Christmas Photo Spots in London

Yesterday afternoon I posted some pictures to my stories of our walk around London. It prompted quite a few responses and all with the same theme, how beautiful London was looking in its festive attire and how I capture lovely photos of Ita in London.

I certainly do not have the skills to remove people and change settings, so planning photos works best for me (and probably for the other average mums too). So hopefully this blog post will help you plan too!

The truth is photos mean a lot to me. I spend so much time making sure I capture the right image because when all is said and done, all you have left is the photo to remind you. I learnt this regrettably on my wedding day. You cant recapture a moment. Once its gone, its gone. As so because of this I have spent a lot of time thinking about how I could make sure I captured beautiful photos for Ita, to look back on when she is older and maybe even with her own children!

So this leads me here, sharing the most beautiful festive spots in London.

I wrote out a little trail for my friend Jovana on my last Instagram post. It was just a simple response to her comment but I think it captures the most beautiful sights. So I am going to use that little route to provide you with what I believe to be the best photo shots in central London.

New Bond Street:

For us, this will always be the Christmas shot to get. Each year Ita posts her letter to Santa from the post-box just across from the beautifully decorated Cartier store. The lights are undoubtably stunning at night but the truth is this area will almost always be packed… and full of Instagram models. As such, we always visit here on a quiet Sunday morning when you can quite literally park just down the road from this shop.

The post-box is across the road and slightly to the right so the best place to get a photo like this would be standing to the right of the post-box and then taking a few steps back. This means you can capture Cartier in the background too.

To get a nice photo outside of Cartier, I would suggest standing again on the road opposite but more so to the left. There are a load of street signs around here which you will want to avoid – it is this reason that Tiffany’s is so difficult to capture. It is such a shame as the shop is beautiful but there are too many signs and poles that ruin it.

I would say this is best for day time shots. As beautiful as the peacock lights are, it just isn’t worth the crowds of people. Even during lockdown I was receiving messages on Instagram telling me how busy it was.

Ita posting her letter to Santa 🎅🏼

Burlington Arcade:

Right by Cartier and Tiffany’s is the Burlington Arcade that leads you out to Regents Street. I would only suggest visiting here in the day as it becomes very dark inside and also very busy too. The Moet & Chandon swinging chair is probably the most popular photo op but it sits right in the middle of the arcade with nothing pretty behind it. You would really need to wait it out to get a gorgeous photo with no one in the background! (See below).

Definitely better for the day time shots.

Burlington Arcade

Fortnum & Mason:

Once you exit the Burlington Arcade you will see Fortnum and Masons. One of the most stunning shops in London, especially so since their lights are that of an advent calendar. However…. There are loads of road works going on just outside and it is really unappealing to be honest. No matter where you stand across the road, you cant seem to get a photo without these road works being obvious. As much as I love this photo, it doesn’t show off the grand face of Fortnums. (This was taken by the main entrance). However if you walk down Duke Street which is to the right of Fortnums, they have the most beautifully dressed window display.

It definitely looks better at night where it is all lit up and arguably distracts you from the road works.

Fortnum & Masons

The Ritz:

Sadly The Ritz is all boarded up because of lockdown but it is where my mind goes to when I think of Christmas Days Out. They have a huge tree on the foyer by the reception and the décor runs throughout. Outside, they hang their decorated wreaths and garlands and they dress the two trees by the entrance too. Typically I would say you need a photo by their tree inside but that’s not going to happen right now. The outside is photo worthy though! The tree to the right of the entrance has a sign underneath but the tree to the left doesn’t and actually sits back slightly. Therefore it looks nice in photos without taking over.

The Ritz – Christmas Day 2019

I would suggest going during the day although if you are around in the evening it’s definitely worth going to.

Outside the Ritz

St James / Waterloo Place:

My absolute favourite Christmas Tree in London!! There is none that even compare to the tree by the Crimean War Memorial on Waterloo Place (named St James). And this is why! The tree is tall and full but not huge meaning you can get a full length photo of the tree and yourself / child. As it sits on a little square, you can stand across the road and basically capture it from any angel. This means you will be able to get a picture without anyone else in shot.

For this photo I stood in the middle of the road – it was spookily quiet but thinking about it, it very often is quiet around here. There is a small strip of pavement that separates the road and faces the tree and this would be the best place to get a photo. On this night though someone was taking their photo and they seemed unhappy with the outcome so kept asking their partner to take more!

The tree is prettiest at night but I would still say it is daylight happy too.

The tree this year!

Annabels:

Is underway and frankly I could burst! I always get too excited for their decorations as they are so OTT and take up the entire front of this private members club. Last year it was heaving during the day and at night time so I can imagine it will be this year too. It sits in a largish square but although its worth going to see, I wouldn’t have your heart set on getting a good photo!

2017! Still my personal favourite

Regent Street:

London has a theme of flying angels that kinda remind me of Hannibal the TV series. If you have seen it you’ll know exactly what I mean!! These angels have been reused for the last few years and really do not stand out much during the daylight, but at night they are gorgeous. I have seen so many photos in the middle pavement outside of Hamleys in Regents Street and this is where you will get the prettiest shot. And for that reason this is where were heading to next weekend!

Definitely better during the darker hours.

Hamleys!

Covent Garden:

I’m going to be very blunt here – I am SO disappointed this year with the decorations in Covent Garden. I think we were spoilt last year by the absolutely stunning Tiffany & Co set up and remember that Jo Malone one too? This year they have a gigantic tree. It is so difficult to get a photo without anyone else in it and you will need to be about a mile away from the tree to get it in full length and then you in full length too. Ok so not a mile, but very far away!! I am secretly hoping that they will add something else to be honest.

The London Transport Museum has a small themed tree outside and I think this one is really rather cute. Chanel also have a little photo op outside too!

Honestly? Not worth it.

