Horrible Christmas at The Lowry (review)

Last night, we took ourselves off to The Lowry at Salford Quays to see Horrible Christmas.  

It was an absolutely fantastic show – a great opportunity for our family to spend some fun time together at Christmas.  I was howling with laughter at one point and our two girls, age 6 and 4, loved it. 

Horrible Christmas
Part of the Horrible Histories tour by the Birmingham Stage Company, the show tells the very funny story of how Christmas comes under threat from a bad Santa dressed in red – “Sydney Claus” played brilliantly by Chris Gunter.  It’s up to one young Wendy Watson to save the day, helped by Shirley Holmes.  

I love the Horrible Histories series and the show has reminded me to encourage my two girls to read/watch more of it. This show focussed on Victorian villains, Medieval monks, Puritans and Tudors, telling us how they celebrated Christmas in an extraordinarily funny way. 

My absolute favourite was King William’s rap (“I’ve got the crown, so get down!”) – not to be missed.  There were plenty of songs and actions for the audience to join in with, including a tune about how to stuff a Tudor turkey in King Henry VIII’s day. It involved a woodcock, a pheasant and a chicken – I remember well.  The Tudors were obviously fond of the 4-bird roast!

We travelled through time, learning about Charles Dickens, Oliver Cromwell, King Henry VIII, St Nicholas and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.  The show lasted for around 2 hours with an interval which was just right for the ages of my children (they managed to sit more or less still and the songs/actions meant they had an excuse for a wriggle every now and then!). 

If you can manage to get tickets for the show this Christmas, I recommend this show which is loads of fun for the family.  The Lowry is a fantastic venue, with lots of restaurants and shopping centre on the doorstep.  

Merry Christmas! Let the festivities begin! 

Disclosure:  We were invited free of charge to review this show.  All opinions are our own.  For more info please visit The Lowry website.

The best Christmas story ever, by a 6 year old 

Every day, I empty the school bags of my 6 and 4 year old girls.  Usually, alongside school notes and such, there are colourful drawings and scribbles a-plenty.  Nice as they are, I can’t keep all of them and find myself trying to stick them all on the fridge until we can’t reach the milk without fairy drawings falling on our heads.

Occasionally, there’s an absolute gem in those bags.  

This one will certainly get a re-telling by my husband one day in the future – forming part of his father-of-the-bride wedding speech.

Written by my 6 year old, it’s a heart-warming story of the magic of Christmas.  I hope you enjoy. 

Santa needs a wee

One day, Santa was riding his sleigh. But it was so fast, it made Santa need a wee and he didn’t notice he was doing the wee already.

A little bit of the wee came out of the sleigh hole already.  When Santa had finished, his pants were wet.  After a few minutes, the Christmas magic made his pants dry so he lived happily ever after. 

The end.

A November Christmas Tree


November Christmas Tree
It’s not still November. Honest.

The thing about leaving your 5 and 3 year old in a room with a box of decorations and an erect Christmas tree is that 10 minutes later you may well return to a fully embellished tree – albeit with all decorations in a specific area at roughly waist height.
The thing about having a 5 and 3 year old in the first place is that your brain no longer has sufficient logic and memory functionality to remember that it isn’t almost the first week in December at all.

There were still 2 weekends left in November when we put our tree up.

Oh well. It was actually more of a palava than I remember. After spending some time ensuring the top of the tree didn’t feel left out, we attempted the lights. What a ball ache!! It takes two of you, doesn’t it? One has to stand holding the nether end of the lights so they don’t get tangled while the other tried to wrap them round the unforgiving branches.

If you’re a couple that’s not especially into DIY and who dread anything that requires a step-ladder, this isn’t good news and not necessarily conducive to ‘Christmas cheer’.

So, the upside of early treemanship is that it’s over and bloody done with, looks nice and we can sit and look at it, feeling smug.

And…it’s definitely Christmas now in the Expression and Confession house! The girls are bouncing off the walls with excitement and asking how many days until Father Christmas comes.  They love making their ‘den’ under the tree and they’ve also written their letters to Mr FC himself!

We’ve got quite a few Christmas activities planned already – Christmas here we come!


letters to santa
Father Christmas will thank us for being so early


12 favourite blog posts of 2014

It’s New Year’s Eve, a time for reflection and New Year’s resolutions usually. I’m not doing any resolutions this year (see point 1, below!) but I did take some time to browse my blog posts over the past year. It was an interesting exercise – I realised I’d written a lot more than I thought this year and also remembered a lot of activities or events I’d already begun to forget.

