62 articles Articles posted in Christmas

Last Minute Christmas Gift Ideas

Christmas Gift StashI don’t know about you, but there have been Christmasses past where I’ve been well and truly caught out. Times when I’ve been convinced by the middle of December that I’m completely done with all of my Christmas shopping and that I have no more gifts left to buy, only to remember a whole bunch of people who I really should be buying for! Times like this are when a good gift stash comes in handy; a handful of generic gifts that you can buy and put away in case someone gets left out or turns up unexpectedly so that you’re never caught out. Here’s a list of five things that make perfect ‘gift stash’ buys:

Vouchers

Picking up a couple of gift vouchers for a department store is a really good idea as they can be given as gifts, or even spent by yourself in the January sales if it turns out you don’t actually need them. As long as you check the expiry on them, they could even be put away as birthday gifts for people throughout the year if you want to be super organised!

Scarves

If you choose the right colour, such as grey or black, a good quality cashmere or merino scarf will make a good gift for an adult of any gender and will be appreciated by anyone who receives it. Things like this never go out of fashion either, so could be put away for NEXT Christmas if it doesn’t get gifted this year.

Smellies

Smellies are another great non-perishable gift which can be kept around until they’re needed. Pick up a gift set for both male and female  (you might find a bargain with https://www.myfavouritevouchercodes.co.uk/debenhams-voucher-codes)  and you’ll be well and truly covered for unexpected gifting needs.

Board Games

Board games are loved by both young and old and are such a lovely gift to buy at Christmas because they encourage the family to spend time playing together. Classic games like Mousetrap and Monopoly never go out of favour and can be picked up pretty cheaply if you search out 3 for 2 deals or similar.

Preserves

If you’re the crafty type and you’re also handy in the kitchen then making some festive preserves a little earlier in the year and keeping them on stndby as last minute gifts could be a great idea. Foraging for local fruit and freezing it, and saving jars throughout the year could also mean that it’s a free or very cheap option and well-presented preserves make really pretty, thoughtful gifts which can be enjoyed over the festive holidays.

Do you keep a spare gift stash? What’s in your stash? I’d love to hear your ideas!

Age Gap Kids at Christmas

Age Gap Kids At ChristmasIt’s been a pretty eventful week for us, here in the Mum’s the Word house…I’m sad to say that this is the week that Sausage has become an un-believer. Sadly, a child who used to be in her class but has now moved up a year decided to spoil the magic for almost the whole class and tell them that Father Christmas wasn’t real and on Monday afternoon Husband and I had to deal with a very confused and upset Sausage who wanted to know the truth from us but was too scared to ask.

Husband, in his inimitable style, managed to explain it to her in a way that made her feel happy again, using a combination of history and humanism; the broad strokes that Saint Nicholas was a real man and the origins of that story, and that although there’s no “man in a red suit with a big beard” popping into our lounge each year, Father Christmas lives in all of us who want to buy presents and make our loved ones happy. I was actually quite impressed with how he managed to turn it around and make her feel happy, but I’m also gutted that it’s another stage we’ve waved goodbye to. She seems more grown up, somehow and I won’t deny that I shed a little tear.

I had a message from one of my oldest friends, Sarah, which actually made me feel a lot better. She has two much older brothers and said “If it’s any consolation, I don’t think I believed in Father Christmas post about 6 or 7 – (having brothers who are a generation above you makes it tricky!) BUT Christmas is still my favourite time of year I still think it’s magic and listen to Christmas music way before it’s acceptable. I know Sausage will still have lots of magical Christmas – just a little different. Proper gutting I know but lots of scope to create weird and wonderful new elements hopefully!”

