‘Tis the most wonderful time of the year

I absolutely LOVE Christmas…the magic, the enchantment, the presents!! 🙂

S and I spent a lovely afternoon with my uncle, aunt and cousin today. Earlier this week we went to Father Christmas World in Kent and S was so mesmerised by Santa, the elves and all things Christmas so today was the perfect addition to an already magical week.

We got there early in the afternoon and after a bit of lunch (and some mulled wine), we decided to make some biscuits. My cousin Renu dug out her cookie cutters and a recipe online and we got started.

20141206_135048

Our recipe required the dough to stand for a couple of hours and so we went into the living room to decorate and put up the tree.

20141206_145441

My aunt’s an amazing cook and assured us that 30-40 minutes was enough time for the dough and so back into the kitchen we went to roll out and cut our biscuits. Renu found a Peppa Pig ice lolly case which was a total winner in S’s books!

20141206_150813

20141206_152253

20141206_154634

20 minutes later they were ready to be eaten and they were good!!

20141206_160321

Thanks Renu!

Last year we made salt play dough Christmas tree decorations and S practically body surfed across all the flour. This year he took a keen interest in mixing, kneading and rolling out the dough. It was such fun to watch him get involved and be a part of it all. We’ll definitely be doing some more baking at home over the holidays.

Advertisements

Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park

My brother is in town visiting us and this afternoon we decided to take S down to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park. I’d been last year with my friend Anushka who is as obsessed with Christmas as I am (we’re even going to “Father Christmas Land” this year) and I considered taking S but I thought he was far too young for it and so we ended up going only once he was in bed.

This year however, he has proven what a little dare devil he is and so I figured he’d enjoy it. We only got there at 4pm and ended up leaving at 6pm but in that time he got to go on quite a few rides and we managed to stop for dinner and a cup of hot mulled wine. Yummy!

The best thing about Winter Wonderland is that it’s free and really, given the extortionate prices of the rides and games, it’s a saving grace. Is it possible for you to go to Winter Wonderland and have any sort of experience without spending money? I’d say not really. It’s nice to walk around, take in the sights, listen to some christmas songs and overall feel totally Christmassy but to truly enjoy it, you need to have a heavy wallet.

PhotoGrid_1417116386439

A cup of mulled wine will set you back £4.50, a cup of hot chocolate about £3.50, marshmallows (which you can roast over an open fire) were £2.50 and the rides varied from £2 for children’s rides to £6 for bumper cars!!!

I much preferred South Bank last week (post coming soon). There weren’t Christmas songs but there was lots else to see and do. I have to honestly say we didn’t get to really check out the entire place and so I can’t totally judge it (we may go back to go to Santa Land) but from what we saw, Winter Wonderland is just a glorified theme park.

Santa’s Grotto at Westfield

There are some things you remember very vividly from your childhood…some memories you’ll never forget. For me, one of the things I loved about Christmas was visiting Santa. Sitting on his lap while he asked me what I want for Christmas and then taking a picture. Its a nice memory and the picture is one that stays with you for life. Just ask these guys…http://www.viralnova.com/santa-photos/

So obviously I wanted the same for S. We were in Hong Kong for his first Christmas last year and unfortunately we didn’t get to see Santa or get a picture with him and so I put that behind me and decided I’d start the tradition from year 2…as many people told me, he won’t remember it anyway (although that’s besides the point). This year we’re in London for Christmas and it’s such a different feeling. Everyone is in such good spirits, most of the malls have Santa’s grotto set up, the Harrods grotto sold out in an hour!! After much contemplation about which one to take him to, I decided to book Westfield, Shepards Bush. Their décor is amazing and it’s Westfield, I have high expectations of them.

20131122_153301

I was thoroughly disappointed! Now perhaps if S was older then some parts of this experience wouldn’t have been so bad but overall, it doesn’t matter what age he is, there was definitely room for improvement! We were booked for 4:40pm so we got there at 4:30pm and they asked us to come back in 10 minutes. We went back 10 minutes later and gave our names and tickets. We were then placed in a queue for another 15 minutes (have you tried standing in a queue with a boisterous toddler?) Finally we were allowed inside. It was a dark room with a screen at the front and they showed a 3D video of some of Santa’s elves getting presents ready for Christmas. This is the part that an older child may like but a tired toddler in a dim room, a recipe for disaster.

