Sunday, 28 September 2014

My Letter From Santa Claus, Review

There's less than three months to go...time to start thinking about Christmas!! I know it's early, but it's almost October and I think we all know how quickly the time flies past; it'll soon be the big day before we know it! Each year, I'm never quite ready for it. I'm usually the unprepared one; the one spotted rushing round the shops a few days before and baking handmade gifts until the early hours of the morning. But not this year! This time I'm going to plan ahead!

First up on my list is something of a 'tradition' in our family started by my Parents, and that is a letter from Santa Claus for my two little ones.

My Letter From Santa Claus ( are based in Hertfordshire and are a very small, family owned business offering beautiful and traditional letters from Santa Claus for parents to order for their children. They offer 4 different Santa letters, starting at just £2.69 and can deliver anywhere within the UK, Ireland and the USA.

I created my letter on the company's gorgeous website, It was an easy site to navigate and use. Putting the letter together was very simple and required filling in answers to questions asked about my little one, such as their name, a big event that's happened this year, their age, etc. Within 5 minutes or so I had a beautiful, personalised letter.

The letter arrived just a few days after it had been created and was concealed in a standard envelope...perfect for ordering early and hiding until a few weeks before Christmas. The letter itself was contained in it's own, Christmas red envelope, with my eldest's name written beautifully across the front. It was also adorned with mail stamps from the north pole and a wax seal.

The letter was wonderful and was printed onto quality paper, giving it a premium product feel. It read well and was very much a personalised letter that gave the feeling that it was a 'one-off' written only for my little one. It was definitely something rather special.

Along with the letter was a stunning certificate, of equal quality, awarded to my Little Miss for making the 'Nice List.' It is a wonderful touch and something that I know my Miss will absolutely love when it's time for her to see it. There was also a 'Santa Stop Here!' colouring page included with the letter which will keep her entertained on Christmas Eve and is something she can stick in her window that night to make certain that Santa stops by.

Everything from the ease of the ordering to the beautiful, quality letter that I discovered on opening the wax sealed envelope was fantastic. It was very easy to see that My Letter From Santa Claus are a company that really care about quality and creating something incredibly special and personal. The letter, and all the brilliant extras, cost £5.69 and was wonderful value for money. This is a product I can see myself ordering, and being loved by my two cheeky monkeys, for many more Christmases to come.

Disclaimer : I created and was sent one premium letter from santa claus free of charge to review. As always, all words, opinions and images of the product are my own.

Saturday, 27 September 2014

A Day Out at Mead Open Farm, Review

A couple of weeks back, to round off the school Summer holiday, we drove down to Billington, Bedfordshire (just outside Leighton Buzzard) with our 'terrors' to visit Mead Open Farm. The farm is open all year round from 10am up until 6.30pm and has recently added some fantastic new attractions to it's inventory which our two were eager to check out. Entry to the farm costs £10.75 for adults, £9.75 for children aged 2-16 and is free for under 2's (during peak times); you can pay at the gate but there is also the option to purchase discounted tickets online saving you a little money on the entry fee.

As we neared Mead Open Farm by car we found plenty of signage, letting us know we were heading the right way and making the farm itself easy to find. There was a very large sign at the entrance to the farm, something which a few similar venues we've visited have missed. Upon entering Mead Open Farm we could see teasers of the brand new adventure playground. The kids were incredibly excited and couldn't wait to get inside and have a play. We made our way down to the car park where there was plenty of space to park and the entrance to the farm was made clear and easy to find.

When we entered the farm we were greeted with a warm welcome from the staff and offered food to feed to the animals and an information booklet about the activities taking place while we were visiting. On entering the farm, I found it really well set out; there was enough space for everyone to get around without there being a long walk between attractions.

We found lots of animals around the farm; everything from your expected farmyard friends, horses, cows, goats, pigs and sheep and then to bunnies and hamsters and some more unusual ones that took the forms of reindeer and alpacas. The kids loved seeing all the different animals, especially the reindeer as they're not an animal any of us had really seen before.

My two were also very much in love with a small walkway that led around one of the barns. It was only a little area with a tiny stream and bunnies and birds roaming free. It was really lovely and something that could be extended into an even bigger attraction - my two definitely thought it was something special and insisted on going back to walk through it for a second time.

There are lots of animal activities going on throughout the day that are great to pop along to and wonderful fun for the kids; pony grooming, bottle feeding the lambs, the bunny hop and goat agility were all taking place while we were visiting and continue to do so throughout the year (weather permitting).