Having one kid who’s well and truly ‘through the looking glass’ is all well and good, but we’re all still intent on keeping the magic alive for Burrito Baby, who isn’t even three yet, and is excited about Christmas like never before! Her first Christmas was a total washout – she was 10 months old and we were both horribly ill, spending most of the day asleep. Last year, she was coming up to her second birthday and still a little too young to properly “get” the whole idea of it. This year it’s totally different – she’s talking at length about Father Christmas and going to Nanny’s for dinner. She’s totally in love with the lights that we see on people’s houses and she’s enjoying grooving along with Sausage and I during our Christmas-themed car discos each morning. The Christmas bug has well and truly bitten our BB!

We’re lucky in the respect that Sausage is a really good girl and has absolutely no intention of ruining it for her baby sister, nor her friends who still believe, and she actually seems to enjoy being part of the “backstage” element of Christmas, where she’s being allowed to see gift we’ve bought for other people and keeping conspiratorial secrets with Husband and I. I think Sarah was right – it’s still possible to make the whole thing magical, even if Santa is suddenly fictional and I’m really looking forward to having our best Christmas ever.

In case I don’t get a chance to say it to you all in the next ten days, I’d like to wish all of Mum’s the Word’s readers a really Merry Christmas…even if you’re an unbeliever! 😉

Waitrose Party Food – A Family Review

At this time of year, one of the things that I love to do is try new food and recipes and I can usually be found watching some Christmas-themed cookery show or another, such is my obsession. However, this year I’ve decided to dial back the stress and try to have a more chilled-out festive period, which is why I was particularly interested to try out the Waitrose Party Food range. One of the main appeals is that everything that needs to be cooked goes in at the same temperature, so although you have to get your timings right, you don’t have to wait for an oven to heat or cool between cooking sessions, which made life SO much easier when prepping it all. Here’s some of what we were sent:

Waitrose Party Food

  1. Waitrose Christmas 12 Bourbon BBQ Pork Waffles 230g (£6.00)
  2. Waitrose Christmas Cheese Toasties Selection 110g (£5.00)
  3. Mixed Mini Pie Selection – Chicken & Gravy 400g (£6.00)
  4. Mixed Mini Pie Selection – Beef & Stout 400g (£6.00)
  5. Waitrose 1 chipotle 4 chilli sausage rolls (£2.49)
  6. Waitrose Party pork crackling straws 130g (£4.00)

We were also sent Christmas olives with snowballs 320g (£5.00), Waitrose Chai Spiced Chocolate Nuts 220g (£4.99) and Waitrose Maple Caramelised Cashews 175g (£4.99) but they got devoured by my lot before I could take a picture! We have a bit of a family ritual of going to my MILs on a Saturday evening and either cooking or having a takeaway together, so I took the party food with me to get some varied opinions and basically everything went down really well!

The waffles were definitely a hit and the smoky, almost sweet barbeque sauce added a lovely flavour to the softness of the waffles. The cheese toasties were lovely little savoury morsels that I probably could have eaten about ten of, all by myself! My Sausage found the chipotle sausage rolls to be a tiny bit too piquant for her taste, but the rest of us loved them so just beware if you have chilli-wuss kids! The pork crackling straws were like an amazingly delicious alternative to a breadstick and went beautifully with the apple sauce, but BEWARE if you have any dental issues – they’re really hard and crunchy and only get harder and crunchier as they cool, so definitely not or anyone prone to breaking of teeth!

The only thing which was a little hit-and-miss were the mini pies – the beef and stout ones were really tasty, with a rich gravy and crisp pastry, but the chicken ones were less of a hit – not bad or unpleasant, just not really a flavour that any of us found massively appealing.

Largely, we were really impressed with the quality of Waitrose Party Food and the ease of cooking, and for a small family gathering it would be ideal as party nibbles, however I’m not sure that the individual prices would be ideal if you had more than around 10 people to feed. Having said that, people usually shop at Waitrose for the quality of their items, not in order to get a bargain, so maybe this is a moot point?

