

It was far quieter tonight than it had been the night before which was great. We managed to get into the last ice skating slot of the evening which was from 10:30pm until midnight, and we only had around a 45 minute wait to get onto the ice which I didn’t think was too bad considering you can’t pre-book tickets. I think the slots of an hour and a half are a bit long as the ice skating boots were really uncomfortable and it isn’t the biggest rink in the world but anyway, another amazing experience ticked off the bucket list!

566F1EC3-B160-403E-8BF7-CBC9CD153699

After ice skating at the Rockefeller Centre we headed off back to the hotel and walked past Saks Fifth Avenue – I knew they would put on a spectacular show but I didn’t imagine something as incredible as this! The theme this year was to celebrate 80 years of Snow White so the window displays were all Snow White themed and then on the front of the building was a spectacular light display which went off every hour or so alongside music from Snow White such as the ‘hi ho hi ho’ song! It was truly incredible.

4B4D5AB5-1E74-4841-8B38-93928E27C84F

 

A4C4C192-2252-40CE-846F-73AB6E21CDA5

I know now why they call it the city that never sleeps! By the time we got to the hotel we were all absolutely exhausted!! I was worried we would sleep in the next morning and lose precious time on our last day because we were so tired!

New York at Christmas Time – Day One

What an amazing past couple of weeks my family and I have had! My husband and I finally got to move into our dream home, we celebrated my Sisters Birthday, my Mum’s Birthday, had our annual trip to London and two themed afternoon teas and to top it all off, we spent three nights in New York!

22CE65E3-8635-4D76-94AD-49D604C2FD87

The day we moved (Friday 1st December), we were at my Mum’s house in the evening, celebrating my Sister’s Birthday with some cake and champagne when out came four gold envelopes, each containing a note saying how hard we had worked this year and as an extra special Christmas present, Mum had paid for the four of us to spend three nights in New York!

Everyone was (and still is!) absolutely dumbfounded! What an incredibly amazing and perfect present, all four of us have always dreamed of going to New York over Christmas!

We left on the 10th December and battled our way to Heathrow through the most terrifying snow storm I have ever seen! How we all made it to the airport in one piece I will never know! We were lucky we had an early morning flight because even as we were sat on the plane watching it be de-iced by a giant robot, I sat there thinking to myself they are definitely going to cancel lots of flights today due to the snow!

Anyway, we got away on time and around 7 hours later (and after my husband watching Home Alone nearly four times on the plane journey, not joking!) we arrived in the Big Apple!

CA14641A-5704-4C7B-8FC2-016AECAA28B0

We were staying at The Roosevelt Hotel on East 45th Street and it looked absolutely stunning inside! Huge Christmas trees and decorations and wreaths and baubles, a really lovely hotel. I have been lucky enough to have visited New York three times over the last 8 years and this is the best hotel I have stayed in so far, I would definitely stay here again.

DADB9B11-0A0D-4D88-AA30-FF7F2DBF94B6

So, we got checked in and had a quick shower and got changed and out we went! Our first stop was the amazing Bryant Park Winter Village which wasn’t far from our hotel. I couldn’t wait to visit this Christmas Market – it looked like the biggest and had loads of amazing food stalls I wanted to try!

It got dark as we were there so the buildings were all lit up above you whilst you were wondering around the market drinking mulled wine and hot chocolate – it was amazing! There’s an ice skating rink here and plenty of bars and restaurants surround the market too.

E31286B7-C624-4A0C-A2BC-A8DD53B008E2

870BB81C-1F68-44C4-8B02-7A7514AAFD00

Whilst I was there I indulged in some chicken from Chick N Cone which, funnily enough, is bite sized pieces of chicken in a waffle cone! I tried the Cinnamon Maple flavour – it was the best tasting chicken I have ever eaten! I wish I had bought two!

F4FC5C80-9282-4DD4-921B-927C572A35B8

My Sister tried some Mexican Tacos and the boys had a New York Cheese Steak sandwich (they ate these too quickly for me to catch a photo of them!)

5E66BE1B-F817-4B8E-8A93-BBA68D29BAEF

I also tried some truffle mozzarella sticks – god they were to die for!

Next we moved onto the dessert stalls – my Sister and I bought three filled Churros to start – one was filled with Dulce De Leche (caramel), one was filled with Boston Cream Pie (kind of a crème pâtissière filling) and the other one was filled with S’more (marshmallow and chocolate filling) – again, amazing! I do love Churros!

2B8D3A11-E318-4DB4-A0DE-791F53AC7734

I was also really pleased as I managed to get hold of two pots of cookie dough from DO whilst I was there – I follow them on Instagram and love their colourful cookie dough flavours and designs! I had a Birthday cake flavoured cookie dough and their limited edition Winter WonDOland cookie dough! Yum!

After a couple of hours (and a couple of drinks!) at Winter Village we wondered over to the Rockefeller Center to see the infamous Christmas tree and to go ice skating.

On the way to the Rockefeller Center, the streets of New York are lined with beautiful festive decorations and lights everywhere. It really is a magical place this time of year!

3EBD0A8C-B835-43A7-A3A4-8A12289DE803

When we arrived at the Rockefeller Center we were all speechless! The Christmas tree is absolutely stunning in real life and is HUGE! It is covered in multi-coloured lights and sits happily above the skating rink whilst people skate below!

5D51E404-0DE1-4CAA-BBC0-5F3D0C3E6854

A1AB08EF-9C15-461C-AA02-4982FD1AAA1D

Aside from the spectacular tree, there are also lots of other beautiful statues and decorations at the Rockefeller Center to celebrate the festive season!

9A925774-62E8-4A14-ABCF-03306A697DE5

Unfortunately, the skating rink was booked out to a private party this evening so we had a stroll around the Rockefeller Center and took plenty of photos before making our way back to the hotel for the evening. In hindsight, we should have left visiting the Rockefeller Center until the following day as it was absolutely HEAVING with people (as it was a Sunday) so you couldn’t get a very good view or take many good photos!

A95BF0D0-6990-478D-BB44-70B29DF53A50

2C00B3F6-0BDA-4647-86D3-9F4F3A5B22B3

A638B90A-A36A-4835-9FE8-B5653592B362

If you visit New York for the first time I would highly recommend visiting the Rockefeller Center’s Top of the Rock viewing deck. We have been to New York twice before and done the Top of the Rock both times so we didn’t do it again on this occasion, however the views are incredible and you can visit both during the day or at night – I would recommend visiting at night if you can, as you can see the Empire State Building lit up in all its glory! I would also recommend pre-booking Top of the Rock tickets online as queues can be huge and the last thing you want to do is waste time hanging around in queues when New York has so much else to offer!

There’s also a huge selection of shops and restaurants within the Rockefeller Center for you to visit, and right outside you can also find Radio City Music Hall – their Christmas Spectacular show is infamous across the globe!

