five tips for a brighter winter

Okay, I know the run up to Christmas is fun and full of glitz and excitement but it’s also easy to fall into a bit of a funk on dark days and cold nights, wanting to stay in and basically hibernate until spring. I know I feel like that most winters, I miss the heat of the sun on my face and the carefree feeling of not needing to wrap up warm to venture out of the house.

Don’t get me wrong I love Christmas and the promise of snow (although I only want a dusting and it needs to be gone in a day or two) but there’s no denying it, winter can turn me into a bit of a Debbie Downer.

That being said I have a few tricks up my sleeve to keep me focused on the good things and embrace all the positive elements of November and December.

1.             When the weather is bright and sunny, go out and enjoy it!

Yes, it’s still cold but I know that some vitamin D will do me (and the kids) the world of good. My body runs cold which is why I find it difficult to go out (unless I have to) at this time of year – but I always feel better for a good walk around the park or a day at the coast. There’s something about being out in the cold air that makes coming home so much more satisfying.  It also gives me much more energy for the rest of the day, and leaves me feeling happier and contented.

In these pictures I’m wearing a silver coat from Lighthouse, which is quilted (on the inside) for warmth and 100% waterproof, so it’ll keep me warm and dry when I’m out on these cold walks.

2.             Light a winter/ Christmas candle or two

I know I bang on about candles all the time but they honestly brighten my mood in a matter of seconds. I don’t know if it’s the warm light or the subtle aroma (probably both) but I instantly feel better once I’ve lit a candle or two. At the moment I’m loving this candle I picked up from TK Maxx (okay, I may have picked up a few of them) for £7.99, it smells amazing with the aromas of frosted pine, which is my idea of the perfect Christmas scent. It’s fresh, yet comforting and of course very festive.

3.             Watch a good Feel-Good Christmas Film

This is real guilty pleasure territory here, I’m such a sucker for a good, cheesy Hallmark style Christmas Movie. You know, the ones you’ll find on Christmas 24 or every day (at the moment) on Channel 5. I know this is not for everyone but honestly don’t knock them until you’ve tried one. There’s nothing that gets me into the Christmas spirit more than watching a girl called Holly or Faith or Hope find her Christmas Wish or Festive Love (or both) in a beautifully decorated house or “Inn” in a small American town. These films are my winter soul food.

4.             Go to bed early

For some reason I get so much more tired (and then run down) at this time of year. I don’t know if it’s the cold weather or the central heating but I’ve noticed that I need more sleep during the winter. So in the interest of feeling brighter in the day, I’ve made a promise to myself that I won’t stay up late for no good reason, like I do the rest of the year. I need my sleep and I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure I get it!

5.             Hot Chocolate – with all the trimmings

Now I’d happily drink hot chocolate all year long but the reality is, I don’t. For me hot chocolate is what I drink in winter when I need a comforting liquid pick-me-up that I know will warm me up in seconds. I don’t drink normal tea or coffee so for me the only options are warm Ribeana, mint tea or hot chocolate. However, hot chocolate is the one that makes me feel happiest and content. For the king of all hot chocolates this winter head to Hotel Chocolat for their amazing Salted Caramel & Clementine Christmas Hot Chocolate (£9). It had me at ‘Salted Caramel’ and of course I have to add the whipped cream and mini marshmallows for the best pick me up in a mug possible!

So if you’re feeling sluggish this winter, take a leaf out of my book and get out and about… and when you get home burn some candles, while watching a good film with a mug of hot chocolate.

A Bonfire Night Feast - Next Level S'moresA Bonfire Night Feast - s'mores

Bonfire night has turned into a big event in our house as it’s also Poppy’s birthday. She was born the morning after our local fireworks display five years ago, and now gets to celebrate her birthday every year with a fun fireworks party in our garden.

As we live near the village park (where our local display takes place), we’re able to sit in our garden and watch the fireworks from the comfort of our garden chairs, with lots of cushions, and blankets on our laps. I also make sure there’s plenty of delicious food ready to serve up during the 30 minute show.

The Menu

Mugs of Creamy Butternut Squash Soup

A Bonfire Night FeastA Bonfire Night Feast

A mug of this creamy Butternut Squash Soup is my idea of comfort food heaven, and the perfect way to keep our hands warm on a cold November night.

Bonfire Night Chilli and Rice

A Bonfire Night Feast - chilli A Bonfire Night Feast

Chilli is Poppy’s absolute favourite dish. I make it very mild (for the kids) and incredibly rich and thick, just the way she likes it. A bowl of Chilli is also ideal lap food on the night, it’s warming and great to enjoy while watching the big display.

Next-level S’Mores

A Bonfire Night Feast A Bonfire Night Feast

These next level S’more were initially created as a birthday treat, based on a selection of Poppy’s favourite puddings. By adding small pieces of chocolate brownies, caramel rice crispy cakes and toffee popcorn into the s’mores I think we’ve managed to come-up with something pretty amazing. If you’re going to be naughty… you may as well go the whole way!

You can read more about our Bonfire Night traditions, along with the recipes to these winter warmers on the Marks & Spencer website.

And just like that the half-term break is over and the kids have gone back to school. Our week had a very distinct Halloween feel with lots of dressing-up, spooky themed parties, pumpkin crafts and the girls talking non-stop about ghoulish makeup and going trick-or-treating.

When did Halloween become this big here in the UK? I feel like I ask this question every year. Was it this big when I was young? Maybe it was here in England but I’m pretty sure it wasn’t in my small Welsh town. Yes, my mum would make a witch’s costume for me out of some old black material and bin liners, to wear to the school’s Halloween disco – but that was about it. We definitely didn’t go ‘tick-or-treating’, and we never had anyone knock on our door dressed up expecting sugary treats.