Everything was sent to us about three weeks ago, right when the family was in the middle of a nasty bout of gastroenteritis, and I was able to freeze everything which is also a huge bonus, meaning that it would be really easy to buy ahead of time and bring out for cooking closer to Christmas, and I’m actually planning to go and get us all a few bits for New Years Eve as they’re ideal for a casual evening at home with Jool’s Hootenanny and a few bottles of fizz!

Have you tried the Waitrose Party Food? What did you think? Leave me a comment below.

Take Christmas Cards to a New Level with Fotor

Part of making Christmas manageable for me is learning where to make an effort and where to dial things back. I adore crafting and cooking with the girls so make an extra effort with this, but tend to do a lot of online shopping to keep my “beating my way through crowds” time to a minimum to preserve my sanity as much as anything!

One thing that I do love to do is make personalised Christmas cards. Last year, we took the girls to have some professional photos done and then sent the prints to be made into cards, which looked great but weren’t cheap. This year, I’m making the cards myself using Fotor, the hoto editing and collage software. As well as offering an app for mobiles, there’s a desktop site AND offline software that can be used to edit photos, add overlays and effects, make collages and just generally tweak things until they look exactly the way you want them. Here’s a Christmas photo collage I made using random pictures from the internet:

Fotor Christmas Card

I literally knocked this image up in two minutes using the collage maker and an art overlay to give the image texture and I think this would actually make a really sweet Christmas card – now imagine if it were personalised using photos of your own kids and decorations! The images are saved at a high resolution and printing them off at home is super simple.

Fotor even offers its own photo card creator, allowing you to do everything I’ve done above, add text to the photo, and then making it into a savable, printable card that you can print off in whatever format you like – amazing!

It would be so easy to just go and buy a packet of cards from the supermarket, but this is one thing that I really enjoy putting effort into at this time of year and the results are always so much better, and more memorable, than generic cards. It gives family and friends a yearly picture of the girls (and Chuck!) and I’m really looking forward to being able to look back in many years time and seeing the changes in my kids on a yearly basis.

Do you ever make your own greetings cards? Would you use Fotor to make your life easier? Have you been put off of doing it in the past but are now considering it because you’ve learned about Fotor? Do leave me a comment below as I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Why I’m Doing My Best to be UN-Christmassy

un-christmassy grumpy catThe eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed that today’s date marks exactly a month until Christmas Eve, which means that the whole world will be going Christmas-mad, and every shop, TV advert and event will be geared up to all things festive. Despite the fact that Thanksgiving isn’t even over yet, Christmas seems to be everywhere we go, and I’m not going to lie, it drives me a little bit mad. Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas, especially now we’ve got the girls and it’s all about them, but starting this early just destroys the magic for me.

I’ve seen several people on Facebook, both in random groups and on my friends list, who’ve got their tree up already, and some who’ve even had a Christmas dinner already, which is absolutely fine for them, but not for me. For me, Christmas is really special, a time to spend with family and friends and indulge in all of the excesses of the season…ONCE a year. Christmas is big and exciting and a happy time, but doing it more than once would just dilute it completely.

For the last few years in a row, I’ve managed to shoot my festive load WAY too early – I start to get excited at the beginning of November, planning presents and decorations and all of the other bits that go with it, and by the time 25th December arrives, I’m spent – both mentally AND financially. I seem to have a finite amount of Festive cheer and if I let it all go too early I have none left for the big day. Christmas Day is genuinely one of my favourite days of the year but there’s nothing as disappointing as polishing off your Christmas dinner and thinking “Oh. I don’t actually feel that Christmassy…”

The thing is, Christmas is a one, maybe two, day celebration, or at a push three days if you include Christmas Eve, Christmas Day and Boxing Day. Most of us spend the equivalent of a month’s wages getting ready for it, and if we start the the beginning of November and don’t take our trees down until after New Year, that basically means that Christmas lasts TWO MONTHS. Put into perspective, that’s 1/6 of the year – there is literally NO other holiday that we would allow to take over our lives for that bloody long!