18BEA1E9-6B40-4DAD-AC20-9100CF482981

We were exhausted by the time we finally got back to the hotel but couldn’t wait for the next day’s adventures!

What an amazing start to an incredible few days in New York!

 

London at Christmas time

London is such a brilliant place to visit around Christmas time – not so much if you are one of those headless chickens running around trying to source last minute Christmas presents, but if you have Christmas all wrapped up and have the time (and patience!) to explore and see what this city has to offer during the festive season then you are in for a treat!

My Mum, my Sister and I go on a day trip to London every December, here’s some of the amazing things we have done over the last few years:

Hyde Park Winter Wonderland

B5DC6BE1-279A-4ECB-AD76-C65B57016EA1

This place is like marmite – I’ve spoken to people who absolutely love it here, and likewise, people who absolutely detest it! Winter Wonderland opened on 17th November this year and is open for six weeks until 1st January 2018.

F5A486B6-58F6-492C-A5A1-847D9BBF20EA

IMG_1174

It is free to enter Winter Wonderland and inside you can find a wealth of things to do including –

Ice Skating

Winter Wonderland’s ice skating rink is the largest outdoor rink in the UK and is open from 10am to 10pm. Ice skating sessions run every hour on the hour and each session lasts for 50 minutes.  Adult prices start at £9.50 and child prices start at £7.50.

If you are unsteady on your feet you can also ask for the help of an Ice Guide – a trained ice skater who can escort you and your group on the ice – a really great idea but they don’t come cheap (£35 an hour on top of your skating ticket price!)

Magical Ice Kingdom

This has a different theme every year, the year we visited it was the theme Merlin and the knights of the round table and it was absolutely fantastic!

8A8F851C-2801-48ED-9958-F594644FC029
Merlin
B367CC3F-2A95-4B23-91AF-60771A5EE563
One of the Knights of the round table
CAED45D0-011D-4B63-8FEA-20873CEBC634
The Sword in the Stone
06C70405-5ED7-4858-9A1F-DBA0CCE184AF
My favourite is this beautiful unicorn and her baby!
11728C75-7A68-44A1-AA04-0C39D43252B0
And the grand finale was this absolutely incredible ice dragon with glowing eyes!!

Definitely well worth a look if you have the time! There were loads more characters to see and the pictures I have taken seriously do not do them any justice! This years theme is called Deep Sea Adventure and looks just as amazing! Adult Ticket prices start at £7.00 and child’s prices start at £5.00.

Bar Ice

You may have already seen my blog on the two Bar Ice bars you can find in London, if not you can read about this great experience here. One of the Bar Ice’s can be found at Winter Wonderland but obviously can get very busy so make sure you pre-book your tickets!

Plus loads more including the Giant Observation Wheel, The Sooty Christmas Show, Zippo’s Christmas Circus, Cirque Beserk, Cinderella on Ice and of course the stunning stalls selling everything from Mulled wine to Churros to Christmas Decorations to hats and scarves!

Outside of Hyde Park, we usually visit:

Oxford Street

My favourite shopping street! It is obviously very busy this time of year but do your best to stop along the way to check out the amazing Christmas decorations which line the streets! Regent Street always looks really pretty too!

A67764BE-7677-4131-A57C-DD9CAACED9E1
Oxford Street
61DFBCA6-025E-4EDB-B54A-77B6D1520A6C
Regent Street Angels

6B1DB7EC-4990-469C-9DEF-3D7FCECD42AD

E827173A-2450-403B-9239-392D3BBD2F21

Department Store Windows

Have you ever watched the film “Mannequin”? It follows a guy who, with a lot of assistance from a mannequin which comes to life when no-one else is looking, is a Window Dresser, and together they design these amazing department store window displays which have people travelling from miles around to come and see.

Classic 80’s film and the department store windows this time of year always remind me of it!

Anyway, each year there is a bit of a battle between the different department stores to have the best dressed window displays. The ideas they come up with are amazing and must take them hours and hours to create. Here are some of the highlights we came across this year:

Harrods

A bit of an unusual one this year! An Instagram friend told me its because they were designed by Karl Lagerfeld and this seemed to make a lot of sense! I’m still unsure whether I like them or not….

Selfridges

I loved Selfridges windows this year! Really fun and eye-catching! Bouncing Santas, Robins and Christmas Puddings and a suit made of sprouts! What more could you want?? Oh yes, a “Nutcracker Queen” surrounded by her Nutcracker soldiers on the balcony above the escalators! That will do!

8DA736EB-5FBC-4DE4-81F0-71B38614271C

F816C927-2435-400E-B558-BF599B81BFC4

D547A1B1-ABC3-4B60-8228-0C4E75FE1F71

Plus we loved the massive hare and fox which appeared in the H&M windows this year!

ACC77D0C-7A40-4086-853E-5B49FD622FA8

0919FBF1-A189-49EF-A551-AD524E02AAD4

Department Store Christmas departments

I don’t tend to do much shopping in the department stores, I’ve usually got everyone’s presents by now and the temptation is to spend far too much if I start wondering into areas like Saint Laurent or Alexander McQueen! What my sister and I do tend to do is head straight for the Christmas themed sections within the department stores to check out the decorations and displays! In some of the bigger department stores it really is like walking into a Winter Wonderland!

This year I encountered a life size singing Reindeer (only £4,500!) and a huge Nutcracker Doll (only £1,250!). Better start saving I think!

9A327B81-7C08-416E-927A-7F38E7E63D67

F9A88BD1-658F-498D-8F94-9C899745A9B9

E8E6358A-3D3E-42DC-90F7-E61121372453

Department Store Food halls

Harrods Food Hall at any time of the year is absolutely incredible but team it up with all the Christmas flavours and goodies they have to offer and I really am in heaven here!

Selfridges also has a great food hall but I do prefer Harrods. In actual fact I think that the food hall in Selfridges Birmingham is better than the Selfridges in London – far bigger and far easier to find everything!

Peggy Porschen Parlour

This year we also managed to visit the amazing Peggy Porschen Parlour in Victoria! It is one of the stunning places I have ever visited, the photos really don’t do it justice.

69BC662F-5F6A-47BA-B1C4-F463980D37AE

The inside is just as beautiful as the outside, and each and every product sold here is crafted to perfection.

If you have the chance, check out the outstanding Gingerbread houses they sell – if I had bought one of these I really don’t think I could have brought myself to eat such an amazing creation!

I HIGHLY recommend you visit here if you get the chance! We are definitely re-visiting the next time we are in London!

So as you can see, we have some real adventures on our annual trips to London, which don’t always include Christmassy themed things (The British Museum and The Natural History Museum for example).

Our annual trip to London is one of the Christmas traditions I really look forward to and I hope carries on long into the future!