Convent Garden 2020
The London Transport Museum Tree

Elsewhere:

Other areas that have beautiful lights are Carnaby Street and Marble Arch. However I cannot imagine you will be able to find a good spot for a photo, that doesn’t have crowds of people in.

If you love a pink Christmas then of course Peggy Porschens is for you and this year Elan have a huge pink tree and carousel inside Kings Cross station.

Peggys – Christmas 2017!

We always visit The Ivy in Chelsea and each year they do fantastic displays. My favourite was from 2018 when they turned the restaurant into a gingerbread house!

The Ivy Chelsea 2018

With all this said and whilst still being sure that a nice photo is the goal, you do need to simply enjoy and have fun with seeing the Christmas lights and decorations! They are beautiful and have become somewhat of a tradition for us. There is no better place than London in December!

Some tips;

My biggest one. Avoid other people in your photos. Its quite an obvious one but having strangers in your photos not only distracts from how pretty they will turn out, but it also means you will quite literally have photos of random people!

Avoid distractions such as ugly scaffolding and building work. Try and place yourself/ child in front of them if possible to cover them up!

Clean your camera lens each and every single time to take a photo. Honestly, especially when it comes to phone cameras, it makes all the difference.

Take your time. I used to feel so rushed but now I take as much time as I need to get the photo I am happy with!

Natasha from Kiddos Adventures has done a blog post on a Christmas lights tour and I am allowed to share this with you. Here is the link below;

https://kiddoadventures.com/2020/11/22/your-guide-to-christmas-lights-in-london-2020/ and thank you

Ita’s playhouse (The Snug from Waltons)

Over the years, I have had so many lovely and positive comments on Ita’s playhouse, especially on our seasonal makeovers. As such, I thought I would share more info on her playhouse and on how we create the little transformations.

Just before the Halloween transformation

Ita has had this playhouse now for around 3 and ½ years as it was a present for her first birthday. It was from Waltons (links below) and is called the ‘Snug Playhouse’ measuring 4×4 feet. Currently inside there is a wooden kitchen, a box of small toys and a little chair and with this there is still room to move freely. It is a really good size for a small child especially and as it also has shatter proof windows on 3 sides, it is also perfect for parents too.

The playhouse comes unpainted so we used Cuprinol white (called white daisy) and pink (called sweet pea) paint to decorate both the outside and the inside, and bought 6 carpet squares from B&M to cover the flooring. I have seen others use vinyl and I think it looks brilliant. Because the playhouse has a felt roof, it is very waterproof and the carpet is still in good shape! It is also anti rot and has a 10 year guarantee. This is really worth knowing as so many playhouses on the market do not have this guarantee.

Ita on her 1st birthday with her birthday present!

Initially, I wanted something quite simple for Ita so once it was painted, I more or less just added a little fence border, potted plants and fairies to the outside area. Over the years the space around the playhouse has changed somewhat. It is currently in its festive décor as seen below.

Christmas

These items, the Christmas trees, were sourced from Facebook Market place. One was £5 and the other was £10. Out of shot is one that we picked up for FREE! As these items are outdoors, I would not suggest paying a lot as the weather can deteriorate them sharpishly. I bought a can of spray snow for £2.99 from our garden centre and added bows that were years old and heading to the bin this Christmas.

My absolute favourite time of year for the playhouse would be Easter. After the harsh winter this is usually when we give it a little freshen up using the white paint. We only do this once a year.

The photo below was actually taken during lockdown this year and Ita had asked that we turned it into a ‘home for bunnies’. The wisteria was from eBay at around £8 per stem (there are only 2 here). The other artificial flowers are from last year and too were from eBay and also Home Bargains. The little bunnies were from The Range and eBay. We tend to stick to lilacs, yellows and pinks during this period. I absolutely love how bright it looks! As does the Easter bunny aka daddy!

Easter
Easter

Lockdown was a really difficult period for everyone and I felt so relieved that Ita had this little playhouse because it created a separate area of play to keep her occupied. She also enjoyed having her own enclosed area which was safe for her to do so. Now she is a bit older she takes so much pride in organising how it looks and is already talking about whether Santa will know where her own house is!

Halloween 2020!

The playhouse is currently £252.99 but it will also be in the black Friday sale so look out for a bargain! What an amazing Christmas gift it would make!

Specifics

Certified by European Toy Safety Standards EN71 for ages 36 months +

10 Year Anti Rot Guarantee

12mm Interlocking Shiplap Tongue & Groove Cladding

Mineral Felt Included

Planed & Rounded Timbers

Supplied unpainted

100% Shatterproof Styrene Windows

Link to the Snug Playhouse;

https://www.waltons.co.uk/waltons-snug-playhouse-4×4

https://www.waltons.co.uk/playhouses-and-outdoor-toys

Autumn 2019

Giving Back this Christmas, 2020

It would be fair to say that 2020 has been the weirdest year. The covid pandemic was a real shock to the world and most have been affected by it in one way or another. It changed everything we had planned but I am absolutely determined that it won’t affect Christmas. (Even if it seems we’re heading back into a national lockdown…). Our little tradition with Ita of giving back is needed more now than ever. Seeing so many families and businesses affected this year has really put so much into perspective.

Christmas 2019

I personally feel that Christmas is so important. It stays with you into adulthood and it’s when memories are made. For some, it’s an especially hard time though.

There is so much that you can do when it comes to being generous during the festive period. Even buying a bit extra on your food shopping and donating it to your local food bank is incredibly kind and will go to a family who needs a little help.

I did a blog post on ‘Giving Back’ last year which is still pretty relevant so this year I have decided to focus specifically on children (and toy donations).

For many years we have donated new toys and selection boxes to our local hospital because I have always felt especially sad for children who are unwell and who have had to spend the festive period in hospital. The new toys are wrapped by the fundraising department and handed out to the children on Christmas morning as an extra special gift.

Having had a mum who worked every single Christmas day as a nurse for almost 22 years, I also felt rather sorry for the staff too, so we have sent lots of chocolate in the past!