I know I probably sound like Scrooge but I don’t dislike Christmas altogether – I just wish people would hold their horses. I’ve seen several houses which already have elaborate lighting displays outside and it’s just making me cross. It won’t even be the slightest bit special by the time Christmas arrives, and I think I’d probably throw my Christmas tree on the bonfire if I had to cope with tinsel droppage and fallen baubles for two whole months! What people do in their own living rooms is entirely up to them and I’d never dictate to them what they should and shouldn’t be doing, but it’s just not for me.

What do you think? Am I a miser or are you right here in NON-Christmas Land with me? I’d love to hear what you think,

Making Some Extra Cash Before Christmas

ChristmasI think we can all agree that with the exception of perhaps foreign holidays and those unexpected expenses that can pop up throughout the year, Christmas is probably the most expensive time of year for most of us. From buying presents and food, new trees and decorations, not to mention all of the various school discos and Christmas sales which end up costing a fortune, the need for cash seems never ending! Unless you’re a sensible soul who’s saved all year and has your Christmas fund full to the brim, there’s a good chance that an extra few quid would come in really handy, so I thought I’d take a look at a few ways that you could raise a bit more moolah for your celebrations.

1. Sell Your Old Stuff

Selling things on Facebook selling groups can be really lucrative at this time of year because everyone is looking for a bargain. Have a really good clearout and be ruthless about all of the things you really don’t need or use anymore and you could make yourself a packet. If you’re a totally newbie at selling on Facebook, here’s a guide I wrote last here which might really help.

2. Lotto Betting

Lotto betting is a great concept which allows you to enter foreign lotteries, like the massive Powerball draw that happens in The States. By entering through LottoLand, you effectively bet on the outcome of the lottery rather than buying an actual ticket which gives you the flexibility to enter any draw you like, and the stakes are pretty high – even the second tier prize for betting on the Powerball could net you around £34,000! Obviously it’s not a sure-thing, but it’s still good fun if you go into it without expecting fortunes!

3. Seasonal Work

Loads of companies hire extra staff at this time of year to help with the demand of Christmas shoppers, and lots of the jobs will be evening or night work like replenishing shelves, which would fit around your kids and help you earn a bit extra for Christmas. Seasonal jobs also sometimes lead on to other job opportunities, so if you’re looking for something ongoing, getting your foot in the door now could be a real help.

4. Online Surveys

I know a lot of people who do online surveys and save all of their earnings as vouchers for sites like Amazon, which then allows them to do most of their Christmas shopping using just their earnings from doing so. Many of us are online for a large portion of the day and some sites even have mobile apps, so whenever you have down-time, you could be earning.

5. Delivery Driving

With more and more people shopping online, there are lots of courier companies out there who are always looking for more drivers to cover areas, as well as restaurants who deliver takeaway food. If you’re a driver and own your own car, you could easily pick up delivery work which is usually completely flexible and allows you to pretty much be your own boss.

6. Sell Your Gold

It’s SO common for people to have jewellery laying around that they literally never wear, and if there’s no sentimental value attached to it, it’s probably worth more to you if you cash your gold to somewhere like Post My Gold. With Post My Gold, sellers needn’t worry that their old rings will be melted to scrap, as if they’re suitable for resale, they’ll receive even more money!

Have you got any smart ideas for how to earn money before Christmas? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Gifts for Craft Lovers

With the pre-Christmas shopping season well and truly upon us, I’ve been gathering together ideas for all sorts of gifts, for the various different people in our lives and today I’ve been thinking about great gifts for craft lovers. Be they a knitter, sewing enthusiast, crochet queen or cross stitch maven, Deramores has the perfect gift for them and I’ve got my five favourites to show you:

Barima Scarf by We Are Knitters – £59.99

Merino wool is hot stuff right now (if you’ll pardon the pun!) and this kit will give your loved one everything they need to make a super on-trend scarf. An easy to intermediate crochet project, the Barima Scarf is a beautiful openwork shawl-like scarf with rock-star tassels. A gift that keeps on giving.