It’s been one of the best years of my life – the year I married the best guy ever on the planet and father to our two children. It’s also had its ups and downs with childhood (and adult) illnesses causing stresses and strife.

Anyway, here goes with the top 12.

– First up in January, I wrote about New Year being a bad time to make resolutions. There’s so much pressure to stick to them that people rarely do! In general I tend to say I’m going to be healthier in January but that’s mainly due to the Christmas excess – this year it seems to have been copious amounts of Prosecco and chocolate!
– In February I wrote a post on 10 things I do in the first hour after the childrens’ bedtime. A warm bath featured strongly, as it still does.
– In March, I wrote about my Best Mum Moments for Mothers Day. That was really lovely to reflect on. I’m sure I’ve added some more since then, for example my 2 year old telling me she loves me.
– April’s favourite was about keeping sane through childhood illness. I went through one of those periods where one child falls sick, recovers and then the other falls sick. Incredibly stressful for childcare cover and just generally keeping everyone happy.
– In May, I decided to look at 10 ways I know my girls love each other. At the time, my now 2 year old had only just started walking really (what a difference a year makes!) and it was nice to see the beginnings of their pretend play sessions and cuddles. Now they cuddle-fight-play over and over.
– June saw my thoughts on turning 38. Hmmm. Tomorrow sees the beginning of the year in which I turn 39. Argh!! I always like to double my age and see if I could live my whole life again and still be alive. It’s starting to push it a bit!
– In July I reflected on a stage where I felt I was reaching normality again. I used to find it difficult to leave the house on my own without leaving an itinerary for my husband. Suddenly it felt like I could – they were less reliant on me and much more independent.
– In August I was gearing up for our wedding, so I didn’t blog much but I did write this piece on vegetable eating in kids. The best part being cooking up a huge tomato sauce with loads of veggies in it and blitzing it with a blender.
– September’s favourite posts is of course our wedding. I keep meaning to update it with new pics so that’s a potential task for 2015. It was such an amazing day. I really wish I could do it again.
– There was lots going on in the latter half of the year: as well as our wedding, our eldest daughter started preschool shortly afterwards and I wrote about receiving her first learning journey from her school. I loved this – she still never tells me what she gets up to at school so this day by day diary with photos was amazing to read.
– November saw my fledgling action plan for dealing with gyrating females on TV and not wanting my daughters to become infiltrated by the image they’re portraying of women. I stopped short of buying them a biography of Kate Adie, but maybe that’s one for the future.
– December’s favourite was easily our daughter’s first nativity. Absolutely loved it – she was fantastic and it was so special.

I wonder what 2015 will bring? Happy New Year everyone!


Why #blogmas went wrong

I had all the good intentions. I would blog every day at Christmas. It would be great – everyone would love my posts about nativities and Christmas crafts and how generally wonderful I am at Christmas at just about everything…

…and then basically “the shit hit the fan” as my Father would say and I got so busy and everything was such chaos that I didn’t even have time to look at Facebook (the horror), let alone blog every day. I’ve only looked at Twitter twice in the past week – twice!

At one point, I was shaking with sheer horror at the fact I’d set off to a party (late) and realised I’d forgotten the secret Santa presents, which would mean 2 children would be present-less if I didn’t immediately turn back for them.

We eventually got there and had a glass of Prosecco and everything was ok again.

However, amidst chaos there has been wonderment and joy- hooray! I fairly packed it in, didn’t I, our Christmas activity timetable.

It’s Christmas Eve and I thought I’d have a quick run through of what we’ve been doing over the past week or so as I thought it would be cathartic for myself it would be good to share.

The Winter Wonderland Experience

Last Saturday we took ourselves to Winter Wonderland at Event City at the Trafford Centre. The kids loved it- rides galore, sweet stalls, people dressed as elves and fairies dancing to Christmas tunes, a Frozen singalong session and a Sooty Show. It was very good actually- at the time we felt it was a bit pricey for basically an indoor fairground, but they did enjoy it lots.

Winter Wonderland, Trafford Centre

The eating of Lobster Thermidor

We are very, very lucky to have kind friends who invite us round at Christmas time to eat Lobster Thermidor. It was my first time eating this dish and I have to say it was really amazing. I can still taste it now – lovely cheesy béchamel sauce on top of amazing fresh lobster.