Icebar London

I’ve actually been to two Ice bars in London and had a really great time in both! The first one I went to was in Heddon Street, Mayfair and the second one was in Winter Wonderland at Hyde Park – they are most definitely an experience which gets you into the winter spirit!

Heddon Street

The Icebar temperature is -5 degrees celsius and everything inside is made out of crystal clear ice harvested from the frozen Torne River in Jukkasjärvi, Northern Sweden!

IMG_7319

IMG_7320

IMG_7346

You spend time in the Icebar in 40 minute time slots (believe me, people struggle to stay in here this long!) and you are given a thermal cape with a hood and gloves to wear to keep you toasty!

Once a year the bar is transformed with a new design and layout by a team of ice designers and sculptors!

During your visit you also get a cocktail as part of the entrance fee and it is even served in an ice glass for you! Click here for the latest cocktail list but be warned – they are strong! Helps keep you warm in the cold I suppose!

It’s cheaper if you pre-book online (£13.50 with your first cocktail for an off peak time) and cocktail refills start at £6.50 after that. Family days and times are also available which is a great idea.

The boys gave up after around 30 minutes but my sister and I managed the whole 40 minutes and were the last ones standing! Girl power!

Hyde Park Bar Ice

This one, believe it or not, is even colder at -10 degrees celsius! A complimentary drink is also included in the ticket price for Bar Ice, and as Bar Ice is part of Hyde Parks Winter Wonderland, the drinks are usually very festive flavoured!, and again come in a lovely ice glass.

IMG_7350
FFFFFFFFFreezing!!!!

Again you are provided with a winter cloak and gloves on arrival, however you are allocated a 20 minute session here and not 40 like at the Heddon Street Icebar. We didn’t even manage the whole 20 minutes in this one – it was VERY cold! Also found it was much darker in Bar Ice than Icebar, which made it difficult to take decent photos which was a shame.

Ticket prices here are similar – £14 off peak to £16 peak time (but of course you are only getting half the time – Christmas inflated prices eh??) and I would definitely pre-book before you go – it gets very busy!!

A very novel experience but definitely worth giving a go – the sculptures, tables, chairs and bar are all made of ice and are very fascinating to look it – if this doesn’t get you into the winter spirit then nothing will!!

Longleat at Christmas

If you are looking for somewhere to go during the festive season which includes animals, a beautiful country house and all the Christmas trimmings, then Longleat Safari is a must visit!

We took my sister along as a surprise for her Birthday and we weren’t disappointed!

The animals

Luckily we visited on a beautiful Winters day – even the sun came out – so all the animals were out and about for all to see!

IMG_7271

You can bypass the Monkey section if you want to avoid any damage to your car! We decided we would take the risk on this occasion and are really glad we did – check out these cute little guys-

IMG_7275

Isn’t he adorable!?

Look how close this gorgeous lion came to the car! Absolutely beautiful!

IMG_7279

IMG_7280

Activities

After visiting the huge array of animals at Longleat, there’s plenty of other activities to keep you busy! Ice skating is available and costs £7.50 for an adult ticket – it’s probably best to pre-book these tickets online to avoid disappointment though!

If you aren’t an ice skater then try visiting some of the lovely little winter huts surrounding the ice skating rink – they sell lovely winter beverages including mulled cider, mulled wine, hot chocolate and soup!

IMG_7292

The sister and brother in law enjoyed their ice skating session!

IMG_7293

The House

Once you’ve explored everywhere outside it’s time to take a look inside the beautiful house, which has been decorated in a wonderful festive theme throughout each and every room! Christmas trees, lights and decorations everywhere – a Christmas lovers dream!

Throughout the house you will also find live actors dressed as your favourite pantomime characters! I won’t spoil the surprise by posting pictures but they definitely ensure you have a great time whilst exploring!

IMG_7299

IMG_7301

The Christmas Tree

Whilst you are visiting you must pay a visit to the famous Longleat Enchanted Christmas tree!

The unique, giant 50ft Singing Christmas Tree, which has over 300,000 individual lights and is the only one of its kind in the Europe, forms the centrepiece of Christmas celebrations in the Stable Yard.

IMG_7285

Once it gets dark the multi coloured light combinations are amazing!

There’s also the Santa Train which is ready and waiting to whisk you and the little ones off to meet Father Christmas and his elves in their wintry woodland home!

New at Longleat Safari Park over the past couple of years is the Festival of Lights, where stunning Chinese Lanterns light up the safari park.

A highly recommended day out for all the family, and just the thing to get you in the Christmas spirit!

You can pre-book your tickets for Longleat online here.

Christmas Pudding BonBons

43789042-85EB-464C-97F0-58947FA16BDF

Hello Christmas Elves! If you are after a really easy recipe or a great activity to do with the kids then I’ve got just the thing for you! In fact it isn’t really a recipe at all – it’s just a case of cobbling a few bits together – but they do look really effective!

Here’s the ingredients you will need:

-Pre-made chocolate cake (preferably with buttercream centre and topping)

-Red ready rolled icing

-Green ready rolled icing

-100g white chocolate (I use  white chocolate chips)

You will also need one of these little leaf shape icing plungers. I think mine was from Lakeland but you should also be able to find one in places like Amazon or eBay – I saw some in Wilkinson’s the other day too.

3137B406-62B5-4D7F-AAD2-BD269AA12236

Ok, so to get started, put your cake into a bowl and break it up into crumbs and then re-shape them into twelve little pudding sized balls. I use a cake which has buttercream on top and in the middle because when you are re-shaping it into little pudding balls, the mixture holds its shape a lot better. When you’ve made twelve round little balls, pop them in the fridge to reset whilst you get on with the rest.

AD310F73-AF03-4157-94D0-DC48245BC33A

8D9F8D78-96EE-4ECB-83E7-7BC765B80D2A

Roll out your green ready made icing and then use your leaf plunger to make holly leaves (you need two per pudding so twenty-four in total).

7F341D65-4098-46EF-AA7C-E0D35FFD05F3

Then cut off some tiny little chunks of red ready rolled icing and roll them into tiny little berries. You will need three of these per pudding so thirty-six in total.

9D4F2D37-8DF1-4F4E-886E-AB0516B30792

Pop your icing leaves and berries in the fridge for a few minutes (so they don’t melt too much whilst you are placing them on top of the melted white chocolate).

B7974F1B-AEDE-4913-BF84-2643D9780721

873E3FA7-F038-44B5-B689-7191C6797F61

Add your chocolate drops to a bowl and melt in the microwave (melt them in thirty second bursts and stir before melting even more – it’s very easy to over melt and burn chocolate if you aren’t careful!)

0BE37800-F109-478F-8FFC-16E960ED68C9

Stir the white chocolate so there are no lumps and then leave to cool for about ten minutes so the chocolate is just starting to re-thicken slightly.