Hobby and Gift Filled Crochet Hook Set – 15cm (Set of 14) – £14.99

Every crochet enthusiast needs somewhere to keep their hooks, and with this kit you get not only a cute, sturdy case but also a set of 14 new hooks, too! The hooks come in a variety of sizes from 2mm right up to 10mm and will give your crochet fanatic a brilliant bit of kit to keep their hobby going.

Deramores Studio DK Corgi Olski – £9.99

You can never have too many four legged friends, and this cute and cuddly corgi would be perfect gift for family and friends.  This kit contains all of the wool needed to make this gorgeous little pooch and best of all, the pattern is sent via email upon purchase to cut down on paper waste. Cute AND conscientious!

Hobby and Gift Craft Bag – £29.99

The absolute beauty of crafts like knitting, crochet and sewing is that they can be done basically anywhere, which means that having a dedicated bag for all of your materials can be a great help. This craft bag is strong, sturdy and looks great and will allow you to take everything with you whilst remaining practical and stylish.

Crochet Roxy Rockhopper Kit by Twilleys – £14.90

This adorable little penguin is absolutely perfect for your quirky friend or relative who doesn’t only crochet blankets, or someone who loves to craft but has a baby or grandchild on the way. The end product is absolutely gorgeous and the kit contains everything they need to make it. It’s also a really good gift for beginners as everything is made from squares!

Do you have a crafty friend or relative? Do you like my list of suggestions? Do let me know if I’ve managed to inspire you!

Gifts for Men from Jacamo

I don’t know about you, but the men in my life always seem to be the trickiest to buy for. Husband, my Dad, our Uncles…these are always the presents I’m left blank with when I start to do my Christmas shopping and it seems to get worse every year. This year, I’ve been taking a look at the menswear on Jacamo and I’ve found a few little gems which would make great gifts, so I thought I’d share them with you in case you’re usually left as uninspired as me.

Husband

I think I’ve mentioned before how Husband was a huge fan of David Bowie, so this t-shirt would be great for him. He only tends to wear t-shirts with a logo or print on the front, rather than plain ones, and I love the fact that the picture they’ve used shows Bowie playing a sax, as most people don’t realise he was an accomplished saxophonist.

Dad

My Dad is SO tricky to buy for and I reckon I probably get it wrong just about every single year, but he’s actually a really keen cook so this year I’m going to go down the foodie route and buy him something to compliment his kitchen creativity.

Uncle

My Uncle is a bit of a petrol head, and also a keen model maker, so this kit is basically the perfect gift for him! I do love giving creative gifts because they’re something that the person can spend time on, and they’re left with something cool at the end of it.

Little Brother

My little brother (and when I say little, I only mean in years, he’s about a foot taller than me now and will be 18 at the beginning of next year) started driving this year and we’re all really proud of him for passing his test so quickly. I reckon he would absolutely LOVE a supercar experience day where he’d get to go and drive an amazing car on a track (with supervision, of course!) and it would really be a gift to remember.

Cousin

My cousin is a confirmed Whovian and loves anything to do with the show, so this Tardis robe would make an excellent gift for him this Christmas. His birthday is really near Christmas, so he’s always double tricky to buy for as he’ll have got a bunch of stuff at the end of November, but I’m going to make sure that no-one else buys this for him before I can!

 

5 Tips to Minimise Christmas Stress

Stress-Free ChristmasNow that it’s November and Bonfire Night is over, people’s thoughts are firmly turning to the next big holiday: CHRISTMAS! If you’re anything like me, the run up to Christmas is a combination of shopping, planning, getting in the mood (but not too early!) and generally trying to facilitate the whole family’s enjoyment of the big day. One thing which is really important for me is finding the balance between readiness and stress-management – getting to the big day with high blood pressure and the need to sleep for a week is not good for your own enjoyment, so I thought I’d share some tips for minimising your Christmas stress.