Lobster Thermidor

Many, many Christmas nights out

I never go out! And then suddenly I’m out like about 3 times a week. I’ve enjoyed it but at times I admit I’ve been on the floor with tiredness, craving a green vegetable juice. Below you can find myself and the very festive Hodge Podge Days after a tipple or two.

Liz and Jane

Ace Lantern Magic event at Chester Zoo

This was by far the best family activity we’ve done this Christmas, if not ever – Lantern Magic at Chester Zoo. It was really well organised and magical for the children. They entered an ice tunnel made from a big white tunnel-like tent and were greeted by elves who gave them lanterns and asked them to choose a colour of fairy dust to sprinkle over it. The adults got a big giant lantern, too. Then proceeded a walk through the zoo at night, with the trees magically lit with fairy lights. We were given glasses which made the lights take on the appearance of different animals. There were displays of animals lit up amongst the woods, a flying owl puppet, a visit to Santa’s grotto, a hot chocolate mid-way through the walk and a really good quality supper at the end. This is something I’d definitely do again next year.

Chester Zoo Magic Lanterns

Many, many children’s christmas parties

It’s one big party for the girls at the moment! Even today we are going to the Cristingle service at our church which for them will be like a big party with all their friends. We’ve had nursery party, playgroup parties and friend’s parties. They’ve had the most wonderful (and hyper) time.

Children's Christmas Parties

Today I’m busy preparing food so I can relax as much as possible tomorrow. Homemade cranberry sauce is done and I’m into parboiling potatoes. Merry Christmas everyone!

Putting the angel on the christmas tree

My fifteen festive favourites

Day 13 of #blogmas and I’ve been tagged to do my Festive Favourites by Hodge Podge Days. I enjoyed reading hers (bread sauce sarnie anyone?), so here are mine:

Favourite Festive Food. Camembert. You can often find a good, strong Camembert on a Christmas cheese board, but as I’m a vegetarian I have a whole baked Camembert to myself for Christmas dinner, dipping my roast veggies in as I go along. Nice.

Favourite Reindeer. I only know about Rudolph! So him. Why does he have a very shiny nose? I really don’t know. Which prompted me to find out. See later point on Christmas facts.

Favourite Day of Christmas. Christmas Eve. The anticipation, Cristingle service, stockings out and snacks for Santa and Rudolph, final preparations and a glass of fizz in the evening.

Favourite Christmas Song. I’m going to be really sad here. My 4 year old has been singing Away in a Manger a lot recently and it’s so cute, I’m going to have to say that.

Favourite Present: The best present ever would have to be my engagement ring from my husband (it was technically New Year’s Eve but we’ll call it Christmas! Still the festive season).

Favourite Festive Film. I’m not very good with Christmas films. I know Home Alone is on a lot and that’s always a winner. Groundhog Day is my favourite film of all time – pure genius – but I think that was actually released in February so doesn’t count. Erm…Elf?

Favourite Festive Cracker Toy. I like those little wine gem things that you hang off your glass. Never use them but they’re pretty. A bottle opener is always practical, too.

Favourite Cracker Joke. What do they sing at a snowman’s birthday party? Freeze a jolly good fellow

Favourite Christmas Decoration. Our Christmas angel, bought by my husband many years ago and now a deeply embedded tradition.

Favourite Christmas Candle Scent. Since having small children I’ve not used candles much and I love them. I’m now inspired to buy a Christmas candle! Something lightly spiced I guess.

Favourite Christmas TV Advert. I’ve not seen any – I’m always fast forwarding through the ads. Not even seen the John Lewis one.

Putting the angel on the christmas treeFavourite Festive Tradition. See favourite day of Christmas, above. Anything to do with that day!

Favourite Place to Spend Christmas. At home of course! It’s great for our two girls to wake up in their own home and excitedly dash about the place generally screaming.

Favourite Christmas Fact. Norwegian scientists have hypothesized that Rudolph’s red nose is probably the result of a parasitic infection of his respiratory system.

Favourite Snowman Accessory. His scarf. It’s nonsensical. I like it.

I’m tagging the following to do their festive favourites and looking forward to reading them!