This year, our local hospital is unsure whether they can accept physical gifts/ donations due to the virus and the risks involved. With this in mind, and still wanting Ita to learn how fortunate she is, I have found some amazing charities who we will be donating new toys to. However, it does not need to be a bag of gifts that you donate, one is enough to make a difference to a childs Christmas.

ALDERHEY CHRISTMAS CHARITY APPEAL

Alderhey arrange to accept toys at Christmas time for their Christmas charity appeal. The toys are set aside into ones for children to play with at the hospital and ones to gift children who are very unwell.

For more information about how they manage toy donations at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, then please contact them via the link below. They will arrange a drop off time to ensure everything is safe.

https://www.alderheycharity.org/magic/ways-to-help/donate-toys-games-or-other-gifts/

GREAT ORMOND STREET APPEAL

Much like Alderhey, GOSH accept donations in the form of money and also toys.

Please do contact them before donating toys because their criteria is different to Alderhey. Email is below along with the link to their website.

Where to send your gifts;

Great Ormond Street Hospital Children’s Charity

40 Bernard Street

London

WC1N 1LE

Email: giftsinkind@gosh.org

https://www.gosh.org/donate/donating-toys-and-games

SALVATION ARMY

Many Salvation Army churches and centres across the UK will be running a Christmas Present Appeal, collecting donated presents until mid-December.

Please support your local Christmas Present Appeal by finding your nearest appeal and donating new, unwrapped toys and gifts for children who might not otherwise receive a Christmas present.

The gifts will then be wrapped and distributed to those in need.

To find out where to donate your gift or for more information on the Christmas Present Appeal please contact your local Salvation Army church or centre.

https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/map-page

https://www.salvationarmy.org.uk/christmas-present-appeal

KIDSOUT GIVING TREE

If you are working from an office then KidsOut’s Giving Tree initiative invites firms to ditch the Secret Santa and buy toys for children in local refuge homes instead. Many of the recipients are children who have escaped domestic violence, being forced to flee their homes quickly and leave all possessions behind. Without Giving Tree, these children may not otherwise receive a gift at Christmas.

This year, the Giving Tree is going digital because of the Covid issues!

Donations can be made by texting the code GIVINGTREE followed by a space and the amount as a number to 70085.

** For example, to donate £10 you would text the following to 70085: ‘GIVINGTREE 10’. You can opt to give any whole amount up to £20.

https://www.kidsout.org.uk/how-companies-can-help/giving-tree/

EMBRACE DEAR SANTA APPEAL

This one is particularly close to my heart because of my line of work. Dear Santa is a seasonal appeal to deliver gifts of choice to children and young people harmed by serious crime across the UK, the Channel Islands and Isle of Man.

Children referred for a Dear Santa gift may have suffered trauma as the result of sexual abuse, violence or neglect, or have lost a parent or loved one to homicide.

Dear Santa allows the nominated child to choose their own gift (worth up to £30) which is placed on the Dear Santa Wish List for public donation.

Embrace CVOC will wrap and deliver your gift in time for Christmas Day.

100% of your donation goes to your chosen child.

•           To nominate a child you must be police or work in a statutory role. Parental/ Guardian consent is required.

https://embracecvoc.org.uk/dear-santa/

SHOE BOX APPEAL

And of course, the famous shoe box appeal! Each year thousands of people like you generously pack shoebox gifts to bless children in need around the world. Find out all you need to know about how to pack your shoebox gift below.

https://www.samaritans-purse.org.uk/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/

https://www.samaritans-purse.org.uk/what-we-do/operation-christmas-child/gifts-in-kind-opportunities/

To find out about other ways to give back, please see last years post in the link below

https://garciafamilyuk.com/2019/11/27/giving-back-this-christmas/

Which one will you donate to?

If you do take part, please don’t forget to tag us on our Instagram account so I can share 💖

PJ Masks Toy Review

Items gifted for review.

With Christmas fast approaching there will be many new toys coming out. I honestly find it quite overwhelming and find it difficult to determine what would make a good toy for Ita. By that I mean one she will enjoy and play with for ages, as well as learning from it too.

With that in mind, we were sent these two new PJ Masks toys by Just Play.

PJ Masks Romeo’s Flying Factory Playset

Retails at £49.99 however I have seen this for about £41.99 on the Smyths website.

This PJ Masks play set is based on the popular pre-school show. Ita actually used to love PJ Masks and even got to meet them, but hadn’t watched the show in a while so I was apprehensive as to whether this would still interest her. As she is only 4 years old, she tends to flit between a few interests the current one being Disney’s TOTS. Anyway! As soon as she saw the sets she was more than happy and was keen to test them out!

Flying Playset

The set comes with a Catboy and Romeo figure only and Ita was a bit disappointed that it did not come with Owlette. Luckily she has other figures from PJ Masks other sets that she could use but otherwise I think buying the other characters is a must. 

The set comes with a lights and sounds control panel, working crane, laser launcher, drone, and two of Romeo’s greatest gadgets (The Squashatron & The Sniff-O-Whiff).

Ita loved pretending to control the Flying Factory but absolutely loved the secret lair the most.

The Flying Factory can roll back and forth too which of course Ita pushed across the floor countless times.

Romeo’s Flying Factory Playset includes: one Flying Factory, one 7.5cm Catboy articulated figure, one 7.5cm Romeo articulated figure, one lights and sounds control panel, one rolling get-a-way drone vehicle, and two of Romeo’s invention accessories.