Plan Ahead

I appreciate that telling you to plan ahead in November is a little bit like locking the stable door after the reindeer have bolted, but do yourself a favour for NEXT year and do some forward planning! Buy decorations in the January sales when they’re dirt cheap and put them away, start a savings account and put a little in each week and do as much as you can throughout the year so it isn’t a mad rush this time next year.

Take a Break

Taking yourself off to spa might seem a little lavish when you’ve got a lot of expense coming up, but treating yourself to a detoxing winter spa day at The Moroccan Spa Urban Retreat in Harrods is the PERFECT way to relax your mind and body, leaving you feeling tip-top for all the Christmas parties you’ll be going to and is the perfect way to reward yourself for all the hard work you put into making Christmas special for your family. You could even ask for vouchers for Christmas so you can do the same thing next year!

Lower Your Expectations

There seems to be this pressure on everyone to have EVERY Christmas experience possible and between the Santa visits, the pantos, the Christmas Eve boxes as well as hundreds of pounds worth of gifts, the matching jumpers and festive pyjamas..it’s exhausting both mentally AND financially. Choose just a couple of things to do…there’s always next year if you want to try something new but cramming it all into one festive season will just drive you crackers!

Set Limits

It’s basically the law for kids to hand you a Christmas list as long as your arm and although it would be nice to buy them every single gift, it’s just not always possible. Set yourself a limit on how much you’re going to spend on food, presents, decorations and extras and DO NOT GO ABOVE THOSE LIMITS. That way, instead of stressing about how you’re going to afford one last stocking filler you can tell yourself “Nope, it’s just not in the budget”.

Have Fun!

So often, us grown ups spend so much time making Christmas magical for the kids that we simply forget to have fun. Take some time for yourself, have a sherry, blast some WHAM! and let your hair down. Kids love presents, sure, but they also love relaxed, fun-loving parents who know how to have a good time as a family. Christmas won’t be fun for anyone if Mum or Dad are a sobbing wreck in the corner, wondering if 150 miles is too far to drive for that last Hatchimal in a random toy shop!

Top 5 Gifts for Coffee Lovers

Top 5 Gifts for Coffee LoversAnyone who knows me, knows that I love coffee. It’s my main drink of choice, in fact I probably drink coffee more than anything else, and I really enjoy it. Being a coffee lover myself, I thought I’d put together a list of gifts that most coffee lovers would appreciate, which will hopefully give you some inspiration ahead of your festive shopping. Here’s what I’d love to see in my stocking:

Coffee Beans

Obviously, I have a particular brand of coffee that I always buy, but I do really enjoy trying out new beans. Different coffee beans have different flavours and strengths and can compliment different foods, just like wine, and we often have a few different varieties in the cupboard at any time so I’m always keen to try something new. Little hampers containing a variety of beans would make a superb gift.

Grinder

If you’re serious about coffee then grinding your own beans is a great idea. Grinders can range from budget to seriously high-end and the more you spend, the better quality the grind, but it’s possible to buy something for a reasonable price that even the most discerning coffee lover would love.

Syrups

A great way to add flavour to your coffee, if that’s something you like, is by using flavoured syrups. They’re available in a whole range of flavours and even come in sugar-free varieties for the sugar conscious amongst us, plus Monin also often offer some really sweet little gift sets for Christmas containing festive flavours.

Milk Steamer

If your coffee lover likes a latte or a cappuccino, buying them a milk steamer so that they can make their own cafe-quality drinks would be hugely appreciated. Steaming your milk takes good coffee to the next level and they’re a great little gadget for the kitchen.

Biscotti

I’ll be honest, there’s nothing nicer on the side of a coffee than a slab of biscotti and they make a brilliant gift when given with some beans in a hamper. Choose a good Italian variety for an authentic experience…just don’t expect your gift recipient to share them with you!

Are you a coffee lover? Is there something you’d like to receive for Christmas that I haven’t listed here? Leave me a comment below!