7A75F0C6-09E2-4712-9363-3FFD3AA111F9

Once it is cooler but still runny and thick, start adding your white chocolate to one pudding. Once the white chocolate is on the pudding, add your holly leaves followed by your red berries, then move on to the next pudding. Don’t do all the white chocolate in one go as it will have set by the time you add your holly leaves and berries to the first one, and they won’t stick to the pudding properly.

Let your puddings set for around ten minutes and then they are ready to eat! If you want to store them they should be fine in an airtight container for around five days (if you can resist them for that long! I ate FOUR in one sitting – they are only small after all!).

6265A595-C015-466C-BB91-996D6DF42759

Happy pudding bonbon making!

Rocky Road Christmas Bars

2ADFB8FE-B6F6-43CC-8A13-46C1DE824831

My sister absolutely adores these and they are incredibly simple to make! This recipe will make you around 24 delicious squares.

462F8204-6B5D-4BBB-869F-BB51F2CB0CC4

Ingredients

-125g soft butter

-300g dark chocolate (preferably 70% cocoa solids)

-3 tablespoons golden syrup

-1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

-200g biscuits (rich tea, digestive, amaretti, whatever you fancy!)

-100g mini marshmallows

-2 teaspoons icing sugar for dusting

-Edible glitter for dusting

-Snowflake (or other!) sprinkles

Instructions

-Firstly, melt the butter, chocolate and golden syrup in a heavy based saucepan. When the mixture is melted, add your cinnamon and stir then scoop out about 125ml of this melted mixture and put to one side.

C8FB8A8A-A894-4B2B-948E-3F5581DDEEE4

-Put the biscuits into a large sandwich bag and then bash them with a rolling pin.

-Fold the biscuit pieces and crumbs into the melted chocolate mixture in the saucepan and then pour in your marshmallows.

9F990A7C-CECF-4DAB-B11E-5220F0508386

-Tip the mixture into a tin which had been lined with greaseproof paper. Flatten the mixture as much as you can and then pour the remaining 125g of mixture over the mixture in the tray and smooth over the top.

141DC90B-3BC6-4ED4-AB63-07E903B622A7

-Put the mixture in the fridge for at least two hours.

012CFA58-A794-4971-90BC-884C36CA4B2A

-When the mixture is completely set, take it out of the tray and cut the mixture into around 24 squares.

-Sprinkle the icing sugar, edible glitter and snowflake sprinkles over the cake bars and viola! They are ready to be devoured!

They are brilliant to put into Christmas themed cellophane bags to give away as presents, or for stocking and Christmas Eve box gifts!

Happy scoffing peeps! xx

CocoChlo’s Christmas Countdown!

Ok so it’s official! Silly season has begun! You officially won’t get any sense out of me for at least the next 25 days!

In case you haven’t already guessed – Christmas is my most favourite time of year! I look forward to it months in advance and am severely down and depressed once it is over and we move into the long dark cold month of January. I know my love for Christmas annoys people but, in my view, you need to have something to look forward to, and holidays and Christmas are the two things which give me something to look forward to throughout the year!

Christmas for me mainly centres around the fantastic traditions that myself and my family have developed over the years – after all, knowing what you have to look forward to makes you look forward to it even more!

Here are some of the Christmas traditions my family and I partake in year after year and all the other little Christmassy/wintery things which I love about this time of the year!

Advent Calendars:

Hopefully you will have seen my two blogs on how to make the two different types of Advent Calendars we have in the family. If not, you can read about these here and here.

IMG_0928

IMG_0876

They take a LOT of time and effort to make but come out again and again year after year and make everyone very happy – all my family members look forward to opening their daily treats out of their Christmas Advent Calendars.

The calendars are filled during November with everyone’s favourite treats and then dropped off a few days before the beginning of December. In the past few years I have had to wrap up some of the treats (not fun! Twenty five presents times six people!), due to prying eyes and pokey fingers! And yes, all Advent Calendar recipients are adults!

Most of the days are filled with the likes of Cadbury’s chocolate mousse snowmen, Malteaser reindeers and tiny Lindt bears, and then an extra special gift awaits everyone for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day (past years include baubles for the tree and personalised snow globes).

The perfect start to December!

Elf on the Shelf

Love him or hate him (hubby hates him!) Buddy will always make his annual appearance on the 1st December (apart from those days he is kidnapped and held hostage by hubby! Not joking!)

IMG_1285

Buddy plays a big part in helping to build the anticipation of the festive season, and often has some really good jokes and treats in store. This year Buddy has a particularly amazing surprise for the Evans’ which you can read about in Buddy’s very own blog which is being published in the next couple of days! #sorrynotsorry to all you Elf haters!

Buying our Christmas tree

We always had a real tree when we were growing up – my Mum, my two Sisters, the dog and I would walk miles to go and get one from the garden centre up the road (Mum can’t drive) and we would carry it all the way home, alternating between carrying the tree and walking the dog! When hubby and I first moved out and into our new home, I was over the top obsessed with keeping it clean and tidy and so, for fear of getting pine needles everywhere, I insisted on having a plastic tree for the first couple of years.

After a couple of years with this awful cheap plastic tree I decided enough was enough and we agreed we would buy a real tree the following Christmas. I was pleased to learn at this stage that there were a lot more trees around which didn’t drop their needles, so I was a double happy bunny!

We always get our tree the first weekend of December, which is usually around my Sisters Birthday. We usually buy it the Saturday morning and then get it home and set it up, and let the branches drop and the tree take shape for the next 24 hours.

Then on the Sunday we spend the day decorating it, listening to Christmas tunes and having hot chocolate and other Christmas themed treats! The trees usually get named at some point too….

Christmas shopping

My work organise an annual coach trip to London on the first Wednesday of December which is absolutely brilliant. The coach drops off at two places – Harrods (also ideal for visiting the Museums) and the corner of Hyde Park.

I usually go with my Sister and Mum and we’ve done all sorts during these trips – we took Mum to Hyde Park’s Winter Wonderland one year, and visited the Ice Bar and Ice Sculpture display, the following year we spent a couple of hours in Harrods food hall and then popped over the road and spent the rest of the day in the Natural History Museum (which we concluded you would need to spend a week in in order to see everything!) followed by a couple of years of good old retail therapy down good old Oxford Street! I always pop into Primark as well to see if I can find any last minute stocking fillers or bits to go in my Christmas Eve boxes!

The beautiful London department store windows are another one of the highlights! My two favourites are Harrods and Selfridges – the designers must spend months in advance coming up with these amazingly creative ideas! Good luck getting a photo of some of them though – they obviously attract an awful lot of people so get in there quick to catch a glimpse!

Festive Days Out

Sudeley Castle Spectacle of Light, Longleat Safari Park, Prinknash Abbey, and a ride on The Polar Express – you name it we have probably been there and partaken in their Christmas-themed festivities!