Features

•Contents: one Flying Factory, one 7.5cm Catboy figure, one 7.5cm Romeo figure, one light and sound control panel, one rolling get-a-way vehicle, and two of Romeo’s invention accessories

•Lights and sounds control panel plays sounds and phrases

•Kid-powered crane really works

•Launch the lasers to defend the Flying Factory

•Pull the wings back and the Factory will launch Romeo and his get-a-way vehicle

•Dimensions: 20L x 40W x 40H cm

•Batteries Required: 3 x AG14 batteries (included)

I have found the set on here for the lowest price;

https://www.smythstoys.com/uk/en-gb/toys/pre-school-and-electronic-learning/pj-masks/pj-masks-romeo-s-flying-factory-playset/p/189785

Packaging

PJ Masks Save The Sky Gekko and Gekko-Mobile Set

Retails at £14.99 however this does come in just under on the Smyths website.

Surprisingly, Ita really enjoyed this smaller set and I think it is because she already had Catboys version from last year! I say surprisingly only because children to tend to prefer the bigger sets don’t they? As a parent, I had to admit I did prefer this smaller set as it was easy to put away and store after playing with. I also think it is very reasonably priced and again, because it is small it means it can be taken out with us too.

Gekko!

The PJ Masks Gekko figure and vehicle assortment comes with a 3″ articulated Gekko and his new Gekko-Mobile. (You can of course also get the Catboy and Owlette versions too). I think what I really liked about this was that you simply buy the preferred character. If you want to buy the others then of course you can use them together but equally, it did not feel like Ita needed to have the other characters in order to have fun.

Features

•Contents: A Gekko figure and a Gekko-Mobile vehicle

•Dimensions: 10L x 20W x 10H cm

•Fly into action with Gekko and his Gekko-Mobile!

•Inspired by the show, this new vehicle features a sleek design and discreet wheels that really roll!

•Catboy has poseable arms and legs to promote imaginative play

•Collect all three PJ Masks Save the Sky Vehicle sets including: Catboy, Owlette, and Gekko. (Each sold separately)

Available here;

https://www.smythstoys.com/uk/en-gb/toys/pre-school-and-electronic-learning/pj-masks/pj-masks-save-the-sky-gekko-and-gekko-mobile-set/p/192466

Save the Sky Gekko set

I asked Ita for her opinion on what she liked the most and she said immediately that she liked the secret lair in the Romeo’s Flying Factory playset. I think typically this is because she quite likes secret compartments in toys. She then explained to me that she liked Gekkos ‘’green car’’ because she can make ‘‘him drive fast and crash into the sky so he flies away’’. I also noticed she played with this for considerable amount of time where as with the bigger play set, she explored it more.

Personally I think the smaller sets make really good ‘’little’’ gifts, especially stocking fillers. If I was to only purchase one I would likely have gone for the bigger playset but I do think it would require you to purchase the other characters too.

Overall, comparing the items with others on the market right now, they are both good value for money. Although they are meant to be for 3 years +, I think children slightly younger would enjoy them too!

The Marriott Regents Park Hotel Staycation (With Elmer the Patchwork Elephant)

Press Visit

It’s no secret that this year has scuppered our travel plans. We were really fortunate to have gone to Dubai in January but our dream holiday to Disneyworld was cancelled and our ‘make up for it’ trip to Disneyland Paris was also vetoed. The thing about holidays and breaks away is that they really are essential for me. I work from home mostly and manage cases of significant child abuse. I don’t really get that feeling of closing the office door and much of my work lingers in my mind. Our trips away really give me the re-set that is absolutely essential when working in this line of work. In fact, holidays provide this for so any people. A re-set. Aside from this, they are often the places where families make the fondest memories that they go on to tell year after year.

Ita with Elmer!

With all this in thought, on the weekend we had a much needed ‘staycation’ in London. Ok so we didn’t exactly travel far, but the night away provided us with the little break we so badly craved! We packed our over night bags and drove to Regents Park where we stayed at The Marriott Hotel.

Currently, Marriott Hotel Regents Park has a special ‘’Celebrate Elmer the Patchwork Elephant’s 30th Anniversary’’ offer for families.

This offer includes:

• An overnight stay in a spacious Deluxe Family Room

• A welcome gift for children (choose from an Elmer themed gift such as a patchwork rucksack, costume, book or comfort blanket alongside some sweet treats)

Our lovely surprise!

Ita loves Elmer and spotted the colourful patchwork elephant as soon as we made our way from the carpark to the hotel reception. I genuinely believe that seeing Elmer subtly let Ita know that this was going to be a fun stay for her. Immediately we got the sense that the hotel was incredibly child friendly and this was confirmed by the lovely host upon check-in. Our room was not quite ready so my number was taken and we decided to venture to Camden Town. We took a black cab which was waiting outside and it cost us £8.

After mooching around Camden for a little while, I received a call to let me known our room was ready and Ita was very keen to head back and check out our room. We were very impressed and even more so when Ben from reception called up to make sure that we had everything we needed.

I have to admit, I was blown away by the size of the family room. There was lots of space and having the Elmer goodies ready and waiting made Ita feel incredibly special. Straight away she wanted to do the activity booklet.

It’s completing her Elmer activity pack

After an hour of Ita jumping on the huge bed, we were ready for our pool booking.

Due to covid and the necessary precautions, you must book the pool and gym amenities and this can be doing via reception. You simply choose a time and you can access the area for an hour. This is to ensure only a limited amount of people are in the pool at any one time. I would suggest booking this asap because the pool and gym is actually part of a leisure centre and not just for the hotels residents.

The pool was clean and warm and an hour was definitely long enough as Ita was visibly shattered afterwards. We had planned to eat at the hotel restaurant but because Ita was so tired we decided to order a pizza to eat in our room! Currently Carluccios, the restaurant attached to the hotel, is closed and so is the hotels main restaurant. Although, you can order and eat in the lobby area. For us, this actually worked in our favour because the simplicity of eating dinner in our room added to feeling comfortable and relaxed. Fortunately the hotel is well placed for lots of local good food too!

