Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Intu Trafford Centre Santa Grotto 2014

Trafford Centre Santa Grotto 2014, visit Santa, Christmas family day out Manchester

Have you seen The Snowman and The Snowdog? We haven't, but after visiting Manchester Trafford Centre's The Snowman and The Snowdog Christmas Grotto last Sunday, we will be buying the DVD so that we can watch the full movie!

The last time we went to Trafford Centre's Christmas Grotto was back in 2011. We watched a short film (I can't quite remember but it could be The Snowman) before visiting Santa, and I remember feeling crowded as all the family visiting during the time slot were squeezed into the same room as Santa, and we had to wait for him to talk to the children in turns. A lot has changed since then, and the waiting time has shortened immensely. We even get Santa all to ourselves in a private room!

Trafford Centre Santa Grotto 2014, visit Santa, Christmas family day out Manchester

Trafford Centre Santa Grotto 2014, visit Santa, Christmas family day out Manchester

Trafford Centre Santa Grotto 2014, visit Santa, Christmas family day out Manchester

Trafford Centre's Britain's first The Snowman and The Snowdog Christmas Grotto is located in Barton Grange where Legoland Discovery Centre and Sea Life are (you can easily make a family Christmas day out out of this!). When we arrived, we noticed the sign saying that the Grotto was fully booked for the day, how popular!

The Grotto looked really magical inside and out, and we couldn't stop wow-ing at the sparkling lights! The staff were really friendly and helpful, and kept the children busy while we were waiting so that they wouldn't get bored. We didn't have to wait for very long though (less than 10 minutes since we joined the few other families), and soon it was our group's turn to go in and watch the film. We really liked how the storyteller told the story!

Trafford Centre Santa Grotto 2014, visit Santa, Christmas family day out Manchester

Trafford Centre Santa Grotto 2014, visit Santa, Christmas family day out Manchester

After we left the story room, the children were given a Letter to Santa template to write down what they'd like to get for Christmas, which they can then post in the post box situated in the hallway before meeting Santa. We were then led to a quiet and cosy room to meet him! He was very kind and gave each of the kids a lovely wrapped present, which are both under our Christmas tree, waiting to be opened on Christmas day.

I also appreciated that the helper offered us a picture with Santa instead of forcing us to take it, but it would be better if she took the 3 images a bit slower so that they didn't come out looking exactly the same hehe.

Both the kids really enjoyed this year's Christmas Grotto experience, and we can't wait to watch The Snowman and The Snowdog! The lovely PR has also given the kids an amazing goodie bag, making this a really magical and exciting experience for them, thank you so much!

Booking for Trafford Centre The Snowman and The Snowdog Christmas Grotto is still available, and you can book here on their website. It's only £4.50 per child which includes a gift, and £2.50 for an adult. They are open all the way until Christmas Eve evening (5pm), so do book it when you get a chance, it really is a lovely experience!

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Christmas with Laura Ashley

Laura Ashley, Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas, Christmas Crafts

Most of you know that I'm not a very crafty person, so I was really excited when Laura Ashley invited me to join my lovely North West Blogger friends to attend their Christmas craft workshop and pick up some gift wrapping ideas. I can do the basic, but has always wanted to do something special with my gifts.

I arrived a bit early and saw the lovely ladies from the Ministry of Craft preparing our workshop, which includes a table full of sewing machines! I admit I panicked a bit as it was almost 15 years ago when I last used one, but I was sure it was going to be fun. At least I knew I won't be judged!

Laura Ashley, Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas, Christmas Crafts

We were split into 2 groups and I decided to get the sewing out of the way first. We were to sew a bunting present sack using Laura Ashley's lovely fabrics. My favourite was the one with the pink berries, which reminded me a bit of cherry blossom.

We were meant to sew 3 rows of bunting, but I ended up with no space for the 3rd. It's okay, I can still add a bow in the corner so never mind. But then I had to redo the top second flag because I aligned the ribbon and flag wrong, and I still didn't get it right the second time haha (hopeless). The last second flag came off as well and was hanging on its dear life as one of its corner came off. I managed to sew the rest of the sack together though, and I guess I can always use hot glue gun to glue the 2 loose bits!

Image courtesy of Laura Ashley
Laura Ashley, Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas, Christmas Crafts

Laura Ashley, Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas, Christmas Crafts

After indulging in some yummy canapes and tea (really good tea and coffee from Rosylee), we continued with the second craft - Origami gift box and bow using Laura Ashley's wallpapers! I chose 2 different pattern for the lid and base, and it matches my sofa haha.

The origami gift box is so easy to make and there was no sticking involved! I'm going to remember how to make this, it'll be perfect for presents with lots of bits and bobs or presents with an awkward shape. You can even line the base with a piece of cardboard just to make it a bit stronger.