Anyway, enough of the ‘good ol’ days’, my girls are obsessed with Halloween, they look forward to it all year long. I’d say it’s their second favourite time of year (behind Christmas, for obvious reasons), especially for Poppy who also celebrates her birthday around this time. We often tease her that she’s a witch because she was born near Halloween, and she’s more than happy to go along with the joke. She has a very strong fascination with witches and anything to do with them. I’ve noticed that there have been lots of new witch based dramas and cartoons popping up on our screens in the past few years, so maybe it is a ‘thing’?

Anyway, back to Halloween, this year we got our spooky outfits from Asda, who have an amazing collection of inexpensive costumes (from £6). Lili went for a Circus Girl costume and Poppy went for a ‘Halloween Queen’ outfit, which is a ragged dress with a sash and a black crown. I opted for an evil queen costume and Iris will be our good little witch in a cute little dress and hat combo.

Last Wednesday we were invited to a haunted house party organised by the brilliant people at Bear Nibblesto celebrate their exciting limited edition Halloween Claws packs, that have new monsters, as well as collectible glow in the dark trick or treat stickers inside (you can get these in Asda, as well as Tesco and Sainsbury’s). We had so much fun apple bobbing, decorating pumpkins, dancing and playing countless themed games. The girls were in their element and even Iris joined in on more than a few occasions.

Bear Nibbles are the creators of CLAWS, my personal Halloween treat of choice. The genius of Claws is this… the kids think they’re eating a sweet treat, they look like sweet treats, they taste like sweet treats, even the bags are bright and colourful (like sweet treats) but they’re completely made from 100% fruit and vegetables with nothing bad added. They’re literally all good! The kids are happy and I’m happy because I know they’re not filling themselves with rubbish or refined sugar. Basically, I trick them – and they get a treat!

So come tomorrow night I’ll be offering these little bags of goodies at our door. Who knows what the girls will come back with from their tour around the neighbours… but I know they’ll be happy to dive into my stash of Claws, if we have any left!

Happy Halloween x




Disclaimer: This is a collaborated post with Bear Nibbles but all copy are my own and true. 

I’ve now been blogging for almost three years and it always amazes me the things that pop through the post. This week we were sent a bear dressing up kit from the people at Bear Nibbles, along with two of their newly revamped Alphabites cereal boxes. When Poppy saw the face paint kit, she got very excited and demanded I paint “a beautiful rainbow” on her face immediately! When I explained to her that she needed to dress up as a bear she gave me a look that said “are you serious?”. She’s definitely more goldilocks than bear, if you know what I mean. She has to be the girliest girl I’ve ever known!

On the other hand Iris is too little to have an opinion, so we decided she’d make the better (and cuter) bear cub.

Poppy did have a go with the ears though and was happy to tuck into the cereal, which she likes to eat dry like they were crisps or popcorn. I don’t mind though, because they’re much healthier than crisps and as she doesn’t eat any fruit (I know, it’s a problem) this is a good snack option for her.

The new Alphabites boxes are very cute! They’re shaped like Bears, with actual pop-up ears, arms on the side and a pom pom tail design on the back – and of course a friendly little bear face on the front.

I’ve mentioned this before but we love Bear Alphabites. They’re 100% natural and contain no added refined sugar or salt, which means they’re also a great snack or breakfast option for Iris, our youngest little cub.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post.

It’s Wednesday afternoon and I’ve just realised it’s Mother’s Day on Sunday. How did that crop up so quickly? I hope Dom and the girls have been more organised and have something lovely planned for me! My mum is staying with us this week as it’s been Iris’ birthday, so I really have no excuse. I should have planned something weeks ago but alas motherhood and general busyness took hold and I’m now feeling a little caught out.

When I was young (maybe seven or eight), I remember going to the local flower shop and buying a bunch of daffodils with some coins I’d got from my money box. I knew mum liked daffodils and thought it would be the perfect gift. To be honest I’d be more than happy with a bunch of brightly coloured daffodils from my girls come Sunday morning. Thinking back, I also remember creeping downstairs with my brother and attempting to make mum breakfast in bed.  I don’t think it would have been much more than some jam on toast and a glass of orange juice but we thought we were the best kids in the world, as we carried a tray of ‘breakfast’ up to my parent’s room.

As the years went on the bunch of daffodils turned into a box of chocolates, then perfume and more recently photograph gifts of the kids. For me Mother’s Day (just like Valentine’s Day and Father’s Day) is a lovely excuse to celebrate and treat our loved ones. My mum lives in Wales, but she travels up to visit us in London as often as she can (usually once every six weeks) and we speak on FaceTime most days. She’s the one person in my life that I can always depend on and is the person I want to talk to when I’m excited about something or feeling down and need a ‘pick-me-up’ chat. I hope she knows how much she means to me and the girls.

This year, Tesco have to come to my rescue with their range of experience gifts. Most of the vouchers can be bought immediately online and be used anytime over the next ten months. Having looked through the different options, I’ve chosen the Chocolate Afternoon Tea for Two at The Hilton, Green Park. What I really love about this ‘last minute’ gift is that as well as it being a lovely treat, I’m also buying quality time for us together. I hope she’s as excited about it as I am… CHOCOLATE Afternoon Tea. It literally incorporates three of my favourite things; afternoon tea, chocolate and my lovely mummy!

If you’ve left it to the last minute and need a little help in finding the perfect Mother’s Day gift, don’t panic because Tesco can help you too. They’re setting up Inspiration Stations in over 300 stores nationwide this Saturday, 25th March (the day before Mother’s Day) to help all stressed sons and daughters find the perfect gift. Each station will be manned by shopping experts who can make recommendations for a truly thoughtful, personalised gift. So no excuses, there’s no need to stick to the same old predictable gift this year.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post but all the words are my own and true.