Of course there was bed jumping…

After, what felt like the best nights sleep, we got ready for breakfast. We headed down stairs to the ground floor where a buffet style set up was arranged. You can go up to the station and choose your food, but a member of staff puts the food onto your plate for you. The breakfast room was spacious and the food was really good. The selection was well varied for even the fussiest of eater! We were so pleased that we were able to eat breakfast in the dining room. Safety measures were in place with staff wearing PPE. Simply being able to sit down and drink a warm coffee was lovely.

Check out was quick and simple thanks to the quick service check-out. I don’t think we ever used these before having a child but now they are an absolute blessing!

The staff at Marriott’s Regents Park were all so courteous and friendly.

I asked Ita what her favourite part of the stay was and she said ‘’swimming’’. Had we been able to stay longer, I would have booked a pool slot for the Sunday too. Instead, we had just enough time to walk around and see a few of the many animals placed around the hotel. I can honestly say though, Ita loved this break and it was largely down to Elmer and the thoughtful Elmer gifts.

An idea of some of the goodies children get to pick from

I know I have already said this but the hotel really is perfectly situated for seeing London. Although we headed to Camden, the hotel is very close to central London as well as other family friendly places to explore such as;

ZSL London Zoo – 1.6km away 

Camden Market – 1.6km away

Madame Tussauds – 3.1km away

Hyde Park – 4.3km away

Oxford Street – 7.4km away

There is even a Regents Park Mystery Treasure Trail!

We have previously done detailed posts on ZSL London Zoo and Madame Tussauds so do check them out. It is handy to know that Merlin do offers on their attractions and again, booking ahead secures you with really good deals.

We had a thoroughly enjoyable stay. The hotel was large and clean and our room was perfect for a family break. We all felt very safe and the precautions that Marriott Regents Park Hotel have put in place are enough to keep you safe without impeding in your stay. I think staycations are going to be popular because of all of the uncertainty when it comes to travelling. And as such, this is one offer I really recommend booking up. Having had a quick look, there is availability during the Half Term and a few weekends throughout November and December. This hotel would be ideal if you are hoping to visit London over the festive season.

The hotel is so clean and has lots of these hand sanitiser stations

This family offer (with Elmer) is running until 16 January 2021.

For further information or to book your stay, click the link below.

https://www.marriott.co.uk/hotels/hotel-deals/lonrp-london-marriott-hotel-regents-park/

By way of a quick round up;

The collaboration with Elmer is only running until 16 January 2021

The hotel is centrally located to London’s top attractions

The hotel has a car park

The hotel has a pool and gym (remember to book your slots!)

The restaurant is currently closed but there are lots of food outlets locally

Don’t forget to check out our IGTV of our stay!

Thank you so much to Marriott Regents Park for hosting us.

Outside the hotel 🐘

Halloween Festival, Marsh Farm Essex

(Press Trip)

We have just returned home from a brilliant day at Marsh Farm and all I want to do it talk about it! As always, the theme is eccentric and detailed and we had such a ghoulishly fun day.

Ita and Frank

At the moment, you can buy tickets to either the pumpkin patch or the halloween festival (which includes access to the pumpkin patch). From the moment we entered the farm we could see lots of pumpkins and decorations and we even got to meet a character straight away.

I think I have spoken about this a lot, but meeting “characters” is one of the best things you can do from a child’s point of view. It really brings it to life! Ita also met Frankenstein and a fortune teller! There were also other characters including an incredibly tall skeleton, a wizard and a walking pumpkin!

Ita collecting her sweeties from the beautiful fortune teller

To start off with, we played a quick round of crazy golf. I always convince Ita that crazy golf starts at the 8th hole… thank me later parents! The area here is not manned so golf clubs are sorted into ones that are clean and ones that need to be disinfected but the signs are very obvious.

We then headed to the 3D cinema to watch Hansel and Gretal. The show is on quite frequently but remember you need to wear a mask inside unless you’re exempt – they do have ones on the door which I was really impressed with because as good as we are, Dominic forgot his today and we thought it would mean that we had to miss certain things out. Ita loved the show – it wasn’t scary at all so perfect of your child is slightly apprehensive about Halloween. (Just like Ita is!).

Pumpkin picking!

There are 2 small fairground rides situated just by the 3D cinema so Ita went on these and then we decided to collect our Halloween Quiz sheet to hopefully follow the trail and win a sweet treat! To collect your form, you need to head to where the bouncy pillow is. Ita actually got one wrong (LOL to blaming the child) but she was given a riddle and asked to repeat it to the fortune teller. The fortune teller must know all of the riddles off by heart because she knew which question Ita had gotten incorrect. Long story short, Ita got her treats! The story tellers set up is brilliant and is such a gorgeous photo opportunity.

Close by was the pumpkin patch so we headed there. The field was packed with lots of pumpkins and different squash but it was quite busy so we didn’t spend much time here. Again, there are lots of photo set ups. All gorgeous and detailed. When you enter the farm you are given a £3 voucher for a pumpkin and there are actually lots available at decent sizes for this price.

There is also a Halloween funfair here now and it looks really good! It was just a tad too scary for us but what a fab addition to the event!

Yet another photo opportunity

The Halloween Festival includes:

🧟 Spooky Walkaround Entertainment
🎃 Free Pumpkin to the value of £3 per full paying child
🎃 Free entry to our Pumpkin Village
🎥 3D Halloween Cinema
🤪 Adventure Play
⛱️ Sand Pit Fun
⛳ Crazy Golf
🍔 Takeaway Food & Drink
🐷 Adorable Animals
🎠 Carousel and Tea Cup Rides
🤪 Outdoor Play
🏰 Bouncy Pillows
👻 Spooky Fun Fair

The Christmas shop is also open and the ornaments and decorations had me thinking about putting up my tree on 1 Nov… I might still do that!

Anyway back to Halloween… You must book your tickets in advance and the Halloween is only on from 24 – 31 October!

https://ticketing.partyman.co.uk/WebStore/shop/ViewItems.aspx?CG=MF&C=mfhf

Prices are dependent on age but start at £15.99.

