Yay! Santa’s Bringing A Le Toy Van Honey Bee Market

Le Toy Van market

We took the four-year-old to see Father Christmas today. It was just fantastic to see her totally convinced that we were at actual Santa’s house and that she was meeting the man himself. There was a magical quality to the day – the garden centre we took her to has a whole 45 minute experience in the lead-up to meeting Father Christmas, starting with sitting in a ‘train’ to the North Pole, throwing snowballs at naughty penguins in a coconut shy-style game, making your own tree decoration and mixing reindeer food. The four-year-old loved it. Unlike last year, when she was too petrified of this man with a beard to speak to him, today, she bounded up, and when he asked her what she wanted for Christmas, confidently told him “An Anna cape” (the poor man didn’t have a clue what she was on about, so I stepped in to explain… he really should watch Frozen, to become au fait with the little ones’ requests…).

I tried to think back to what it must be like to ACTUALLY believe that Santa is real. I have memories of being aged five or six, trying to get to sleep on Christmas Eve but being so excited about Father Christmas flying through the air nearby. And memories of opening the living room door, to find presents on every chair, knowing he had been. It was the most exciting thing ever, wasn’t it?

This year, as well as an Anna cape (FYI I’m going to attempt to make one myself since you don’t appear to be able to buy one on its own) Father Christmas will be bringing the four-year-old an amazing Honey Bee Market by Le Toy Van. I can tell you this, because she doesn’t read my blog.

Le Toy Van is a brand I’ve loved for a few years. After spotting the gorgeous Honey Bake Tea Set on Mother’s Always Right, I treated my daughter to one, when she was two. Their wooden toys are just beautiful and the market is no different. We were sent the market and trays of food to feature here on the blog, and having given it a thorough testing (OK, Mr P and I *might* have pretended we were market traders…) it’s getting a big thumbs up from us.

Honey Bee Farm Market

You’re right, of course, a farmers’ market is probably the most middle-class toy ever. Just add some freshly brewed coffee, The Sunday Times and an organic roast dinner and you’ve got the perfectly clichéd middle-class family Sunday.

But who cares when it’s SO CUTE….

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A Blissful Night At Woolley Grange, Wiltshire

Woolley Grange Hotel

There aren’t many hotels that I’ve stayed in for one night and wished that I could stay for a whole week. But that’s exactly how I felt as we left Woolley Grange in Wiltshire a few weeks ago. We had spent just 20 hours there, and I could easily have stayed for days.

In a nutshell, Woolley Grange is all low ceilings, wooden beams and log fires. There’s a friendly warmth as you walk into the reception area and in the lounge, elderly couples having afternoon tea mix well with toddlers stomping through in wellies, carrying sticks and other treasures they’ve discovered outside.




We stayed in the John Baskerville room, which is on the first floor and is split level – you walk into a living area (with single camp bed for the four-year-old) and go upstairs to a bedroom and large bathroom. It was ideal, as the little one enjoyed having her ‘own room’ and it meant we could have our own space too. In our bedroom, the four-year-old found a small chair in the corner, and declared it ‘her chair’ before promptly plonking herself on it with the iPad to watch CBeebies.








As soon as we arrived, we realised we’d left the four-year-old’s suitcase at home (OOPS) but the reception staff were really helpful in directing me to a nearby Sainsbury’s where I could buy her some clothes, PJs and toothbrush. While I drove there (through Bradford Upon Avon which is TOTALLY BEAUTIFUL by the way, especially in the purple twilight) Mr P took the four-year-old swimming….

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Is The Asus Zenfone 5 The Ultimate Selfie Phone?

Alison Perry

2014 has officially been named as the Year Of The Selfie and the most sought-after gift this Christmas is the selfie stick (I wish I was joking…) so it’s fair to say that we’re all loving a bit of selfie action at the moment. Brilliant writer and lovely lady Anna Hart wrote about our obsession with the selfie last week in The Telegraph, concluding that we’ve entered an age of vanity. She’s right of course, and smart phone manufacturers are wise to this.

Enter: Asus and their Zenfone 5 LTE with its special ‘selfie setting’ on the camera.

Just saying that sentence out loud makes you realise how far things have come. We take so many photos of ourselves that a phone now comes with a selfie setting! It’s mind boggling.

We were kindly sent a Zenfone 5 LTE to road test (you may have seen a few #ZentasticXmas tagged photos from me over on Instagram) and as an out and out Apple fan, I was really keen to get my hands on this phone, to see what I thought of it. So first up, the technical stuff about the camera: The A500KL has two built-in cameras (one front facing and one back facing), with the main 8-megapixel PixelMaster camera for professional-looking photos. This camera boasts a backside-illumination (BSI) sensor and wide-aperture f/2.0, 5-element lens with exclusive ASUS PixelMaster technology to capture images that are on par with most standalone digital cameras; while the 2-megapixel front camera comes with an f/2.8 lens. PixelMaster technology improves camera performance and comes with features like Selfie and Low-light modes.


So what did I think?

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5 Signs You’re Getting Old At Christmas


1. You’re genuinely excited at the prospect of getting new socks from Santa. And if they happen to be cashmere bed socks from The White Company? Even better. (Well done, Santa, you clever man)

2. You consider a visit to the local garden centre a fun day out with the kids. Those areas where they sell Christmas lights? Just as much fun as paying to visit Santa’s grotto. And it’s free! Bonus points if the garden centre has real reindeer and nice homeware gifts you can buy for relatives.

3. The Michael Bublé Christmas album is on repeat in your house. Well, it is beginning to look a lot like Christmas!

4. You hear yourself saying this sentence to your other half: “Hey honey, instead of giving each other Christmas presents this year, why don’t we buy ourselves a  National Trust family membership?” I’m not even kidding, this is what we’re doing this year. 2015 is going to be the year of National Trust days out (and lots of tea and cake in the tearooms, obvs.)

5. You check the opening time of your local supermarket on Christmas Eve (7am, FYI) with the plan to get there ten minutes earlier, to beat the rush, for your Christmas turkey and trimmings.

It’s official. I’m getting old. Ah well, I’ll console myself with a Baileys in front of the fire (ooh have you seen there’s a new chocolate version?)…

My Top Tips On Family Budgeting

Upcycling Bekvam spice racks

With a new study highlighting the rise of ‘generation pause’ – the 20 and 30 somethings who are choosing to delay life events like getting married or buying a house due to financial concerns – it’s clear that it’s important to budget from an early age. I’ll admit, I was fairly useless with money until I met Mr P. I racked up credit card debt and student loans, having to rely on my parents to bail me out. But during my 20s, I learned to be more sensible with money.

TSB, who have a handy mortgage calculator on their site, have asked me to share my family budgeting tips with everyone. So here goes…

1. Upcycle furniture or buy cheaper bits that you can transform. I’m a huge fan of an IKEA hack. Inspired by Gill from A Baby On Board, I bought these Bekvam spice racks for £3 each (see pic at top), asked Mr P nicely to paint them white, and put washi tape on them, to turn them into book shelves for the four-year-old’s bedroom.

2. Plan meals. We used to be so bad at just deciding what to eat for tea that day, and popping to the shop to buy the food in. It saves money (and time) now that we plan our meals each week, and buy veg that will do us for a couple of days.

3. Shop around. We love popping to Waitrose for treats, as much as the next person, but we also shop around, depending on supermarket offers (tip: Tesco has my fave wine Villa Maria on offer this week and Co-op has a great prosecco for £6.99) and we shop in Lidl for our basics….

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