As well as all of the animals there were plenty of places for the kids to play, and they all offered something different. There was a wonderful maize maze, tractors to play and have photos taken on and go kart racing. For the slightly older kids there was also a climbing wall and an adrenaline filled sky trail.

We found ourselves in Digger Village first, where our two 'terrors' enjoyed using the manual diggers to move the sand around. They soon got stuck in doing plenty of digging and playing on the larger, wooden JCB diggers. It was a lovely large area with plenty of seating around for Parents to have a break while the little ones played. In fact, that went for the entire site. There was always somewhere to sit down for a bit, whether you were a parent having a rest while the kids entertained themselves or if you were one the kids needing to rest their legs for a little bit.

The soft play area, known as Shaggy's PlayWorld, was a wonderful area too, and the 'Mini Moos' section for the under 5's is a fantastic and reasonably new addition to the Farm. It was a big hit with our two as there was just so much to see and do!! For the younger ones, in Mini Moos, there was a smaller play area with a ball pit, slide and plenty of climbing and playing to be done. There was also a separate area for the younger ones with a mini village and play cars. As with the rest of the site, there was loads of seating around the soft play areas and a cafe, making it the perfect place to have a drink, a slice of cake and a break. There was also plenty of space within Shaggy's PlayWorld for the older kids to run around. Along with a large soft play area there were some daring, 65ft slides and a rather terrifying drop slide that all the bigger kids seemed to having a brilliant time on!

Mead Open Farm also recently introduced it's stunning new Adventure Play Area which my two spent a lot of time at and really loved. Divided into three areas it met the needs of children of all ages. There was an area for the little ones, a large tower and area with tunnel slides for the older ones and a lovely area with an 'assault course' for the ones inbetween, a group that often get forgotten in playgrounds. It was fantastic, well cared for and looked like an awful lot of fun.

We took a picnic with us to Mead Open Farm and, when lunchtime came around, we definitely weren't short of places we could stop to eat it. There were picnic benches dotted across the whole site but, as the weather had gotten a little windy, we made our way to the indoor picnic area. It was a large, well maintained area and was wonderful that there was a place to sit for lunch when the weather wasn't co-operating.

The facilities across the site were also superb! There was LOTS of seating and plenty of places to find something to eat if you hadn't brought some with you. There were also lots of toilets, a real positive point when you have little ones...especially ones that may not have been toilet trained for very long! There were two toilet blocks within the main site which were both clean and cared for, but we also spotted a handful of portable toilets around the activities that were on the outskirts of the farm, meaning that it was never far to run when a little one inevitably declared that they "need the toilet that minute."

After we had made our way around the farm and enjoyed each of the activities we made our way towards the exit, which was through the Gift Shop. I was pleasantly surprised to find there were lots of small knick-knacks and toys that were very reasonably priced, especially when compared to similar venues we've visited.

Overall, we all had a fantastic time at Mead Open Farm. There was lots for the children to do and the site itself was laid out really well. It wasn't too large to walk around and there were always benches and toilet and handwashing facilities nearby. The animals seemed well cared for and there was a good variety of them and the play areas were wonderful, all bringing something different for the children to engage with. The entire site appeared very clean and cared for and there was a good flow as you walked around; we were able to alternate between seeing the animals and stopping at the play areas easily. There was lots of offer and plenty for all ages of kids, including the 'inbetween' ones that are often a fraction too big for the little kids play areas but still just too small for the older kids activities. At £41 I felt it was good value for money and offered much more than similar local venues for the price. There was a lot to do and it was a day we all enjoyed and will remember for quite some time to come.

Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Disclaimer : We were sent a complimentary family ticket to access Mead Open Farm. As usual, all words, opinions and images are my own.

Monday, 22 September 2014

"Are They Twins?"

Ever since my youngest reached a year old, I've heard the question "are they twins?" each time I'm out with my two adorable 'terrors. Each time I'll politely reply that no, they're not, they're just close in age whilst trying to suppress the annoyed sigh at being asked the same thing day after day for the last gosh knows how many years. But recently, I've started to realise just why people keep asking!!

My eldest is quite a small, dainty little miss and my youngest is really starting to shoot up! He's 14 months younger but they both now weigh the exact same and are only separated by around 5cm in height. They're both very fair, with blonde hair and blue eyes and I'm really starting to see why people keep asking me if they're twins...I'd be asking too, if I didn't know ;)

So what do you think, are they twins? ;)

Sunday, 14 September 2014

#MySundayPhoto - September 14th

All the way back in April, Little Miss planted some sunflower seeds. She watered and cared for them, helping me to re-pot them when they grew too big and eventually plant them out in the garden. With all of her care and watering and some help from the beautiful weather we've been treated to this Summer, they've grown almost as tall as the fence!! They're about to flower and my Little Miss is very excited - she's so pleased to see such a small seed grow into her gorgeous tall sunflowers.