We had a brilliant day. I honestly believe that Marsh Farm go to such lengths for their events and it really shows. It is not one to be missed!

Winnifred Sanderson (Hocus Pocus) DIY Costume

After posting this photo of Ita as Winnifred Sanderson from Hocus Pocus, I was blown away by the response. Mostly because we all know Ita isn’t the biggest Halloween fan, so this was the only character she wanted to be… and because buying this costume in the UK is completely unattainable, I put this together myself.

It’s just a bunch of…

I received so many messages asking whether I would consider selling the costume but the truth is, it was a DIY job and is just not good enough to sell on to someone!

Instead, I am going to try and help you to put together this costume, or a very similar and recognisable version anyway.

Firstly, the most recognisable part of Winnie’s outfit is definitely her ginger curly hair and her green cape/dress. These were the first 2 factors that I started looking for. The cape was relatively easy since I had resided myself to the fact that it wouldn’t be the exact same as the one from the movie.

CAPE:

I used this one from Amazon priced at £8.99. You can find similar versions on eBay and Wish for about £5.99 but these could take a long time to arrive and I didn’t think it was worth the risk.

Green velvet hooded cape

https://www.amazon.co.uk/VGLOOKO-Hooded-Halloween-Cosplay-Costumes/dp/B073P6L3WM/ref=sr_1_5?dchild=1&keywords=green+childs+cape&qid=1602693107&sr=8-5

I am sure this is the same cape for slightly cheaper;

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/Halloween-Christmas-Hooded-Cloak-Robe-Medieval-Witchcraft-Cape-Robe-Costume/264887939051?_trkparms=aid%3D555018%26algo%3DPL.SIM%26ao%3D2%26asc%3D20160908110712%26meid%3D17e42781c3af4a4c8193790a2a4248be%26pid%3D100677%26rk%3D1%26rkt%3D30%26mehot%3Dnone%26sd%3D273505039761%26itm%3D264887939051%26pmt%3D1%26noa%3D0%26pg%3D2386202%26algv%3DSimplAMLv5PairwiseWeb&_trksid=p2386202.c100677.m4598

You will see that in Winnies costume, she has elongated sleeves but I could not replicate this. Instead I decided to cut the cape so that the bottom curved and then use gold paint to draw on the symbols – again, just like Winnies. I hoped this would distract from the sleeves and I think it did the job!

The paint was Dylon in GOLD 43 and was around £2.50 from ebay. I totally winged the symbols so who knows what they mean!

Gold cloth paint

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/DYLON-3D-FABRIC-CLOTHES-PAINT-GLOSSY-PUFF-PEARL-AVAILABLE-/192364454497?var=&ul_ref=https%253A%252F%252Frover.ebay.com%252Frover%252F1%252F710-53481-19255-0%252F1%253Fff3%253D4%2526pub%253D5574631662%2526toolid%253D10001%2526campid%253D5338624526%2526customid%253D25b3e5d9a6c6650180eab918ae20199c%2526mpre%253Dhttps%25253A%25252F%25252Fwww.ebay.co.uk%25252Fitm%25252FDYLON-3D-FABRIC-CLOTHES-PAINT-GLOSSY-PUFF-PEARL-AVAILABLE-%25252F192364454497%25253Fvar%25253D%2526srcrot%253D710-53481-19255-0%2526rvr_id%253D2642855962288%2526rvr_ts%253D27fc590b1750ad3952b51039ff1aa20c

I did also intend to glue gold robe along the edge of the cape but I did not have enough left after creating the bodice on the dress. I don’t think it makes a huge difference but if I had some I would have definitely added it. I think it would have created weight to the cape (which is very light) so it would have flowed better.

I then simply used an old brooch to tie the cape together at the front and used a slight bit of elastic at the back to create the illusion that it was more fitted then it really is.

HAIR:

Winnies red curly hairstyle is really synonymous to Hocus Pocus so I knew I had to get this part right to make the outfit recognisable. Many of the wigs were simply way to expensive. One from America was over $130 so it was totally out of the question. There was one for £40 on eBay but I did think it was slightly too expensive so I decided to make my own. It was actually far easier than I expected.

I cannot find the exact same one that I used but if you search ‘ginger curly wig’ plenty of options will come up and you will be able to choose the best option based on your budget. The one we used was approx. £12.

This one is very similar. One with a long fringe is ideal because it provides you with the ability to make it look a bit messy.

Wig from eBay

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/GINGER-RED-COPPER-Costume-fashion-party-Long-Curly-Straight-Wavy-Women-full-WIG/321842347431?_trkparms=ispr%3D1&hash=item4aef4c7da7:g:DQYAAOSw~gRV2w~k&amdata=enc%3AAQAFAAACcBaobrjLl8XobRIiIML1V4Imu%252Fn%252BzU5L90Z278x5ickk5v8gVt3hEWLVg%252F253w6XCalRzIjGcY45H3ozH%252B1MxBKjy2BUmsgp5MSguqteU6jsSb0BYiDGa4Bdde29vuw%252FgQRnbyBHTgTXx458yDn39Qyq5prbg%252FwxujN%252F%252BG6d8xamGH7uewYcQA%252BHQsEF%252BhBmERxtOn84ZyEayJHeLG3%252BgZu3wL1vYvZHEaWFjU62hRSwwZMX%252FUaWRa91lMJqqHyZEHY5qlEHoQfn%252FDPBjRguzsvnc6c6CCpMCLLoiTPCVra7FLOqZC8Ibl3vivIS%252BeOCGvnzzERfi66KtnZl32CTVd03vGydJIY3yYrB2NZXNooRy05NqTWJu3z7nRVJ4bmLuWfkzxQaX02V9RxLBBxaz76OEmNLE7z5MVKKBppmuwNdurs2EbHkA8E1Pu9LshsecCJZA8EesVXZVLugb0uY2OMg7Jz4JiTqAzQw43%252FO8TEx2EwFvVe2GCx73GBaPc%252BcZ8VykRklK0SOjP9kcmBqd%252BGjT8DEnW5EFdX9RzIfZYLjPxOWwe0thoOMssXKX7JXmhj9VW4EKrseUa1bgBui5vDlekkoEi9DFVS8JzIx5WS%252FNaum7BtNfhSQlpDEs7bi06J9hhqzjBHPGyAHjcW4hY7gM17C2IELDP56iUGXEldw3vOCsiMUQuiI664lWardo9ySukvfQTDnTKYvY4ah6ubMZUPmpfFqPrw3jF9lE%252Bj5AK6F1xsMyDZzoJ9UwMCdPEAEi%252BYEwa4gZtwDYSMPgsiMvi6nwnWlph32QKX6aCOCpHuL02sAozQysrsWDhRpWA%253D%253D%7Ccksum%3A321842347431077c28957d4c4eb880ee17bbca627652%7Campid%3APL_CLK%7Cclp%3A2334524

