Wednesday, 18 October 2017

What advent calendars are in shops for 2017 including Smiggle, Soap & Glory, Yankee Candle, Biscuiteers and many more

It's that time of year again where we are all starting to get ready for Christmas and one thing I am looking out for is advent calendars. 

Each year there are more and more advent calendars in the shops from beauty to chocolate, biscuits to toys and so much more. 

Last year in the Staying Sane house we had Smiggle, Thomas Minis, Yankee candle and Lego advent calendars as well as chocolate calendars. 

This year, amongst many other calendars, I have selected a few that have caught my eye whilst in stores and shopping online. 

First up I found this Wera advent calendar. Full of tools and bits for any DIY enthusiast. 

Next up is this beauty advent for tweens and teens. From Superdrug and currently half price at just £8. With lop glosses, nail varnish and more. 

Also from Superdrug is this 12 days advent calendar. Full of bath and beauty products and also half price at the moment. 

Lego advent calendars are always popular in our house. Thing 4 had the Lego Star Wars version last year. This Lego City one has a small Lego surprise behind each door. Priced between £19.99 and £24.99 from various retailers. 

This cheese advent calendar is set to be very popular this year. Available at Asda stores from mid November it is full of yummy bite sized cheesy goodness behind each window. 

This Swizzels Matlow advent calendar is the one that the Things have got their eye on this year. Thing 4 and 5 currently prefer chewy sweets over chocolate and after seeing this instore recently they have asked for this advent. Priced at £4 and seen in Sainsburys. 

I absolutely love the Yankee Candle advent calendar. With a small scented tealight behind each door. This years scents include Red: Sparkling Cinnamon Green: The Perfect Tree Tan: Candy Chestnut White: Winter Glow Pink: Snowflake Cookie Light Green: Macaron Treats. Priced at around £20 from various retailers it will add an extra special festive scent to your home each day. 

The Smiggle advent calendar is a favourite of Thing 3's. She has had it for the past couple of years and loves it. With a piece of stationery or fun accessory behind each door and the contents worth £40 the RRP is £25 from Smiggle stores and online. There are also 25 lucky tickets hidden in advent calendars and waiting to be found. Lucky finders of the tickets win a £500 shopping spree. 

Thing 5 had the Thomas Minis advent calendar last year and it is back this year exclusively at Asda. Priced at £35 it has a Thomas Mini train behind each window with special festive edition trains as well as lots of other designs too. 

This Biscuiteers advent tin has to be my best find this year. I would love to open this each day and have a gorgeously decorated biscuit to eat each day (with a cuppa of course!). Priced at £48 and available on the Biscuiteers website. It's definitely at the top of my advent list!! 

The ever popular Soap and Glory beauty product range from Boots has also produced an advent calendar this year. Exclusive to Boots in store and online it is full of Soap and Glory goodies including mascara, body wash and hand food plus much much more. Priced at £40.

So whether you want a bath time treat every day on the lead up to Christmas or something festively delicious to eat there is an advent calendar out there for everyone. 

Which advent would you choose? 

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Visiting Taco Bell UK's newest restaurant in Woking. With tacos, quesadillas and burritos galore as well as Happy Hour every day. We will definitely be back for another visit!

The Things have been wanting to go to Taco Bell for ages. I think they are slightly influenced by the many US Youtubers that they watch and see them going to Taco Bell which is why it has become somewhere they have wanted to visit. 

I knew there were some Taco Bell restaurants in the UK but Thing 2 looked and found the nearest one to us was in Southampton, over an hours drive away. I told them it would have to be a specially planned trip out and quickly forgot all about it. 

Then at the end of August I found out that they had just opened a restaurant in Woking, a town not far from us and I knew we had to go and pay them a visit. I hadn't told the children that we were going there and luckily Thing 2 hadn't looked recently so she had no clue! 

So I told the children we were just popping to the shops in Woking as the younger ones wanted to go on a train ride anyway and it wasn't far to travel. When we get there the children were already saying they were hungry so it was a good thing I had food already planned! 