IMG_7284

IMG_7149

IMG_7164

Christmas Markets

I really love Christmas markets and the family and I have been to several over the years! I don’t go to them to do my main Christmas shopping but to try the amazing food and drink and check out the brilliant arts and crafts people make – some people are so creative!

At Gloucester Quays Christmas Markets last year they opened an ice skating rink and lots of little wooden huts around the outside which served mulled wine, hot apple cider, hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts! Just what you need to get into the Christmas spirit, although I do get there very early so I can get around quickly before the crowds arrive! Some places become unbearable at peak times!

Festive Drinks – Coffees, Hot Chocolate and Eggnog!

Most days in December usually feature a trip to Starbucks, Costa or Café Nero to sample this year’s Festive coffee and hot chocolate flavours! Yes, a blog on these is to follow too! Sorry!

IMG_5503

Obviously hot chocolates can be consumed throughout the year but there’s something different about a Christmas hot chocolate! Perhaps it is the lack of guilt you feel when you spray on mounds of whipped cream and tip half a box of marshmallows on top!

A favourite of mine is to add a tiny bit of cinnamon and nutmeg to really make it taste like Christmas in a mug! I buy all my hot chocolates from Whittards – they are the best by far in my opinion! This years flavours I invested in are Dark Hot Chocolate, Praline White Hot Chocolate, Rocky Road Hot Chocolate and Salted Caramel Hot Chocolate! Delicious!

580F197A-A91A-472F-B046-C3A44A696260

I am also absolutely obsessed with eggnog! Is there a more Christmassy drink than eggnog!? If Starbucks ever stopped producing their eggnog lattes I don’t know what I would do!

Monin Syrups

If you want to make your own flavoured coffees or hot chocolates, I recommend you take a look at the collection of flavours Monin Syrups have to offer – there aren’t many flavours you can’t get hold of, and every year I struggle to choose which to buy next! I finally decided on Donut, Maple Spice, Amaretto and Macaron flavours!

3802A787-4F27-4A45-93A4-1CB7A8C2BCCD

Christmas Adverts

Am I the only one who cries at these flipping adverts??? Lost Snowman looking for their partner….in tears, Buster the Boxer jumping on a trampoline…..in tears, Monty the penguin – so cute (in tears), the Sainsburys WW1 truce between British and German soldiers for Christmas Day….hysterical. I really do need to stop watching them to be fair! Anyway, every year they get more and more amazing and more and more heartfelt, it wouldn’t be Christmas without them!

Choosing the Christmas menu!

By the end of October I will have picked up several copies of each supermarkets festive food catalogues! I usually pick them up from Marks and Spencers, Asda, Tescos and Morrisons so we can all look at the full range everyone has to offer!

The family all meet in late October/early November to decide what food we are going to have on the days we are all going to be together (usually Christmas Day and Boxing Day or both). Everyone in my family has different tastes so it is quite difficult to choose things which most people will like!

You can read more about what is on the Christmas menu this year in my “what’s on the menu this Christmas” blog which is published on the 23rd December, but these will give you an idea…

Christmas Jumpers

Since Christmas jumpers came back into fashion a couple of years ago (the cheesier the better it seems!) I somehow now have an array of seasonal knitwear! It would seem I am a bit addicted, as every year they bring out better and sillier designs! Hubby had a jumper last year with actual flashing lights on! Amazing!

IMG_1131

86EE713A-4F0F-4DAD-B876-4EBE5D35D3E9

Visits to the Cinema

What better way to get into the seasonal spirit than by visiting the cinema to watch a Christmassy film!!! Past cinema visits have included to watch Frozen, Bad Santa, Black Christmas and Krampus (ok so a couple of them are horror films, but still Christmassy!) This year I already have my sights set on two films – Bad Mom’s Christmas and Pitch Perfect 3! Can’t wait!

If I don’t have time to get to the cinema as I am spending my free weekends wrapping up the mounds of presents, I’ll always have some classic Christmas films on in the background whilst drinking my Christmassy hot chocolate! A blog on my favourite Christmas films will follow in a few days time!

Gingerbread Making

Gingerbread Houses – I love gingerbread but only the home made stuff which is lovely and fluffy and soft – not the hard shop bought stuff that you nearly break your teeth on!

For the first few years I was buying the shop bought sets (basically it was easier because all the pieces were pre-made so I could spend more time decorating them!) but I realised after making them that they didn’t get eaten because the gingerbread was rock hard! So my mother in law bought me a cookie cutter set which meant I could make proper gingerbread and cut out the pieces I needed to make my gingerbread house!

This year I spent the afternoon making gingerbread houses with my Sister and it was absolutely brilliant! We really enjoyed ourselves and it really got us into the Christmas spirit! I hope we make it an annual event from now on!

Christmas Yankee Candles

My family and I always buy Christmas themed Yankee Candles to burn throughout the festive season and I also put one in everyone’s Christmas Eve boxes for them to burn the night before the big day. Check out some of this years scents –

Nutcracker Dolls

An obsession of mine! If you are intrigued, a separate blog on these little guys is coming out in the next couple of days….

IMG_1120

Christmas Eve boxes

Unfortunately I am one of those annoying people who has usually bought all of the main Christmas presents and got them wrapped up before December even starts as this frees me up the time to do all of these other amazing things throughout December! I do tend to leave buying little things like stocking fillers until December though.

In December I will also start buying bits and pieces to go in everyone’s Christmas Eve boxes! Hopefully you will have read my blogs I released last year on how to make them and what you can put in them – if not you can read about them here and here.

IMG_0693

Last year was the first time I unveiled the Christmas Eve boxes but they were so popular and loved by everyone that I promised I would make them a regular thing. The only thing is, I went a bit mental last year with it being the first year and so everyone got a lot in their boxes in addition to their normal pressies, so this year I asked everyone what their favourite bits were and I have limited it to four or five items, and a few sweets and treats.

Now December is here I will start looking for some good surprises to sneak into people’s Christmas Eve boxes to make Christmas Eve that little bit more special! This year’s box contents will be revealed in my Christmas Eve blog so watch this space!

IMG_1210

Post-Christmas themed parties

The family and I are all very lucky in that we all tend to get at least a week off over the Christmas period. As we are all avid Christmas fans, once Boxing Day has come and gone and we are in the few days between Christmas and New Year, the post-Christmas blues start to set in.

To cheer us up after the main event has come and gone, and to give us something else to look forward to (and OCD organiser Chloe to organise!), I usually throw a small family themed party for my Mum, my Sisters and myself. Past themes have included Harry Potter, Frozen and The Polar Express! This year’s theme is Beauty and the Beast, so I have been scouring eBay and Primark for months and months looking for ideas and treats to go in everyone’s goody bags!