Ok so making the wig into Winnies hair…

You will need LOTS of hairspray and pins for this. LOTS. I also wish that I had used 2 small doughnuts for this too as I think it would have been far easier to pin into place.

Essentially the goal is to create two space buns and cover them with curls.

Start by separating the hair into pig tails. Tie one section to keep it separate.

Take the first side and (keeping the fringe and some strands separate), tie it into a high pig tail. Once tied up, you can either curl the wig on a lower heat or you can twist strands into a curl and pin this way. I curled much of the wig because I felt it looked better. Then repeat on the other side.

You might find it ends up looking surprisingly neat. So gently pull the hair from the front to create more of a bouffant look.

I know this sounds difficult, but it is easier than you think! You can keep adjusting it until it looks right. Use plenty of hairspray to keep it in place.

I have googled Winnifred Sanderson countless times and in almost every photo her hair looks different. It just has to be recognisable.

DRESS:

Under Winnies green cape is a purple dress with a gold laced bodice. This was so hard to find and the closest I came to it was this below.

Purple witches dress

https://www.partydelights.co.uk/halloween-costumes/childrens-be-witched-costume-11242.aspx?ChosenSize=FANC11243&gclid=EAIaIQobChMIwsOV7ce07AIVB7LtCh1yNw06EAQYASABEgKEWfD_BwE

I removed the silver buckle and using the gold rope that I bought from eBay, hot glued it along the already existing black bodice.

MAKE-UP:

I think it goes without saying that for Winnie, its all about the lips. So I simply used a bit of red lipstick drawn only in the middle of Itas lips to create the look.

So as you can see, it was quite a bit of effort. Ita absolutely loved it though! So much so that I took around 50 photos just trying to capture one of her not smiling!

She just wanted to keep smiling!

Peter Pan Afternoon Tea, The Shard

Nothing will make up for the fact that we have cancelled 2 Disney trips this year, but we do feel Ita’s disappointment and so when we heard that The Shard would be doing a themed Peter Pan tea, we booked as soon as we could.

Details of the tea 🧚‍♀️

The afternoon tea takes place on the 31st floor. For those who have not visited before, you take a very quick elevator to the top and you must go through metal detectors and have your personal belongings checked upon entering the building. There was a queue to enter the building and you’re advised to therefore arrive around 15 minutes before your booking. Ita, dressed as Tinkerbell no least, was whisked through security and complimented on her rightfully themed choice of dress!

This was actually where the magic started and we had no idea. In the lift we met a man called David from Northern Ireland, who told Ita she looked like a princess and asked her was she excited for the afternoon tea. Ita made no bones about telling him she was tinkerbell and was very much looking forward to it! David, turned out to be the Front-of-House Manager at Aqua Shard and he made our visit so much more than we could have expected.

David made Ita sit on top of the chairs to get a photo – things like this, where children are treated as if they are special guests, make experiences so memorable 🧚‍♀️

Once we were seated, we were greeted by Alessandro, who again made such a fuss about Ita and explained to us what was in store. He kindly noted that because Ita was so small, she would be eating from our afternoon tea and even went as far as bringing her some separate ham and cheese sandwiches. This is where understanding families is so important – we were not made to feel uncomfortable about not getting Ita afternoon tea. It was totally understood and Ita’s sandwiches were complimentary. In fact, she was still offered the Never Grow Up mocktail which really was so thoughtful. (Big thank you so Allessandro for this!).

Delivery of our afternoon tea

The presentation of the afternoon tea is magical. It arrives on a big ship just like Captain Hooks and then dry ice is poured from the back as if the ship is flying through clouds. Ita was mesmerised! Best yet, the ship remains there for your stay and isn’t taken away as a short lived prop. This is so well thought out and executed. I honestly believe that even as an adult you’re blown away by the creativity. David told us how much went into the planning of this and it was obvious.

There savoury treats were possibly one of the best we’ve ever had at an afternoon tea. My husband especially liked the “baked pig” which was a caramelised onion sausage in puff pastry and I loved the codfish Captain Hook! The “tick tock tinkerbell” was so cute because they actually spray gold “fairy dust” over the desert, right in front of you!

Who’s more excited?

There are also two signature drinks- ‘Never Grow Up’ punch made out of pineapple, elderflower tonic and grenadine. (This was Ita’s mocktail). And ‘Fairy Dust’, containing mint and cucumber flavoured vodka, absinthe, apple, ginger and lime. I stuck with the champagne because that’s my little tipple during an afternoon tea.

I cannot compliment the staff that we came into contact with more. They were all so polite and friendly. Natalia kept checking everything was ok and made such an effort to speak directly to Ita. It was such a lovely experience because of the efforts that these team members went to. To top it all off, once we had finished, we were politely escorted to the other end of the restaurant where two cocktails were waiting for us, all thanks to David! What a surprise! We are truly so grateful.

The magic ship!