As we passed several other restaurants they kept asking if we could eat in those and I kept putting them off until they saw the Taco Bell sign and their faces lit up. I have never seen someone so excited over a restaurant before. 

When we arrived we were met by one of the staff members who helped us find a table. We were there to try out the Happy Hour menu which runs from 3-6pm every day (alongside their full main menu). This includes items such as the chicken sharing platter, loaded nachos, quesadilla nachos and dessert platter too as well as offers on cervezas and the Freeze drinks. 

The restaurant has a very relaxed atmosphere. You find your table, choose your meal and then go to the counter to place your order. Once your order is ready they call out your order number to go and collect your food. 

As I was there with the children, five of us in total, and each dish suggested a 2-3 person share option I went for the loaded nachos with chicken, the chicken platter and the quesadilla nachos for us all to share. The chicken platter consisted of chicken fillet strips, chicken quesadillas and chips topped with a cheese sauce and sour cream. The loaded nachos came with a choice of topping and we chose the chicken. 

Loaded nachos with salsa, guacamole and sour cream plus the extra chicken topping. Priced at 4.49

Quesadilla nachos with all the toppings. Priced at 4.49

This is the chicken platter minus the chicken pieces as the Things had stolen them so quickly I didn't get a picture in time! Priced at 7.50

The food was lovely, the chicken platter was a real hit with the children and also the nachos with the chicken topping. The cheese quesadillas were also enjoyed by them although they weren't keen on all of the toppings (although Mummy loved it!). They wanted more chicken quesadillas to bring home too! 

The children really wanted the Freeze drinks which are on offer in happy hour at 2 for 3 pounds usually 1.99 each. However the Freeze machine wasn't working at that particular time so they settled for some fizzy drinks which wasn't a problem. The drinks machine was a help yourself machine and offered various drinks with a wide range of flavours to choose from too. 

After they had completely demolished all of the food and were all extremely happy with everything that they had eaten they somehow managed to find room for the dessert platter. 

Oh the dessert platter. I could have eaten it all by myself but unfortunately the menu advised sharing!! Churros are my favourite and Chocadilla too, wow. The children really enjoyed this platter too as did I. It was all lovely and warm, the churros were delicious and the Chocodillas were oozing with chocolate as Thing 4's trousers and t shirt found out! 

The dessert platter. There were lots more churros and Chocodillas on there when we got it! 

The children had full and happy tummies and I was so pleased that they had eaten everything that we ordered. 

It's a thumbs up from Thing 5 and Thing 3!

The staff were attentive and polite and answered any questions that I had, which I did have a few! The restaurant was busy but orders were dealt with swiftly and everyone in the restaurant looked to be enjoying their meals. 

With burritos and taco meals on the menu too we can try those on our next visit, which is very soon according to Dad of Five as he missed out on this visit! 

I would just like to thank Irina and her staff for being polite and welcoming during our visit and a special shout out to Mim who ran around after us and probably had enough of us by the time we left!! He was very helpful with everything and made sure we had everything we needed including our extra chicken quesadillas and churros to take home, even though we had eaten plenty in the restaurant. 

I would highly recommend Taco Bell as a place to eat either for lunch or dinner and it's great if you need a quick snack or a full meal to fill your belly. Do visit the Taco Bell UK website for full menu details and to see if there is a Taco Bell UK restaurant near you. 

Disclaimer; We were at the Taco Bell restaurant for review purposes and we ate as part of the review process. All comments and thoughts expressed are our own. 

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Facing back to school week with a hurried new uniform shop and the hope you can get the children back into a good sleep pattern!

Well where did those six weeks summer holidays go? It's full steam ahead to back to school week and September has arrived. It really was a 'blink and you will miss it' summer holidays or so it feels. 

We've had picnics, been on day trips, had lunch out, walked in the woods, visited relatives, celebrated lots of birthdays including Thing 2 and 5's birthday and had too many late nights! 

Our local woods that we like to visit

As I write this all the children are still awake and it's 10.12pm at night so getting into a good sleep pattern is not going well for back to school next week. Late nights for most of the holidays have meant long lazy mornings with no motivation or movement from the children until late morning most days. 

