72 articles Articles posted in Christmas

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 using our coffee maker to it’s fullest potential. 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!

Keeping Costs Down Ahead of Christmas

save moneyNow that we’re almost in November, whether we like it or not, most of us are thinking about ways to save money so that we can maximise our spending power for the festive season. There are SO many ways that most of us can save money without even realising it, so I thought I’d take a look at ways to save that you may not have even thought of.

Reduce Your Phone Bill

Most of us have mobile packages with “free” minutes available but it can be easy to go over the allowance and tot up call costs. Using a site like Contact Number UK to look up numbers can drastically reduce your costs as they list the cheapest numbers for calling many companies on.

Cut Your Channels

If you have Sky, Virgin Media or some other TV service and you’re past your first year of service, it’s a really good idea to look at your package and work out exactly what you use and what you don’t. Often, things like music channels, movies and sports are charged at a premium and if you don’t ever watch them you could save yourself hundreds of pounds each year by stripping them back.

Do It Yourself

I know it’s tempting to outsource jobs like window cleaning, car valeting, oven cleaning and all of the other yucky things that none of us really like doing, but you could save yourself SO much money by doing them yourself. If you have your windows cleaned once a month and you’re paying £10 a time, that’s a saving of £120 a year…if you have your car valeted every six weeks at £20 a time, that’s a saving of over £160. The savings all add up!

Quit The Gym! 

Okay, if you’re a gym-bunny and go to the gym on a regular basis then we aren’t suggesting that you give it up, but if you have a subscription to a gym that you rarely use, it might be worth looking at cancelling it. Many gyms also offer cheaper “off-peak” subscriptions, so it might be worth looking at the times you usually go to the gym and seeing if an off-peak membership would work for you. Also, running is absolutely free and a great way to exercise.

Sell Your Stuff and Buy Second Hand

Facebook groups and eBay are both brilliant ways to recoup money on your unwanted stuff by selling it all, and they’re also great places to pick up absolute bargains! So often, kids clothes, furniture and other items will be almost brand new and a FRACTION of their normal price, and literally look as good as new after a bit of a scrub. Local buying and selling also reduces your need for shipping fees, saving you even more.

 

Vouchers This Christmas

We love Christmas, here in the Mum’s the Word house, and we try each year to make it a big deal for the girls. However, one thing that I try to maintain is that although Christmas is a big event, it doesn’t have to cost the earth. I see posts of Facebook of people having spent literally thousands of pounds on toys and Christmas experiences and it seems bonkers to me. I try to start planning in advance to make sure I get the maximum for my money and I thought I’d share some tips with you here:

Second Hand

I know people sometimes blanch at the idea of giving second-hand things for Christmas but kids, especially smaller ones, don’t know the difference. Toys like Jumperoos are often for sale in local groups and can be used again and again, saving you money and ensuring your kids have great quality toys.

Voucher Codes

Keep an eye out for discounts throughout the year, especially for large department stores, like Debenhams promo codes, and buy things early to put away for Christmas. Someone I know buys things whenever she sees something which would make a good gift and keeps it all in a specific cupboard, which she empties out at the beginning of December. Last year, she’d bought so much stuff that she had TOO MANY presents and ended up giving a load to charity!

Make Things

Handmade gifts are a great way to keep costs down and often mean so much more than some random piece of tatt that you could buy. If you’re REALLY organised, you could even forage for fruit, makes jams at home, jar them and make them into festive gifts, costing you next to nothing!

Secret Santa

Another good way to keep costs down is to buy presents for the kids in the family but do a Secret Santa for the adults. Set a limit of say, £20, that way everyone gets one decent quality gift, everyone saves money and no-one feels left out!

Start Saving

This one might not necessarily SAVE you money at Christmas as it doesn’t exactly limit your spending, but starting a Christmas fund in January is a really good idea. Put in as much as you can afford each week or month and by the time it comes to shop for Christmas, you’ll have a good chunk of money saved towards it, lessening the burden of finding funds in December.

Do you have any great tips for saving money at Christmas? I’d love to hear them so please do leave me a comment below.

Start Your Christmas Shopping Early

Okay, I realise that I’m being a MASSIVE hypocrite here, by mentioning Christmas during the summer holidays, after moaning on more than one occasion about various press releases mentioning the festive period already. However, I’ve realised that this is actually a great time to start Christmas shopping with so many summer sales on at the moment.

I always have great intentions of starting early with my Christmas shopping and then it gets to the last week of November and I realise I’ve completely missed the boat. The main reason I manage to talk myself out of starting early is that I always think I’m going to end up buying things for people which they’ll already have by Christmas, so I thought I’d do some brainstorming about the sort of gifts you can buy early which will either be pretty unique or won’t matter if they’re doubles…read on to see my ideas!

Pyjamas

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Nobody ever has too many pairs of pyjamas and you’ll often find that they’re really cheap at this time of year, because it’s so warm and no-one wears snuggly PJ’s in this heat! There are some great loungepants in the Ralph Lauren sale for the man in your life and they’ll make a great gift as the Ralph Lauren label makes them that extra little bit special.