Yes it’s cheesy/corny/childish but it cheers us all up and gives us the chance to spend some time together over Christmas without the added pressure of running around to check the turkey, prepare the veg and grab someone another drink. Plus my older sister Lindsey, who has autism, really looks forward to the parties (and the opportunity to get some more presents, even after Christmas is over!) I’ll do a separate blog about this year’s party so you can see what a great time we had this year!!!

Time off

What could be better than some time off work to celebrate and then rest and re-cooperate?? By the time my Christmas leave comes around I’ve usually got huge lists of bits and pieces I want to get done during my time off! The first few days off are usually Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day but after clearing up after these celebrations I always feel really down that Christmas has come and gone for another year, so I like to keep myself busy!

One of the regular tasks which appears this time of year includes sorting through mine and hubby’s wardrobes – throwing out/giving to charity the old stuff, putting aside stuff which needs repairing or dry cleaning, eBay-ing any unwanted valuable stuff and making space for the new stuff we got for Christmas or during the sales! The rest of the time hubby and I spend watching DVD’s or Netflix whilst eating the left over Christmas goodies! I’m afraid the majority of this time off is spent in my pyjamas!

Anyway, this just about wraps up my plans for December! No wonder it flies by so quickly!! And no wonder they call it the most wonderful time of the year!

Enjoy everyone!

Home Sweet Home

IMG_7377

I don’t even know where to begin explaining to you all how much it means to us to finally have moved into our forever home! If you have read my “On the move” blog you’ll already know the problems we encountered on this long painstaking journey, and to be honest there were several times along the way when we thought we would never get to move!

The relief we feel now we are finally moved in is indescribable – I don’t even care that each room is piled high from floor to ceiling in boxes which need sorting out, the important thing is that we are in and the mortgage is in place and the rest of our lives start now!

Before I start the list of 10,000 errands, address changes, setting up of new utility accounts, wills and life insurance etc, I wanted to blog about this amazing achievement and let you know about our plans for it!

We didn’t move too far away from our previous house, but we have upsized from a three bedroom semi-detached to a four bedroom detached. We wanted to be moved in and settled before we took the big leap to starting a family but we are in no rush to transform it into the house of our dreams – we’ve got the rest of our lives to get it done. The house is beautiful but does need modernising throughout, I’ve got big PLANS for each and every room which will take time and money but I want each room to be perfect and to work for us!

Here’s the rooms of the house and some rough idea of what we are going to do with them-

Lounge

It currently has a gas fire which we are very keen to change for a wood burning stove (hubby and I have both always wanted one!) and other than adding a stove, painting and decorating and replacing the carpet, there isn’t much more to be done to this room.

IMG_7380

When we were looking at houses, I really wanted a house which had a small space I could use as a study. I didn’t want to end up losing an entire bedroom and the separate dining room is too big to lose to study space, so I thought about utilising the bay window space at the front of the house as a small office area perhaps?

Along with the fact that my home office would be next to a huge cupboard under the stairs for storage space, I came across these similar ideas on Pinterest which I thought looked lovely

IMG_0617

IMG_0619

Definitely food for thought anyway…

Kitchen

The kitchen is a nice almost square room but I can’t wait to modernise in here! There’s a breakfast bar almost the entire length of one wall which we just wouldn’t use (as there’s a separate dining room next door), so when we re-design it I want to make the best use of the space. I had a free-standing range oven in our old house which we unfortunately had to leave behind so I would love another one which is similar!

IMG_7381

I’ve already spotted some beautifully designed kitchens in Wren kitchens, along with some brilliant space saving ideas and new gadgets! I have always wanted a pantry and I came across this in their showroom the other day, isn’t it amazing? A corner of the room is cut off and a normal kitchen door put on the front and then bespoke shelving/racking inside!

IMG_0518

IMG_0620
So it would look something like this….

They also had kickboard heaters which are a great idea as I won’t have to lose a load of wall space to a radiator, and also a kickboard hoover! You basically sweep the floors and then push a button and all the dirt is sucked in through the kickboard and into a container which you empty when full! What a brilliant idea!

I also really, really want granite worktops! They look so beautiful and don’t mark or leave scratches like the normal work surfaces. I really can’t wait to design this room but, due to the work and expense involved, I think this may end up being last on our house to do list!

Utility room

I’m very grateful to have the space for a utility room (we part converted the garage on our last house to a HUGE utility room and it was an absolute god-send) but I think to call this a utility “room” is a bit of a stretch! It’s more of a “corner” where you have just enough space for a cupboard and the washing machine and tumble dryer, but not much else. So this space is going to need some real thought as to how we can get the best out of it. It does already have a sink plumbed in in there though, which will definitely come in use, particularly when we are decorating and washing up dirty paintbrushes!

IMG_7383

Downstairs toilet

Not much to see here and not much to do really – I don’t think we have the space to change things around in here so it will likely be a straight swap for a new toilet and sink and a lick of paint in here – we can probably get this room re-done relatively soon in this case, no doubt places like B&Q will have some brilliant Christmas/New Year sales we can take advantage of!

Dining Room

I really love a separate dining room – several people have said we should knock the kitchen wall out and have an open space kitchen diner but I’m not keen, plus I will lose an entire kitchen wall where I won’t be able to add cabinets, and kitchen space is invaluable to me.

I’m going to keep the dining room furniture minimal – perhaps a table and four chairs and a sideboard for all the posh dining stuff I have…..still a bit undecided on this one!

IMG_7384

Conservatory

This was a bit of an added bonus when we bought this house – we aren’t huge fans of conservatories and probably wouldn’t have ever paid to have one built but it’s nice to have this one already here – it’s a big space and always useful to have an extra reception room!

Hubby isn’t keen but I am currently thinking of using the dining room for everyday use and having a small table and chairs in there and then having a big 6 or 8 seater dining room table and chairs set up in the conservatory.

This sounds strange but we are big entertainers and party hosts, so we often have all the family over at Christmas, Easter, Halloween and for big summer BBQ’s, so this set up would be ideal. I think hubby was leaning towards having some more sofas and a TV in here, but it is joined right on to our large lounge which will have a huge L shaped sofa in there….so I’m not entirely convinced. We will see how we feel once we have been living here for a while.

IMG_7382

One thing I know I do want which you are going to think is really tacky…. I really, really want a home bar! Not a Pat Butcher Eastenders style but more something like one of these –

IMG_0621

I think they look really great! I am undecided whether I am going to add it to the dining room or the conservatory yet (dining room seems the most normal place but would it be better in the conservatory, as this is where we would be seated for sit down dinner parties, and it would be easier to access from the garden during outdoor parties/BBQ’s etc?). Definitely something else to give some thought.

I would like some top shelves for best and unusual glassware and cupboards and fridges below and space for wine and mixers etc – this project is one of the ones I am most looking forward to designing!