Wife, Mum and Student Bum

The Secret Father

Tattooed Mummy

Nativity play preschool Angel costume

First nativity (who’s the most tearful?…)

Nativity play preschool Angel costume
psssst…it was Daddy who was the most tearful…

Day 12 of #blogmas and after a few days’ hiatus due to the usual winter terror of preschool virus hell, I’m turning my attention to the subject of my 4 year old’s first nativity.

This morning, we watched her perform as an angel which was so lovely – a heart-warming experience. I’ve never watched children perform in a nativity play in my life, so watching our own daughter was amazing.

Reflecting on the morning, there are 3 things that I feel define the whole event.

Utter chaos. Getting to school on time is chaos enough in the morning, so imagine ushering eager relatives and friends into the school hall while you get your child into her angel costume in a small, packed preschool classroom with everyone else trying to do the same. It was interesting, but it worked!

Excitement. Everyone was just excited to be there – as parents we felt really proud to be at our little one’s first nativity play and grandparents and close friends who had set out on a cold morning to see her were also eager to see her debut. The prospect of mince pies afterwards also helped.

Comedy: My little girl does like to put herself forward a bit. She was an angel- one of around 6- but she ensured she was the very last to sit down when supposed to, standing up and waving for just that bit longer, and she also carried on singing Jingle Bells for an extra bar or seven, too.

Emotion. It seems so clichéd to say we were tearful but there’s something about your little one performing in a nativity that makes you blub like nobody’s business. It’s just unbelievably cute and lovely and adorable and all those schmaltzy words.

As I write, at around 8pm, 4 year old is still not in bed due to residual excitability from the event of the year. In fact, I can hear her bouncing on the bed shouting “I WANT ANOTHER BOOK, DADDY!” So she enjoyed it! And we’re looking forward to more nativity plays to come.

I’m blogging every day this Christmas. Having said that, I didn’t do days 7-11 due to being in winter virus hell. Read day 6 here.

Santa's Grotto - 2 minutes of magic

Santa’s Grotto – 2 minutes of magic

Santa's Grotto - 2 minutes of magic
They’ve been waiting for this all year…

#blogmas day 6 and you’re all getting sick of me and the Christmas ramblings, but I’m enjoying keeping a record of what’s going on for us this year.

Yesterday evening saw the school Christmas Fair and my 4 year old was just so unbelievably excited about it. All afternoon she was asking if it was “time yet”.

It was also my first School Christmas Fair as a parent and I dutifully roped myself in for a stint on the chocolate tombola stand (interesting activity – some children won like 6 boxes of chocolates, others none. It was hectic. I needed wine afterwards). The parents were so heavily involved, manning stalls for booze tombola (didn’t win anything – bugger, had my eye on the prosecco, obviously), handmade jewellery, usborne books, cakes (lots of), tuck shop (with mulled wine and beer for the adults), face painting, some more that escape me and…

…a Santa’s Grotto.

This is what they were waiting for, my two girls! It lasted for 2 minutes, but it was 2 minutes of magic for them. A room decked out in white sparkling sheets and handmade snowflakes, with an elf waiting for them at the door to usher them into Santa. They sat next to him and explained to him that they were ‘being good’ (news to me) and got a present each.

I take my hat off to Santa and his elf helper, who had their work cut out seeing many, many children yesterday evening!

Read #blogmas day 5 here.

Happy christmas children

What do a 4 year old and 2 year old understand about Christmas?

Day 5 of #blogmas and I’m thinking about how different my 2 and 4 year old are in their understanding of Christmas. It’s an interesting one to ponder because I realise that for the first time this year, my 4 year old girl in particular is recognising Christmas as an important tradition in her own right. Even if a lot of that is about chocolate.

For my 2 year old, it’s all about the chocolate.

2 year old

It’s exciting. She senses a general air of excitability, especially from her older sister who just seems to race around the house with seemingly never-ending energy.

It involves chocolate. She gets a chocolate from the Advent Mouse every morning, sometimes even before breakfast. She still looks excitedly puzzled each morning.

Father Christmas is around. She knows there’s a man with a big white beard pictured a lot and that we talk about him.

There’s a pretty tree with lights on in the lounge. She does love the tree. I really don’t think she remembers last year’s, but this year she helped us decorate it by really carefully and thoughtfully placing some baubles and ornaments on.