Underwear

Underwear is another thing which people always need; don’t get me wrong, I’m not suggesting you buy lingerie for your mother in law or colleague, but buying some nice undies for your nearest and dearest is a great way to fill a stocking (if you’ll pardon the pun!).

Candles

Candles and other ornaments are a great thing to buy and put away as they won’t spoil and they’re easy to store. If you shop around, you can often find ‘wintery’ scents at their cheapest at this time of year. purely because nobody wants to smell mulled wine and gingerbread in August, but this makes them perfect to buy now and save for Christmas.

Slippers

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Another classic Christmas gift is slippers and if you opt for a premium brand, they’re a great gift to buy now and put away. The Tommy Hilfiger sale has some great offerings at the moment, which would be perfect for the colder months and will make a great gift for that Uncle who you can never seem to find a decent gift for!

Homewares

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Anything home related such as throws, framed photos, accessories and cushions all make great gifts, especially if someone you know if moving house or getting married. There are so many premium brands such as Calvin Klein which offer super smart homewares which people would love to receive as gifts and which can be put away until Christmas, saving you a fortune when it comes to December.

 

Mum’s the Word’s Mega Mince Pies

About 10 years ago, I went to a work Christmas get together where someone had put on a little spread of festive nibbles. One of the things that was on offer was mince pies (obviously!), but these mince pies were a little different. Instead of a fully enclosed pie, the top was nestled on a dollop of brandy butter and it made them taste incredible – like Christmas on steroids!! I decided that I’d try to recreate something similar and thought I’d share them with you here:

Mum's the Word's Mega Mince Pies
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
Mince pies with added kick!
Author:
Recipe type: Christmas Baking
Cuisine: Dessert
Serves: 12
Ingredients
  • One pack of chilled JusRoll shortcrust pastry
  • One jar of mincemeat
  • Small pot of brandy butter
  • Icing sugar to dust
  • (You'll also need a dimpled baking tray, a 2.5" pastry cutter and a star-shaped pastry cutter - we also placed a pastry holly leaf on the top of each star but these aren't absolutely essential if you don't have a holly leaf cutter)
Instructions
  1. (Before you start, take the JusRoll out of the fridge and leave for half an hour to reach room temperature)
  2. Cut out 12 cirlcles of JusRoll and place in your baking tray
  3. Place a moderate teaspoon of mincemeat in each pastry case
  4. Bake at 160c (fan oven) for 25 minutes
  5. Cut out 12 stars and place on a flat, non-stick baking tray
  6. Bake at 160c for around 15-18 minutes
  7. Allow everything to cool completely
  8. Place a dollop of brandy butter (about half a teaspoon) on top of each mince pie and top with a pastry star
  9. Dust with icing sugar before serving

mega mince pies
It’s a super simple recipe which the kids will probably love to help with and it takes a really short time to prep and cook, but the result is fantastic and takes your mince pies to the next level.

Merry Christmas!

I Just Love It Whisky Gift Set Review

I think it’s fairly safe to say that everyone has someone in their lives who is tricky to buy for. Mine is my Husband. My ‘very good at buying gifts’ Husband, which makes my job so much harder around Christmas and birthdays because you can guarantee that he’s bought something amazingly sentimental and perfect for me (like the Teddy Ruxpin I’d been coveting for 25 years that he bought for my last birthday)! Enter ‘I Just Love It‘, a website which makes personalised gifts for people who can be a real pain to buy for.

I noticed they had a whisky gift set, which is labelled as a Fathers’ Day gift, but is actually perfect for Husband for Christmas. He’s a huge fan of whisky, with 16 year old Lagavulin being his usual tipple of choice. However, this gift set contains a whisky which is distilled on the island of Islay, one of the inner Hebrides, somewhere that Husband has been planning to go for a few years, so it seemed serendipitous to see it in the set.

Here’s the info:

Exclusive to I Just Love It, this Father’s Day Whisky Gift Set includes single malts from three of Scotland’s most famous whisky regions, including a limited release from one of Scotland’s sadly closed distilleries. Presented in a gorgeous hand-finished gift box with a personalised sleeve, it’s the ultimate way to compare and contrast the different characteristics of single malt from the Scottish Island, Speyside & Islay regions.

The set itself comes beautifully boxed with a personalised sticker on the outside which you can add your own message to and really is a lovely looking gift.

The set also comes with tasting notes and a tasting mat, allowing the recipient to really get involved with the whisky sampling process (rather than just glugging it down before it hits the sides!!).

The set costs £29.99 (plus P&P) and makes such a lovely gift for anyone with an interest in whisky, or even a complete beginner who you feel might appreciate learning about whisky and its origins. The girls and I were really impressed and can’t wait to give Husband his pressie!

Thanks again to I Just Love It, who sent us the set for review purposes.