The event's timing was perfect, but I had to rush to Trafford Centre, so I couldn't finish my gift bow. Luckily they've given us instruction sheets for the bow, so now I just need to get some strong double sided tape and redo the bow so it'll look just like the one on the sample boxes!

Laura Ashley, Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas, Christmas Crafts

I had an absolutely fantastic time and although there were hick-ups, I was very pleased with my creations! I was really happy to see my fellow blogger friends again as well, and there were plenty of giggles and catching ups too! After a long time without Internet, this was exactly what I needed! And Laura Ashley has also kindly given us each a lovely bag full of Christmas presents, including

a set of 6 lovely silver dinner candles
a beautiful Christmas bauble and
a fantastic cookie cutter decoration set, which comes with 3 pairs of cookie cutters for you to make Stained Glass cookies!

What more can a blogger ask for from a fantastic event??

If you are still doing last minute shopping like me, Laura Ashley is having a 50% off sale at the moment! Don't forget to pick up some lovely wallpapers and fabrics as well to get crafty and get yourself into the Christmas mood! 10 days to go!

You can see more pictures of the day, the pattern of the fabrics and wallpapers used and tutorials for the crafts we made at Laura Ashley's blog now.

Friday, 12 December 2014

Stabilo and National Handwriting Association – Make Writing Easier

When Abby was a baby, we noticed that she would always use her left hand first to reach for things. There is nothing wrong with being a left hander, but out of my own habit and whatever silly reason I had at that time, I have subconsciously taught her to use her right hand as the dominant hand.

Some might not think that this is an issue, in fact, there are people who actually encourage this. But soon we noticed that Abby is holding her pencil with her right hand in an awkward angle, which added unnecessary stress to her wrist and fingers. We’ve tried to correct her but she just couldn’t change it, and I have been feeling guilty ever since, wishing that I’ve never manipulated her when she was young.

A while ago, Stabilo contacted bloggers with a new campaign they were working on, asking us to send in our children’s handwriting issues, and they would forward it to the National Handwriting Association to see if they can help us. This is their response:

“For children, hand dominance should be established by the age of five. Most children will show definite preference and this should be respected where possible. However, 6 is most definitely not too late to revert to her naturally chosen side and you may find that she is instantly more comfortable doing this. However, many children who hold the pencil in a strange grasp do so for reasons other than confused dominance so do try and talk to the teachers about this issue too.”

Knowing that I’m bordering late but not too late, I tried asking Abby whether she felt better if she holds her pencil with her left hand. She told me that she felt more at ease with her right hand, so either I’m too late, or like what National Handwriting Association said, she’s holding her pencil is an odd way because of some other reason.

 Apart from connecting us with National Handwriting Association, Stabilo has also kindly sent us their Writing Guide, as well as their

EASYoriginal Fountain Pen for Left handers and Right handers
Woody 3-in-1 Crayons
Trio Scribbi Spring Loaded Fibre Pens (8 pack)

for Abby, which are great for practising the correct way of holding pens.

The EASYoriginal Fountain Pen (for Left or Right handers) comes with a refill and a Fountain Pen eraser. The blue pen in the image is for Right handers, and the pink for left handers. The area where you hold the pen is silicon/ rubber-like (non-slip, easy to grip), and has a dent for your fingers, so they can rest comfortably on the correct area. The end of the pen curves slightly, making it rest nicely on hand. This is definitely great for Abby to practise holding pens correctly.

I have used many different pens in my life, some with non-slip paddings as well, and the EASYoriginal is definitely one of the most comfortable to hold pen I’ve used. I don’t normally like chunky pens with chunky tips, but it’s effortless to write with the EASYoriginal. The tip is more solid than normal ball points, which means that you need to put in less pressure on the pen to write. The eraser is definitely a bonus, and it erases the ink like magic. Schools encourage students not to erase their work so that the teachers can see how the students solve their problem/ correct their mistakes, but it’s great for any other occasions (especially for adults. Yes I’m tempted to keep the pen for myself!) where tidiness is priority and pencils are not an option.

We have a lot of good crayons, but these 3 in 1 ones have definitely caught our attention, because they can also be used as pencils by sharpening them using the pencil sharpener that came with the pack, or water colour by brushing water over the sketch! The crayons are chunky, so easy for children to hold, and the wax crayon is soft enough for colours to come out easily.

The triangular shaped markers – Trio Scribbi are perfect for young children to use as well. They are chunky, and the triangular shape helps children with holding the pens correctly while stopping them from rolling around too. The spring loaded tips means them children can press the pen down really hard (like children always do) without squashing the tip, and the ink is washable.

Clay is showing signs of being a left hander as well, and this time we are going to leave it to him to decide which hand he prefers to use. If he is a left hander, at least we know where we can find the correct stationery for him.

Do visit Stabilo’s website for more information on their products, as well as some great handwriting tips for both left and right handers!

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