I think it will look really effective when it is done and it will also save so much kitchen cupboard/pantry/fridge space having all the drinks/mixers/wines kept separately!

Master Bedroom

When we started looking for a house, one of the most important things on my list was the option to add a walk-in wardrobe. I have always dreamed of having one, but I didn’t want to have to reduce the value of any house we bought by knocking through from the master bedroom and into a smaller bedroom which we would then use as the walk-in wardrobe (basically making a four bedroom house into a three bedroom).

I thought about keeping the access to all four bedrooms the same but still converting one of the rooms into a wardrobe but thought this would be an expensive project and may be problematic over time. What if we had a couple of children and then one day my Mum came to live with me? We would be tearing out a lot of really expensive work to convert it back into a regular bedroom. Even if Mum didn’t come to live with us, I have an older Sister who has autism, and one day, she will be coming to stay with us on a regular basis for long weekends, so we will need a spare bedroom for her when the time comes.

IMG_7385

Anyway, I was upset at first that I had to forgo the walk in wardrobe but our master bedroom is such a good size, I will be able to get a beautiful set of wardrobes fitted around the room which will suit our needs perfectly. Two things I know I definitely want are a “shoe” wall, consisting of a row of shelves where I can show off my beautiful shoe collection, and an amazing dressing table to store all my lovely makeup goodies and Lush collection! I love the “Alex” drawers you can get from Ikea – ideal for dressing tables –

IMG_0629

My friend also introduced me to this amazing creation on Facebook a few months back:

IMG_0627

IMG_0628

It’s called a “Slaystation”!! Isn’t it incredible!!!? WANT WANT WANT!

One thing hubby and I have both agreed on for our master bedroom is investing in a much larger bed! After 11 years in a small double bed sharing with two large Shar-Pei dogs on the majority of occasions, having more space in bed will be absolute paradise! I think this purchase is going to be near the top of our “to buy” list!!

En-suite

I actually prefer our en-suite bathroom to the main bathroom! I’ve not seen this in any other houses we looked at but we’ve got a bath in our en-suite which is brilliant! In all other en-suites we looked at, they had a toilet, shower and sink – and some of them only had a toilet and sink! I’m looking forward to re-decorating in here and putting a nice deep whirlpool bath in – an excellent environment for Lush bath bomb testing!!

IMG_7386

Bedroom 2

This is going to be our spare bedroom with double bed in for guests. I don’t think we will need much more furniture than that – it has some built in wardrobes which I would like to replace but apart from that and a lick of paint and new carpet I don’t think we need to do much else.

As this room will be quite straight forward to get how we want, I should think we will end up decorating it quite early on, although I think once we have an older child and they want to move into a bigger bedroom we will have to consider re-designing it for them!

IMG_7387

Bedroom 3

This room joins on to the master bedroom and would have been the bedroom we would use as the walk in wardrobe if we had decided to stick with our original plans. Instead I think we will just use this as another spare bedroom with a single bed in for guests – we will give it some thought and make a decision once we have lived here for a while I think. It is a good size bedroom and is certainly bigger than a box room but I’m not convinced it is quite big enough to use as a walk-in wardrobe once you’ve taken into account the size of the window and the radiator….we shall see.

IMG_7388

Bedroom 4

We have decided we will use this room for the nursery once we welcome baby Evans into the world! It’s just the right size for a nursery and as we hope to get the “starting a family” plan underway as soon as possible, I think we will likely start the decorating in this room.

One thing I will have to do some research on is what to do with the window in this room – it faces the front and the windowsill and window is really low (not sure what style they call this?) – not too much of an issue for a baby but definitely something we need to sort out before said baby becomes an inquisitive toddler! Any advice on how to get round this would be gratefully received – I assume we can put up some sort of protective guard or something??

IMG_7389

Bathroom

We’ve got a good sized family bathroom which has a toilet, sink, bath and a shower over the bath – I am looking forward to re-designing this as it currently really bothers me the way the toilet is positioned facing the bath rather than straight towards you as you walk in the bathroom door…..strange!

IMG_7390

Garden

The garden was (in our opinion) one of the downsides to this house. The first time we saw the house we loved the big conservatory on the back but then were very surprised at how small the garden was when we first stepped outside. We were surprised that someone had put such a big conservatory on the back when there was only a small sized garden, but in all honesty, we aren’t avid gardeners and both work full time so a smaller sized low maintenance garden is just what we need.

In actual fact, the second (and third!) time we saw the garden we were pleasantly surprised, as it was bigger than we had first remembered, and to be fair, by this time we had thought about the idea of a conservatory and decided we would much rather have this additional living space than garden area anyway.

The garden is slightly overlooked by the house behind, but as long as we have the space to add a decking area for a BBQ and a pond eventually, then we are happy!

There’s currently a garden shed at the bottom of the garden (which I doubt we will use as we have a double garage at the front of the house) so a pond placed here out of the way of the sunshine would be ideal.

IMG_7379

Double Garage

Once we had looked at this house with a double garage, my hubby said he didn’t want to consider any other houses that didn’t have one! The space they offer is perfect – hubby is a carpenter by trade and therefore has mounds and mounds of tools he needs to keep safe, and he is also an avid fisherman and so has an array of fishing kit and accessories he needs to keep somewhere! He also has a home gym which he likes to have set up so this, alongside the usual bits and pieces you need to keep in the garage (additional chest freezer, lawn mower and other garden equipment, paints etc.) means you tend to fill up a single garage very quickly! I’ve made him promise me that he won’t fill a double garage with junk though!!!

IMG_7391

Sorry I have waffled on in this blog far longer than I had intended! It’s because I’m excited to get started on making this house our home! As you can imagine there will be a few upcoming blogs about the transformation of this house – if anyone has any interior design knowledge or links to blogs I could have a read of it would be very much appreciated!! All ideas welcome!

Off now to unpack the first of 10,000 boxes filled with god knows what!!!

On the move!!

We knew this would be the year we would be putting our beautiful house on the market – after 11 amazing years here it was time for a new challenge and something bigger so we could start a family. I’d be lying if I didn’t say that the whole thing has been the most stressful thing we have ever done in our lives!

The estate agents came over to value the house in the middle of April – although we weren’t planning to move until later this year, I’ve always had an interest in houses and the property market so I had been watching prices on houses similar to the one we have now, to make sure I had some idea of what ours was valued at, and so I had evidence to back up what I was going to ask the estate agent to put it on the market for.

I must have done my research well because the estate agent advised to put it on the market for a mere £50 more than the price I was going to suggest! He suggested putting it on the market for a round figure because websites such as Rightmove and Zoopla have search criteria which utilises round figures, and you don’t want your property details to fall outside the search criteria for the sake of £50!