Essence of Arcadia Aromatherapy Oils Review

When it comes to alternative medicines and therapies, I’m something of a skeptic. When I had acupuncture suggested to me whilst pregnant with BB, I couldn’t quite get past my doubts enough to bring myself to do it, however, aromatherapy is one thing that I’m quite open to. I think that smells can have a really powerful effect on moods and feelings, so when the guys at Essence of Arcadia got in touch and asked if I’d review their range, I agreed. I was sent the set of 6 and 14 oils, which retail for £19.99 and £34.99 respectively.

Essence of Arcadia

One of the things I loved when I opened the parcel was how neat and sleek the boxes containing the bottles looked, and it struck me that either set would make a really good gift. The smaller set contains cinnamon, lavender, frankincense, peppermint, tea tree and eucalyptus, whilst the larger set contains those six, plus orange, ylang ylang, grapefruit, lemongrass, bergamot, clary sage, rosemary and one called ‘Healing Blend’.

The first one I tried was ylang ylang, which is a beautiful, rich flowery smell and made our living room smell amazing. Cinnamon is the most fantastically Christmassy smell and we also tried blending it with orange, which was (if it’s possible) even more Christmassy; like a garland made of dried tangerines and spices. I used an oil-burner with a tealight as I already had one in the house but Essence of Arcadia also offer two different diffusers, which are an even better way to use your oils.

One of the things I love about both sets is that they come with what is, essentially, a recipe book for your oils to give you inspiration for how to combine them. My favourite was “Liquid Sunshine” which is made as follows:

LIQUID SUNSHINE

Refresh yourself and boost your energy with a combination of:

– 3 drops grapefruit essential oil

– 3 drops lavender essential oil

– 2 drops lemon essential oil

– 2 drops spearmint essential oil

All of the oils have a really rich, full fragrance which lasts for ages and I’d definitely recommend them to anyone with an interest in aromatherapy, or even just as a lovely gift for a dear friend or relative.

 

BKD London Baking Kits Review and Discount Code #bkdbakes

If there’s one thing that Sausage and I love to do together, it’s baking. We’re never happier than when we’re in the kitchen, working together to make something tasty for the family, so when the lovely folk at BKD London got in touch and asked if we’d like to try one of their baking kits for kids, we agreed straight away. Even the boxes they come in are gorgeous!

BKD London Gingerbread Kit

The kits contain everything you need to make gingerbread men, apart from butter and golden syrup, including the cutter and everything to decorate them. The instructions were really clear – so much so that I basically stood back and let Sausage do everything herself (minus a little help with measuring and weighing).

BKD London Gingerbread Kit

The whole process from beginning to end was super simple – the only part that Sausage didn’t like was having to wait for her gingerbread dough to chill before she could roll it out! Here’s the finished product:

BKD London cookies

They tasted absolutely delicious!

These kits come in a number of varieties (I’ve got my eye on the unicorns!) and would make an amazing sticking filler for any kid who loves baking. The best news is that we’ve got a 10% off code for all Mum’s the Word readers. Just enter the code MUMSTHEWORD10 at the checkout. Happy baking!

What to Wear This Christmas

Christmas FireplaceFor me, there’s no better time of year to indulge in some new clothes than Christmas. The idea of having a bath on Christmas morning and getting into a new outfit for Christmas dinner is one that I absolutely love, and this year I’m on the lookout for the perfect Christmas jumper!

Our Christmas Day usually goes a bit like this:

  1. Get woken by VERY excited children
  2. Open presents whilst listening to Christmas music
  3. Have a nice breakfast (usual involving a lot of bacon!)
  4. Go to Tony’s Aunt’s for Christmas dinner
  5. Spend all day eating lovely food, playing SingStar and board games with the kids and generally having a wonderful, family-oriented day.

As you can see, although I like a new outfit, I’m not expected to be ultra-glam, which means that I can opt for a comfortable pair of women’s flats on my feet, rather than having to teeter around on high heels (which is especially important after a few port and lemons!).

Layers are very important for my perfect Christmas outfit. I like to have the option of a cosy jumper to wear in case I get chilly, seeing as I am what my Husband calls a “chilly bum”! However, a nice t-shirt underneath is essential for when the Christmas glow kicks in (you know, that time when you’re full of turkey, you’ve had a couple of drinks and the house starts to feel like a sauna!). I’ll probably opt for jeans on my bottom half, purely because I wear very little else on a day to day basis, but I am also tempted by all of the Christmas dresses I’ve been seeing lately.

This year, for the very first time, all five of us, including Chuck, are staying at the mother-in-law’s house overnight on Christmas Day night! We’re not able to leave Chuck on his own all day long and now that we live farther away, it’ll mean either me not drinking and driving home or getting a very expensive cab, so we’re grateful for the offer of a place to bunk down. This means that new pyjamas are also going to be a must for me and the girls (what better excuse, huh?!) so I’m looking forward to picking out something cosy to wear in bed.

Do you enjoy picking a Christmas outfit or do you wear something tried and tested on the big day? Leave me a comment below, I’d love to hear from you.