This themed tea will be around for a good time yet and I would absolutely recommend it. I have nothing to fault whatsoever. We have a bit of a reputation for our love of afternoon teas and in our opinion… It’s the best themed afternoon tea currently running in London. HANDS DOWN! Yup. Quite a statement!

The Peter Pan afternoon tea is £52 pp and currently only running 4 days a week, Thursday to Sunday. This is being extended to 6 days a week.

You can book here via this link to reservations;

https://aquashard.co.uk/experience

The Peter Pan themed tea is in partnership with Great Ormond Street and £2 from every person going will be donated to the hospital.

The biggest of thank yous to David, Natalia and Alessandro for making our visit so memorable! 🧚‍♀️

The menu

Tonies Review

A few weeks ago I posted some new stories that Tonies are releasing (to my stories on Instagram). These releases included a few Disney ones such as Frozen, Toy Story and Cinderella. In response, I received lots of messages and 2 mums in particular asked me to provide a review on them, as they are considering buying a Tonies box for their children come Christmas.

Itas collection so far!

Ita has had her Tonies box now for almost a year and has used it every day since receiving it! She was sent it last year to demonstrate and took to it straight away. Every morning she chooses a story and that’s how we start the day.

Tonies is basically an audio story book, especially designed for children. They describe it as “an imagination-building, screen-free digital listening experience full of stories, songs and more”. And I have to agree! Often, the box is playing stories in the background whilst Ita is playing with other things and it has cut her use of TV down dramatically.

Ita was one of those children who had zero screen time until she was around 13 months. (Believe me when I say that killed me!) but when we learnt she had sight problems at 15 months, you can just imagine my reaction. Sods Law or what! As I didn’t allow for screen time, we would typically listen to the radio a lot and my phone would always be blaring nursery rhymes via YouTube. I wish we had a Tonies as far back as then because they have little story books totally suitable for this age – singing ABCs etc. We have actually just bought a ToniesBox for our nieces as their main Christmas present. They will only be 16 months and 4 months in December but they will be able to benefit immediately and they will still be using it at Itas age and beyond.

Setting up the box is quick and easy. It took about 10 minutes all in all and you only need to set it up once. The adventures begin automatically when you place a Tonie (the characters) on top of the Toniebox. It magically (and magnetically) attaches to the box, allowing you to listen to something different every time. It is so simple to use that Ita does not need any help.

The Toniebox instantly recognises who’s standing on top, and they have the magic key. The key unlocks the right audio files so the box can download them from the Toniecloud. The story will begin immediately.

The ToniesBox is £69.99 (it was just on offer for £62 so keep your eyes peeled). Each story is £14.99 and we have a small collection so far. I have just ordered Room on the Broom and will be purchasing other stories in the next few months as Christmas presents for Ita. Especially the Christmas Carol one! Not only are there well known books available, but there are also educational Tonies too such as dinosaurs and sea animals.

Our favourite

The design is very simple and it does not flash colours or take up lots of space. This is why as a parent, I really rate the ToniesBox. I personally like that it doesn’t attract attention because it doesn’t distract Ita from doing other things whilst it’s on. I have also found that because the design is so simple, she does not keep messing around with it!

I really love our ToniesBox and I think it’s one of my favourite “toys” that Ita has. It is definitely worth the price and I think anything that stimulates a child’s imagination is brilliant.

Here is the link to the shop;

https://tonies.com/en-gb/shop/

The Snow Centre, Hemel Hempstead Hertfordshire

In March (before the Covid19 lockdown), we were invited to The Snow Centre in Hemel Hempstead, Hertfordshire for a 2 hour session of skiing. None of us have ever skied before, so myself and my husband were nervous and didn’t know what to expect, whereas Ita was so excited and couldn’t wait to get her equipment on and hit the snow.

Ita with her instructor

We entered the Snow Centre half an hour before our allotted time (it gave us plenty of time to get our equipment and feel comfortable with our surroundings), we checked in and were told to head to a designated waiting area, which was next to the equipment rental area (helmets, boots and skis) and the locker room area.

We then got changed into our thermal outdoor wear, and finally our boots (this was not an easy process). We waited for our instructor to arrive and were then lead to the snow.

Our instructor was amazing, he was firstly so encouraging to Ita and made her feel so safe, he gave her the confidence to do loads of different activities on the snow, like jumping, turning, slowing down, etc.

He also could see our competence levels were quite low and was very accommodating. There was no pressure to do anything too extreme or beyond what we were capable of doing.

We started off by getting our skis on the snow and moving around, we then crab walked up the slope (harder then it sounds) so we could slowly glide down and come to a stop, we then added a jump (which Ita nailed completely), Daddy on the other hand, not so much.

We then used the lift to get us higher up the slope and proceeded to try and do turns and then eventually stop. Again, Ita was brilliant at this and managed to do it with little to no problems, Daddy again on the other hand could not HAHAHA.

The 2 hour session was really hard for us, we were really tired afterwards and our legs were in agony – but as beginners I believe the 2 hour session is essential as we got so much done and became quite comfortable on the snow at the end. My husband was getting so tired towards the end and he kept on falling over, so I think it was the perfect duration for us all.

The Ski Centre has 2 large slopes, one of which is for the more accomplished skier, and the other is mostly used for lessons, which is obviously where we were based. Both slopes are 30m wide, this came in handy with the amount of people doing lessons at one time. There is plenty of room to get used to being on the slope.

Our video of the experience

The Snow Centre offers a wide range of lessons for the complete beginner to the want-to-be professional. You can get a family lesson booking also which is what we did, the prices vary depending on the amount of hours you want to take and also the amount of people.

https://www.thesnowcentre.com/lessons/families

Also available are Snow Fun activities which include Snow Boarding, Free Styling and also a potential Birthday Party experience where kids and adults can go down the Ringo Slide (which looks like so much fun)

https://www.thesnowcentre.com/snow-fun/summer-2020-activities