After about 10 gruelling minutes, the video ended and we were led to a door to wait to go in to see Santa. Thankfully we were at the front of the queue and so the first to go in. Now as we walked down the corridor, I was remembering what the experience was like when I was a child. You step into Santa’s “home”, there’s a sofa you can sit on (or you sit on Santa’s lap), there’s a beautiful backdrop and a cute little elf who takes a beautiful picture which you’re happy to buy outside (even though it’s over priced). But back to Westfield…we walked into Santa’s “room” and we were greeted by a slim Santa (really?!) and a cute elf. S was not impressed and Santa didn’t do a great job of trying to make things better. After a minute of Santa saying some really awkward things, the elf asked us to stand for a picture. There was nowhere to sit and we had to stand awkwardly beside him while the elf jangled some bells to get our attention to face the camera. Santa put both his hands up like he was a guru blessing us (no smile!) and within 10 seconds we were ushered out.

20131206_162838

Suffice to say, both pictures she took were not worth it. This is where my problem comes in. I get that they are busy, they have timings to keep and I understand that S wasn’t in the best mood BUT is it not the Elf’s job to make sure it’s a nice picture that we would want to buy? If I’m paying for each person, I expect to come out of there with a picture I can keep. So although I left there feeling disappointed, I am not giving up. We will get that picture with Santa this year!

Does anyone else feel like the magic of Christmas is being taken advantage of? What happened to the days when Santa was a jolly old man who would engage the child with a smile on his face. Instead we had an awkward Santa who didn’t even look like he wanted to be there. Bah Humbug!!

Things to do in London at Christmas Time

I was recently asked for some advice on things to do in London over Christmas for a couple and their 10’ish year old son. So here’s my list of the best things to do if you’re visiting London during Christmas.

1. Shopping – If you’re staying in town, you’ll have Oxford Street and Regents Street but if it’s too cold (they are coming from Hong Kong) then I’d suggest you head to Westfield. It’s not far, a few stops on the Central Line to Shepards Bush (from Bond Street) and you’re there. It’s a huge mall with all the high street outlets as well as high end fashion stores. Another shopping haven is Bicester Village. It’s in Oxford (there’s a direct bus from Marble Arch) and it takes alittle over an hour. It’s a designer shopping outlet (open air). You can get some pretty good deals there.
2. The lights on Oxford Street and Regents are usually amazing. Debenhams has undergone a total makeover and will be opening in November so I think their lights will be pretty spectacular. The windows in Selfridges (Oxford Street), Harvey Nicks and Harrods (Knightsbridge) are usually really good. You have to see Harrods at night, it’s lit up (all year round) and looks like a Golden Palace. Selfridges also have a huge Christmas shop in the basement.
winter-wonderland
3. The great outdoors – Hyde Park have a winter wonderland. I’ve never been but have heard it is AMAZING so looking forward to getting back to London and heading there. They have an ice rink at Somerset House which is at Aldwych (you can catch the No. 13 bus from Baker Street going South). Diagonally across the road from there you can go up to Covent Garden and they turn the whole piazza into a Winter Haven with a 60ft tall tree!!
images (1)
4. Touritsy things to do – There’s Madame Tussauds, the Dungeons, the houses of parliament and the Tower of London (their son likes history). You can do the big red bus tour which also includes a river cruise. The commentary on that is really good and you learn so much about the city in such a short time. I’m just not sure how comfortable it’ll be riding on an open top bus in December though! There’s the London Eye which includes a 4D show at the end which is good. The Eye ride itself is okay. It takes 26 minutes to go around. Worth it if it’s a good day. The Harry Potter tour which is located at Watford is worth it for fans of the infamous Wizard. The British Museum (Tottenham Court Road), the National History Museum, the V&A (South Kensington), the Transport Museum (Covent Garden): they are all free to visit and well worth it.
5. Stuff for Kids – I only have one word…Hamleys! On Regents Street, it’s a must see for any child visiting London.
hamleys-toy-store
6. The West End – Plays and Musicals: Although I’ve never seen a show on Broadway, people say the West End is a lot better. Maybe I’m biased Winking face I’ve heard the Book of Mormons is really good and 1 Man 2 Guvnors is very very funny. I intend on seeing both when I am back. I saw Wicked last year which was amazing. Mamma Mia (great to sing along to), The Lion King (the story was okay but worth watching it just for the sets and to see how they create the animals, etc), Phantom of the Opera (pretty dark but one of my favourites). My Fair Lady, Legally Blonde, Sister Act – they were all good. Ghost has been out for a couple of years now and I heard that is good too (it’s on my list!). If you like history then you may enjoy Les Miserables (based on the French revolution). Again I’ve heard fantastic reviews from some people and not so great reviews from others. There is a box office on Argyll Street (Opposite Niketown at Oxford Circus, beside Warehouse, the women’s clothing store). It’s called Stargreen Box Office. You can get great deals on theatre tickets there. I’d suggest you call them on the day, ask them for tickets for the same day and collect before the show. Good tickets for the top shows can be around £40+. Matinee shows are usually more reasonable and most theatres have matinee shows on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
7. Afternoon Tea – You’re in London, darling, how can you not have Afternoon Tea?! Personally I love good ol’ fashioned Richoux on St. Johns Wood High Street (they have other branches as well) but for a little something extra special, I’ve heard great things about Afternoon Tea at The Ritz and The Wolseley.
More than anything, being in London at Christmas is magical. It can be really cold but if you wrap up you won’t feel it so much. There’s heating on in all the stores and anywhere indoors so it’s only really while you’re outdoors that you’ll feel it. All the shops play Christmas songs, everyone’s in a really good mood as they shop and get ready for Christmas. I’m sure you’ll have a lovely time!
Let me know if there’s anything I’m missing!
The List