Thing 2 and Thing 3 are sat in the dining room drawing and listening to music. They've also spent this evening trying on their school uniforms and new shoes. Thing 3 will be joining Thing 2 at Senior school so they are gearing up ready for the new school year starting on Wednesday. 

We finally got around to doing the dreaded new school uniform shop yesterday and the OH left the shops feeling slightly traumatised by the whole experience. With 4 children needing varying amounts of new uniform it was an expensive day. First we went to our local uniform supplier for the senior school uniform. Both Thing 2 and 3 needed polo shirts and jumpers with Thing 3 also needing to be kitted out in full PE kit. Thing 4 is starting at a new Junior school but his shopping list of a PE top was easier to handle. 

Thing 5 ready for back to school 

After we had done that shop we then headed to Asda for school trousers, PE shorts and new crisp white polo t shirts for Thing 5. I also picked up a lovely pair of school shoes for Thing 2 in there. After a stressful trip to the changing rooms to try on trousers, one broken finger nail and a few swear words later we were school ready! 

Now I know why the OH added beer to the trolley. I am so glad that school uniform shopping only happens once a year! 

So we have 4 days and counting. We really need to get some early nights or we will be getting to school around lunch time. I need to sort out stationery for Thing 2 and 3 although I am sure they have enough even though they say they haven't. Thing 3 has a whole Smiggle store stashed in her bedroom! 

As much as we have really enjoyed the holidays and survived with hardly any arguments we are very much looking forward to the new school year and new schools to start. 

Are your children starting a new school? Are you school ready? Did you survive the school uniform and shoe shopping?

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Decluttering the house when you are married to a 'hoarder' and trying to make things a bit tidier!

My husband is a hoarder! I mean not to the extremes that you see on the hoarding programmes on TV but he struggles to let things go. 

The lounge on a tidy day. I try and limit the amount of toys that arrive downstairs although it definitely doesn't look like this every day!

I try and have a good sort out of the house to declutter and to make the house tidier but if I do it whilst the hubs is around then everything that is seen gets questioned. Why do we need to throw that away? Well I might need that at some point. Oh my Dad's sisters mums husband bought me that so I must keep it. 

The kitchen is still in need of completion but I try and keep it clutter free. The children help by eating all of the food so it doesn't clutter up the kitchen!

 There is an excuse for everything and I mean EVERYTHING! So I try and declutter when he isn't here. He doesn't notice that anything has left the house and I never throw or give away anything that I know he needs or has used in the past year or so. 

Last year we decided to clear out the loft. You know the space where everything just gets chucked up there until there is no more space and then you actually wonder what is up there. So up we go and find 8 dining chairs, 8! We didn't need them, we have dining chairs in the dining room around the table. I don't even know how long those chairs had been in there but we had put them there. So they had to go but hubs still questioned whether we should keep them for something. Also in the loft there were the endless amounts of boxes that you keep when you purchase something. They are never needed but you keep them just in case. Off they went. 

Bags full of stuffed toys were next. Teddies and soft toys we had bought over the years and got bagged up a good few years ago because they were just around the house everywhere but unloved by the smalls. So they got put in the loft. I refused to let anyone open the black sacks otherwise people would start claiming teddies from years ago. If they had been in there for 3 years then they weren't needed so they went too. 

Once we had got rid of all of that it was already looking very clear up there. We did have some more stuff to go up there from various rooms in the house. Things that we knew we needed or wanted to keep for now but it would clear up rooms around the house too. 

Clutter is not my friend and I try and declutter wherever I can. Unloved toys and outgrown clothes I try and sell on if I can which brings in a few pennies too. 

The dining room on a clutter free day. These days are rare though! 

It always seems like an endless task and I am always fighting against the clutter and the hoarder and mini hoarders who don't want to let go of things they haven't used in years. 

Decluttering also means the house can start looking neater and tidier but that's another battle I am not winning as yet. We will get there though, in the end, one day, maybe when the kids have moved out! 

If I can get rid of the bike that hasn't been used for nearly 20 years and has followed us around 3 house moves it will be a miracle!