Friday, 12 September 2014

Starting School

Today marks the end of the first week of a new school, and pre-school, for my two! My little man had been at a Pre-School on the other side of town, along with my little miss, for some time but with a 40 minute walk each way and little miss starting school I decided to take the plunge and move him. After all my concerns that he wouldn't like the change of setting, routine and friends, he's actually settled in really quickly and seems even happier than at his previous setting! He loves his new Pre-School and is completely awed by his book bag and home diary that he brings with him each day; something he didn't have before.

Little man off to Pre-School, his first day

My little miss found it strange him being at Pre-School on his own. While little man wasn't too bothered, she seemed worried for him and kept asking when we could collect him, saying that she "didn't want him to be on his own." After we picked him up that first day and she saw he was happily playing with his new friends, she seems to be okay. Being so close in age, they've been at Pre-School together for almost two years so it must be strange for the both of them seeing each other go off on their own.

Little miss off to School, her first day

Little Miss started School this week too! Eek! She's been attending for just two hours each afternoon and will be starting full-time next week; something she's really looking forward to! She seems to be having a fun time and is starting to make friends. I'm told she plays happily while she's there and she's happy for me to leave each day. The change of scenery and lack of friends from Pre-School has caused a couple of issues and we've had a few tears when we get home - but overall she's settling in quite well and has discovered one of her Pre-School friends is in her class, which is great. She's already known as 'the chatty one' by her teacher...

She looks all of her 4, almost 5 years, in her School uniform and it's been hitting me this week just how grown up my two are getting. I'm finding it kind of scary, and a bit sad, to be moving into the next phase of their childhood - they're not my little babies anymore!! It's quite exciting though and we've all been having fun doing little bits of homework together (creating a box of "things that are special to me" and an "all about me" booklet). Roll on the school years :)

Friday, 5 September 2014

Word of the Week - September 5th

A new School year. A new School. A new Pre-School. A new School uniform. This week has been all about new things!

My youngest started at his new Pre-School on Wednesday. I was really worried that he wouldn't settle and would feel a bit lost without all of his friends and his big Sister, but he's really surprised me and settled in quickly. He's gone off happily both days, had a fun time and is already starting to make new friends, introducing himself to everyone with "nice to meet you." I'm so proud and brimming with joy at how well he's getting on.

We've also been buying the last bits of my eldest's School uniform this week, all ready for when she starts School on Monday! Another new thing!! She's very excited to go to School and has been looking forward to it for most of the Summer holiday. I hope Monday goes brilliantly for her and she enjoys herself :)

The Reading Residence

Sunday, 31 August 2014

National Crisp Sandwich Week with Seabrook #crispsarnieweek

It's pretty hard to beat a good sandwich...and then you add some crisps to it!! We're all lovers of a good crisp sarnie in this household and the kind people over at Seabrook sent us a packet of their tasty cheese and onion crisps to add into any sandwich we liked. So many ideas ran through my head but I settled on an adaptation of the classic meatball sub. Yummy homemade meatballs in a rich bolognese, topped with grated cheese and crushed cheese and onion Seabrook crisps, all sandwiched between two slices of brown bread. Delicious!

Fancy making some for yourself? You'll need;

  • Meatballs - minced beef, 1 diced onion, mixed herbs, 1 clove of finely chopped garlic, salt & pepper, 1 beaten egg.
  • Bolognese sauce
  • Cheddar cheese, grated
  • Packet of Seabrook cheese and onion crisps, crushed
  • Brown bread

First up, you'll need to prepare your meatballs. Cook off some diced onion, the mixed herbs and finely chopped garlic until soft. Then add them to the minced beef. Add a pinch of salt, some black pepper and 1 beaten egg to the mix, to help hold everything together, then mix up all the ingredients (hands work best for this). Shape the mince into smallish meatballs then add them to a frying pan of hot oil and cook for around 10-15 minutes, turning often.

While the meatballs are cooking, warm up some bolognese sauce in a small saucepan. Once the meatballs are ready add them to the sauce and ensure they are covered well. Spoon the meatballs and sauce onto fresh brown bread, topping with grated cheddar cheese and crushed Seabrook cheese and onion crisps. Sandwich it all together with another slice of bread on top, tuck in and enjoy.

Disclaimer : I was sent a packet of crisps from Seabrook to help me create my sandwich. This recipe is an entry into the National Crisp Sarnie Week competition with Seabrook crisps.