She knows we’re talking about presents a lot, but probably hasn’t realised she’s going to get some. Which neatly leads me into…

4 year old

There are presents coming. We talk about presents frequently. She’s written her letter to Father Christmas and seems to add to the list of presents she’d like on a daily basis. I also use the anticipation of presents as a neat discipline tool…

She has to be a good girl to get those presents. Understanding this doesn’t always work, I admit. But it often does. She knows Father Christmas is watching and brings more presents to children who are kind and listen the first time and are generally good.

There is a lot of chocolate. Whilst 2 year old is excited by chocolate, 4 year old is OBSESSED. “Can I have another chocolate?” “No! You can eat some fruit for a change!”

Christmas tree with lights
Pretty lights

She gets to help choose and decorate the tree. Now 4 year old remembers this from the previous year and the year before. She now loves to help choose our tree each year and decorate it. She really enjoys seeing the tree lit up with lights in the evening.

She gets to see her relatives and friends more often. 4 year old now understands that Christmas time brings lots of events and with that comes more family time and opportunities to see friends.

There are parties. She’s anticipating the Christmas parties already. Last year I think we went to about 5.

She gets to sing Christmas songs. She arrived home from school yesterday singing Away in a Manger and asked me to buy a CD containing Christmas songs for the car. She’s been practicing her nativity play at school, which brings me onto…

Christmas is when the baby Jesus was born. This year, 4 year old has definitely grasped this. She knows that an angel told Mary that the baby Jesus would be born, that he was born, that Jesus was God’s son and that it involved a stable, three kings and some shepherds and more angels. I’m impressed at how quickly this has sunk in this year compared to the last and I’m obviously pleased she’s beginning to understand it’s not all about the pressies.

Next year, I’m fully expecting that they’ll be so into it, they’ll cook the turkey for me. Maybe.

Read day 4 of #blogmas here.

Primark giraffe onesie

Christmas items I can’t live without

Day 4 of #blogmas and I’m reflecting on those items that are essential for me at Christmas. They are mainly food and drink related, with the odd onesie thrown in.

    • Mulled wine. Warming, comforting…and it contains alcohol! A perfect and most ingenious combination. It also makes your house smell nice if you gently warm some on the hob.
    • Warm mince pies with cream. Another brilliant combination, a warmed mince pie with double cream is sooooo nice. I have this lots at Christmas time. It’s a wonder that I don’t look like, to quote a Lancashire phrase, a ‘house side’.
    • Camembert cheese (a whole one). I’m a vegetarian. Vegetarians are generally a healthy bunch. Which is why at the Christmas dinner table you will find me eating a whole baked Camembert whilst everyone else eats their lean turkey.
    • Limoncello. Curveball. For some reason, I’ve got into the habit of drinking limoncello quite a lot around Christmas time. Maybe it’s because I tend to eat a lot and I believe this is an excellent digestif.
    • Sherry. Just realised the alcoholic theme going on here. I only drink sherry at Christmas but I love it. It’s certainly not a drink just for Grandmas – it’s lovely and we haven’t got any in *writes note in calendar to buy some tomorrow*.
Primark giraffe onesie
I have never looked better
  • Primark onesie. For some reason the cold, dark weeks leading up to Christmas bring out a tremendous urge in me to wear a onesie. It’s not something I’d want to spend a lot of money on, which is just as well as Primark do a surprisingly varied range.
  • Comfortable pair of slippers. I am 38 after all, which means I may as well give in and wear tweed slippers as much as possible. Actually mine are purple and fuzzy and very comfortable to pad around the house in, fetching more mulled wine and ensuring my camembert is in the oven.
  • Naf Christmas films to watch. Christmas is also a time to switch your brain off (once the Christmas shopping is over, that is). A naf film is the ultimate in Christmas meditation. Take ‘Elf’, for example. It didn’t win any oscars, but it’s mindless and Christmassy and a bit funny in parts. Brilliant.
  • Christmas pudding.  Not everyone likes Christmas pudding, but I do and my Christmas dinner wouldn’t be the same without it. In fact I may buy myself a couple of individual ones to have on my own, before the big day.
  • Sprouts. I’m also the humble sprout’s biggest fan. I keep a bag of them in the freezer all year round and have them with cheese on top. Sprouts dipped in baked Camembert for Christmas dinner is amazing.
  • Happy children. Of course the most essential Christmas items for me are my lovely, happy girls, excitedly sprinkling fairy dust on Christmas Eve and rooting through their stockings on Christmas morning.


Happy christmas children
What are your favourite Christmas items? I’d love to hear!