Christmas is coming…

Christmas is coming!!!!

If you’re from the UK and more specifically from London, there are usually 3 signs that Christmas is coming.

1. Red cups at Starbucks

imagesCA11UJE7

2. The coca cola advert

1459137_587855621263202_785815793_n

3. The Oxford Street lights

ad_120335956-e1384283660981

And all three are here (or there) which makes me very excited. I’m probably not as excited as I could be since I’m in Lagos and it’s 28 degrees everyday and S is walking around in shorts, a t-shirt and sandals but from next week, we’ll be back in freezing cold London, feeling very festive indeed.

People have often asked me what is it that I love about London at Christmas. My answer…it is pure magic! Close your eyes and picture this with me. You’re walking down Oxford Street, sipping an eggnog latte (insert your drink of choice here) in a red cup, there’s a guy roasting chesnuts on the side of the road and as you cross the street you get a waft of it. The Selfridges shop window is beautiful…you can see Debenhams down the road all lit up in red (this is from 8 years ago, the last time I spent Christmas in London – Debenhams revamped themselves this year). Christmas Carols are playing in all the shops and everyone’s freezing but smiling as they pick out Christmas presents for their friends and family. You walk into any store and hot air blows in your face, a cosy feeling compared to the damp cold outside.

I could go on but you get the picture 🙂 I’m sure there are people who could tell me about the crowds, the rowdiness, the shoving and the pushing at Christmas time. But as you know I’m a glass half full kind of person so I choose to see the best at Christmas.

To start getting into the spirit of Christmas while I’m still here in Lagos, I’ve ordered Christmas sweaters for S and I online, ordered some of his presents and a personalised stocking, watched all the christmas ads (my favourites are the Coca Cola one, the Marks & Spencer one and the TK Maxx one) and I’m reading “Coming Home for Christmas” by Jenny Hale.

I can’t wait to spend time with family, drink lots of mulled wine, devour my aunt’s amazing Christmas lunch, open too many presents (hint! hint!) and laugh…ALOT!!

Are you as #christmasobsessed as I am?