My request to the estate agent was to have an open house. We have two big and boisterous Shar-Pei dogs who are not very well behaved, and the last thing I wanted was for them to get stressed out having loads of people walking around the house day after day. I also didn’t want the potential buyers getting annoyed and frustrated at the constant barking! If you host an open house then you can frantically clean for a couple of days, then get yourself, the dogs and the hubby out of the house for a day to let as many people view it as possible, and hopefully by the end of the day you will have an offer on the house (or more than one!) An open house always reminds me of America and their attempts to sell real estate – balloons outside, cookies in the oven to give the house a more homely feel, and plastic fruit in bowls for display!

Anyway, a week or so after the valuation, and before they had even been out to take the photos to prepare the marketing material, I had a phonemail from the estate agents saying they had a couple who had been told about our house, they had recently sold theirs and were really keen to come and view ours! They made an offer the next day which we accepted and things started to move forwards!

Unfortunately our lovely buyers had problems trying to sell their house – their first set of buyers withdrew five weeks into the transaction and their second set of buyers withdrew after seven, so they had to put their house back on the market at the worst time of year to sell – the six week school holidays.

We waited for a further few weeks for them to re-sell but to no avail – we desperately wanted to be in our new house by Christmas time so we had no choice but to put ours back on the market and to host an open day as we had originally planned. It was very sad as our buyers had done all the paperwork and the sale was ready to go, but we just couldn’t wait any longer.

The open day took place the first week of September, so still a relatively quiet time of year. We had a few viewings and then two asking price offers so we were really pleased, as things were getting back on track. By this stage we were absolutely desperate to move, and after packing all of our winter clothes a couple of months before, (as I had assumed we would be moving in the summer), I had to begin unpacking things again once the weather started getting cold.

During the time we were selling, I went around the house and had a good think about all the hard work we had put in over the years. One thing I regret doing was not taking more “before” pictures of the house to compare them to after all the work was done!

Bedroom Three

This is our little box room and is pretty much the only room I can keep clean because its not used all that much! Books, photo albums and all our paperwork are stored in here – I would like another small room in the new house to turn into an office – I’ve seen some great ideas on Pinterest for a home office!

IMG_4144

Bedroom Two

This was our spare room – even though this room is almost identical in size to the master bedroom. We had a lot of plastering done because the whole house was COVERED in artexing and we gave up before we got to the two bedroom ceilings but I do wish we had taken the time to do them both. In hindsight I also wish we had added coving to all the rooms – it looks really effective doesn’t it? I’ve added it to the next house “to do” list already. We fitted the wardrobes ourselves – they were from Very and are really good quality and were also in the sale – it will be a shame to leave them behind but they won’t do too well being taken apart and then re-built again.

IMG_4146

Master Bedroom

We choose this one as the master bedroom because it overlooks the back garden instead of the road but the road is so quiet it probably wouldn’t have made much difference. These wardrobes are from AHF – they were more expensive than the Very wardrobes in the other room but still far, far cheaper than the quote we received from Sharps. They’ve lasted well and I even have a specially built shoe wardrobe which I will really, really miss!!

IMG_4152

IMG_4154

Bathroom

We put loads of work into this room! The old bathroom was completely stripped out, the hot water tank was removed and a new boiler put in down in the kitchen and then a separate shower unit was put back in the place of the hot water tank to make a four-piece bathroom suite. There’s three aspects of this room which I particularly love – the whirlpool bath, the chandelier and the beautiful black glittery marble tiles. We even put some LED lights into the bath panel for added effect.

IMG_4161

Stairs

What could I possibly have to say about the stairs in my house? Well check out the beautiful bannister and chrome rails we added. The bannister was a set of thick dark wooden planks when we moved in and these made the hallway and stairs look really small and narrow, but the chrome rails really open it up and make it lighter. The only problem with this design? The dogs can fit through the rails and sneak upstairs to the bedrooms when the baby gate is closed….

IMG_4169

Lounge

The lounge is an odd shape – long and thin – so I thought I would struggle to get furniture to fit. When I came across this white leather sofa (again from Very) it was as if it was made for this room! As you can see I am a bit of a minimalist – less things to keep clean and tidy – but this is most definitely the room we spend most time in. Light a few candles, get out a couple of fluffy throws and fill the coffee table with snacks and nibbles and you are set for for the next boxset binge!! I just hope I am able to fit our massive sofa into the lounge of the next house!

IMG_4176

Dining Room

When we started looking for our first home I said one of the absolute musts was to have a separate dining room with enough space for a big table and at least six chairs, so I could host my dinner parties and have enough space at Christmas and Easter when the family came over. The lounge and dining room were once one big room so we put these lovely french doors in to make the spaces separate. Even with these rooms as separate rooms I still managed to get a huge extendable dining table in here which fits eight chairs around it.

IMG_4184

Kitchen

This room is my fait accompli! It is a good sized room but is an unusual L shape so we had to design it in the best possible way to make good use of the space. When we bought the house, the oven and all the cabinets were squashed into the smaller section of the L shape whilst a huge long breakfast bar ran along the entire length of the room where the oven now is. It was such a waste of space – we pulled the entire kitchen out and started again. We fitted as many base and eye cabinets in as possible and had a huge built in American style fridge freezer fitted into the alcove. I even had enough space for a beautiful range oven and a smaller breakfast bar down the other end of the kitchen. I will really, really miss this room. I think it will be hard for anyone to find another three bedroom semi-detached house with a kitchen this huge! Bye beautiful kitchen!

IMG_4194

Utility Room

Another aspect of this house which is hard to come by on a three bedroom semi is a utility room. We have an integral garage which was a tandem garage (normal width but double length) so we sectioned it off and converted the part of the garage which joined onto the kitchen into this brilliant utility space! Room for washing machine, tumble dryer, extra freezer, base and eye units and even space to hang wet clothes to dry – I don’t think I could be without such a space on the next house! Just a place to throw all the dirty clothes so they aren’t taking up room in the kitchen is a god-send!

IMG_4202

Garden

We didn’t design the best looking garden but it had to be practical – we both work full time and don’t have the time to look after a huge garden full of plants and flowers. Having two dogs made it difficult having grass – it was ruined within a few months and during the rainy months (most of the year!!) it turned into a giant muddy puddle which was then run all throughout the house! To make things easier we gravelled everywhere and it really made the difference. We still had a patio area and a decking area and a small flower bed to give the garden different textures but overall it was a very low maintenance space which suited us perfectly!

The only part which took up some of hubby’s time was his pride and joy – the fish pond! He amassed a lovely collection of Koi Carp which we very sadly had to leave behind. Luckily our buyers really wanted them so I’m really pleased they will be well looked after. Hubby is already looking at new pond ideas for the new home though so watch this space….

IMG_4206

I hope the new owners have as many happy and fun-filled years here as we did!! Bye beautiful house, you’ve helped us create some life-long memories!

IMG_4229