61 articles Tag Christmas

Cleaning and De-Cluttering After Christmaso

Post-Christmas Cleaning and De-ClutteringI don’t know about you, but when the tree finally comes down, it feels like a really good time for a big cleaning session and declutter. My kids are still at an age where their toys take up a LOT of room, and Christmas usually means finding even more room for all their stuff, so in order to maintain a tiny bit of decent living space (as well as hanging on to my ever-precarious marbles) I tend to have a bit of a blitz, including all of the things that don’t get cleaned as regularly. Here are a few things which get deep-cleaned at this time of year:

Glassware

Husband has quite a large collection of glasses, ranging from large litre-sized beer glasses from Europe right down to special vodka glasses, and everything in between. It’s not the sort of glassware which gets used every day and is kept on shelves in our dining room, so it does tend to collect dust and this is usually the time of year when it all gets taken down, washed and polished before being put back on the shelves.

Fireplace

Our wood burner gets used a LOT during the winter, in fact it’s roaring away as we speak, but it does need a good clean up every now and again. The ash gets thrown away each time we use it and I vaccum the hearth almost daily, but the glass on the front and the metal parts can get grimy and need a polish.

Doors and Light Switches

Unless you’re a cleaning machine like my friend Sam, there are probably areas of your house that you don’t even NOTICE until they got dirty and things like light switches and doors are a prime example. When you’ve got kids with grubby hands who insist on TOUCHING EVERYTHING, stuff gets sticky, which them attracts dust and can end up looking grubby. Now is the time to give them all a scrub.

Down the Back of the Sofa

If you’ve got a sofa with cushions on it, there’s a good chance that there’s a whole load of crumbs, dust, stray hairs and tony toys hiding down the back of the cushions. Get your vacuum pole down there and give it a good clean out to deal with the rubbish removal, then a spray with Febreeze or even given them a once-over with a steam cleaner. It’ll freshen up your sofa and make it seem much nicer.

Inside Your Cupboards

Go through your cupboards and check the sell-by-dates on everything – I guarantee you’ve got at least one can of food which is well past it’s best. Get rid of anything you can’t use and if there’s anything which is still in date, the local food bank will probably make excellent use of it. This will also make cleaning the shelves a lot easier!

Do you have any amazing home cleaning tips to share with me?

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! 😉

Black Friday Madness

I love a bargain as much as the next person. Probably more-so than some as I’ll never buy things without looking for a Voucheroo code first (Dominos pizza, I’m looking at you!) but I have to say, the whole Black Friday thing leaves me cold. I went into town today to pick something up from Waterstones and walked through Debenhams to get there, and it was genuinely the busiest I’ve EVER seen it. I don’t know if it’s because I’m ill at the moment or what, but being in such a busy shop made me feel a bit panicky.

The thing is, I’ve not actually seen a single bargain online OR in shops which represents anything even close to a decent saving. People are going crazy for items that they probably don’t even need at prices which aren’t even that good. It’s just not British!

I did a cursory Google of “Black Friday crimes” and found stories dating back years of shoppers punching each other for the last discounted TV and even several stories of people pulling GUNS on other shoppers to get the best bargains. I found a report that showed that, since 2006 7 people have been killed doing Black Friday shopping and a further 98 have been injured.

According to Wikipedia “During Black Friday 2010, a Madison, Wisconsin woman was arrested outside of a Toys ‘R’ Us store after cutting in line, and threatening to shoot other shoppers who tried to object. A Toys for Tots volunteer in Georgia was stabbed by a shoplifter. An Indianapolis woman was arrested after causing a disturbance by arguing with other Wal-Mart shoppers. She had been asked to leave the store, but refused. A man was arrested at a Florida Wal-Mart on drug and weapons charges after other shoppers waiting in line for the store to open noticed that he was carrying a handgun and reported the matter to police. He was discovered to also be carrying two knives and a pepper spray grenade. A man in Buffalo, New York, was trampled when doors opened at a Target store and unruly shoppers rushed in, in an episode reminiscent of the deadly 2008 Wal-Mart stampede.”

I mean…it’s surely not just me who thinks that’s insane, surely? It’s capitalism at it’s ugliest.

I will admit to not being a hugely covetous person. I was massively frivolous with money when I was younger and it’s taken a long time for me to go the other way and show a bit of frugality, but I don’t really crave the newest cars or clothes which is probably why I don’t feel the desperate need to go out and spend a load of money on one day of the year. Maybe if the bargains were better I’d be a bit more inclined to get involved, but nothing really seems THAT cheap to me.

What do you think? Are you banging down the doors of your local department stores to get a few quid off or are you like me and a little bemused by it all? 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,

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!

Gifts for Dog Lovers

Everyone has that one friend who is a little bit too bonkers about their dog, referring to it as their first-born child, allowing it to sleep in their bed and feeding it food which costs more than their own. Given the fact that I’m basically describing MYSELF here, and I’m the crazy dog lady in my friends lives, I thought I’d be a good person to put together a list of great gifts to buy the dogs (or dog lovers) in your life for Christmas. Here are my suggestions:

A Doggy iPad Cover

If your dog-lover has an iPad, then this dog print iPad cover would make a great gift, It’s made from natural materials and protects screens whilst looking cute and well made, and I’m convinced that any dog-lover would get a real kick out of putting their iPad in it!

A Doggy Cushion

I’m not sure if I’d like this one for myself or for Chuck…or maybe one for each! Chuck has his own selection of cushions that we put in his beds for a bit of soft support now that he’s getting old and I think these would look really stylish around the home.

Dog Christmas Jumpers

It’s not often that we see dog clothes which are big enough for Chuck because he’s a medium sized breed (although I think that’s discrimination personally, as he’d look SO AMAZING in a fair-isle jumper!) but if your dog-loving friend or relative does have a smaller breed then a Christmas jumper would be such a cute gift. You can even get Santa outfits!

Dog Beds

One thing on which we never scrimp is the beds that we buy for Chuck, especially now he’s old as he needs the warmth and comfort, especially at night when the temperature drops. Buying a dog bed for a human might not be the best idea but if you’re a dog-lover yourself then investing in a decent beg for your dog, with lots of padding and a good, strong material like tweed which will provide a good outer layer for the bed which still looks great in your home.

Are you a dog lover? What’s on YOUR Christmas list for either you or your pooch?

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!

My Christmas Musical Wishlist

Quite a while ago, Husband and I stopped buying CDs and other ‘physical’ forms of music, in favour of using streaming services or online MP3s, save for a couple of bands whose albums we always try to get a proper copy of. However, I really do miss the experience of buying a CD, listening to it in the order the band intended and even reading through the sleeve notes and lyrics, so I thought I’d make a list of CDs that I’d love to have on my shelf and the reasons for them:

Pet Sounds – The Beach Boys

Husband and I went to see Brian Wilson performing the whole of Pet Sounds plus a few other Beach Boys classics just a few months ago, and for someone who doesn’t believe in god, it was about as spiritual an experience as I could imagine. The are SO many iconic songs on this album, which is often ranked in the top 5 albums of all time and having a copy on the shelf would remind me of one of the best evenings of my life.

Blackstar – David Bowie

Husband and I are both huge fans of David Bowie and were both devastated by his passing, earlier this year. Blackstar was released upon his death as he intended for his fans to enjoy it after he was gone, like a musical legacy, and it seems only right to have a proper CD copy of it.

Bad Religion – 30 Years Live

Another band that Husband and I adore is Bad Religion and we saw them this year too. They’re an incredible band to see live (for an atheist, Greg Graffin looks surprisingly like he’s preaching when he sings and his stage presence is phenomenal) and this album is a collection of live recordings from the bands 30th Anniversary tour.

The Streets – Original Pirate Material

This album is one of my favourites of all time and reminds me of being young and probably a little bit wild. Husband loves it too, and although we hadn’t yet met when it was released, our joint love of music is something which united us. In terms of first albums, Mike Skinner absolutely knocked it out of the park with this one but sadly my original copy got stolen when my car was broken into a few years ago, so a replacement would be nice.

Yann Tiersen – Amelie

There are quite a few soundtracks that make it onto my favourites list but nothing manages to capture so many emotions as the Amelie sountrack. Whimsically, tragically, optimistically beautiful and an absolute delight to the ears, this is an amazing album to listen to when you want something to get lost in without the urge to sing along. Keep a copy in the car, the kitchen, on your nightstand and it will ALWAYS seem like the right thing to listen to at any given time.

So, what CDs make it onto your wishlist? Leave me a comment below.