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! 

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Ikea Reading, a new store in the Ikea family and well worth a visit (or two or three!)

Ikea, it's one of my favourite places. Who doesn't like a trip to Ikea to stock up on household items and meatballs! 

When Ikea decided to open a store half an hour down the road from us in Reading I was so excited. Our usual Ikea outing would be to the Southampton store which was around an hour away and usually a bi-annual event timed with an interior makeover of some sort. Now we pop down the road whenever we can as Ikea is our go to store for any piece of furniture, kitchen essentials or even our latest purchase of our new kitchen which we are extremely pleased with. 

Ikea Reading opened just over a year ago now and I was lucky enough to go and have a sneak peak of the new store before it opened to the public. Ikea Reading is the 19th store in the UK and the first Ikea store to be built for 7 years. It has employed over 370 members of staff with 90% of them coming from the local area. 

With 50 room sets for inspiration, the full 9,500 Ikea product range, restaurant, Swedish food market, free Smaland creche and free parking for 1000 cars across 32,000 sq. metres of store it really needs a visit. 

We've visited quite a few times over the past year and they have always had everything we need. When we recently decided to install a new kitchen we found one in Ikea that we liked. We used the online kitchen planner to help choose the layout and products and then went in store to buy. The colleagues in store were approachable and extremely helpful and helped us out when we were unsure on products that we needed. 

The marketplace is great too. When browsing the room set ups you will need to write down locations for the larger items that you then pick in the self serve furniture area. In the marketplace you can pick up all sorts of household products. From kitchen utensils to towels, rugs to plants, candles to cutlery and even the all important kids rainbow plates and cups! There is everything you need for the home under one roof. 

The younger 2 children love the Smaland creche. You get 45 minutes free childcare which we have found is enough time for a quick look around the room set ups before picking them up to go down into the marketplace. Smaland is staffed by fully trained childcare professionals and there is lots for the children to do. It is run on a first come first serve basis.

The Smaland creche

The Ikea food court with seating for 450 people. 

I think we are due many. many more visits to Ikea Reading and the children keep asking to go back to the Smaland creche. With a stop off in the restaurant for some meatballs and then to the food market for more meatballs to bring home all we need to worry about is whether there is enough room in our car for the shopping!! 

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

The children have grown too quickly & I regret wishing the school holidays away. Enjoy your time together before September arrives.

I know this is a bit rich coming from me as I am usually the one moaning most summer holidays that we have nothing planned and the kids are killing each other and it's raining and they won't stop eating and, and, and..........

A walk in the woods, right on our doorstep.

However it's taken this long but I have finally realised that I spend the summer holidays wishing the time to fly by and yet now the children are growing up too fast and I genuinely miss the time when they are here to annoy me! 

Now they are all at school and I have no babies or toddlers here to fill my time, no nappies to change and no toddler being my shadow all day and I miss those times. School has taken my last baby and so now the holidays seem so much more precious. They are all growing so fast that I seem to blink and miss something (usually a school appointment!!).

Brothers having fun. Fun doesn't have to cost anything.

So this Summer holiday we are going to cherish every moment, every single messy corner of the house where they have tipped out the Lego to make things together, the Play Doh strewn across the dining room table and the endless trips to the shops to stock up on food. 

We will make time for trips to the park come rain or shine, go bowling, swimming, to the cinema, a trip to the zoo, to a theme park, eat out too much and I will try not to moan that I have gone bankrupt in the process. 

A day out with Thomas. 

When they shout 'Mummmmmm' too many times I will try not to get cross with them as I will long for someone to call my name when they are all back at school and my days are too quiet. When the noise level gets a little louder than I would like I will not tell them to be quiet but cherish the sound of small people playing and enjoying each others company (most of the time). 

When I sit and think I need 5 minutes peace I will remember that when they are back at school in September I will have way more than 5 minutes peace each week and to not think that they are just being annoying even if I feel a slight headache coming on. 

A drive into Windsor and a long walk up the Long Walk to Windsor Castle.

So please don't wish the holidays away. Fill the days with fun, get out of the house whenever you can even if it's just a walk to the park. Enjoy a family holiday away, days out and as much fun as is possible in the time that we have.

Don't wish for the children to be quiet or for back to school to hurry up because before long they will have grown and flown and your days will be even quieter than you could have ever imagined and it won't seem as wonderful as you thought it would be. 

Monday, 7 August 2017

A day out in London for 'me time'. My first Irregular Choice purchase & some Selfridges exclusive Krispy Kremes too.

A few weeks ago myself and the bestie hit London for a day out and some time out from the kiddies. Leaving the Things in the hubby's quite capable hands I jumped aboard a, later than expected, train and headed to meet the bestie in London. 

Every once in a while we make sure we book in a Sunday date to go out together as we both need it/deserve it/need time to get away and possibly have a rant at each other over lunch if need be too! Having 9 children between us there is usually lots of talk about them, some good and some not so but mostly good! However I do try and keep kid talk to a minimum although it doesn't always work. 

Our most recent trip into London was because I was on a mission. I was looking to make my first ever purchase of Irregular Choice shoes so we planned to hit Carnaby Street first. However by the time we got there it was lunch time already and we both needed to eat so my purchase had to wait a bit longer whilst we searched out somewhere to get some yummy food and we weren't disappointed. 

We searched out Kingly Court, somewhere the bestie had eaten previously, and there were so many restaurants to choose from. After a quick look around at various different menus we opted for a Jamaican restaurant called The Rum Kitchen. The food was lovely and the view out from the restaurant was gorgeous, it was a particularly lovely July day too. 

The view from The Rum Kitchen restaurant in Kingly Court. It was a lovely warm day and we sat looking out over the food court. 

After our lunch of halloumi and mushroom burger, seasoned fries and sweetcorn fritters we were fully fuelled and ready for shoe shopping. 

The Irregular Choice shop wasn't far from the restaurant and we were soon in shoe heaven with sooooo many gorgeous shoes to choose from. I was looking for something for an upcoming wedding but that I would wear more than just the once! We had a good look around before deciding and it wasn't easy. The shop is bright, colourful and stocked full of shoes in lots of different styles and patterns.  After a couple of circuits of the shop and picking up various different shoes I chose the gorgeous Kanjanka style in blue. I could have left the shop with a few more pairs but I behaved.

My first Irregular Choice purchase. Kanjanka style in blue. 

 After our fun in shoe heaven we decided to head to Selfridges as we knew there were some scrummy looking Selfridges exclusive Krispy Kreme doughnuts that needed our attention! I do love taking a look around Selfridges food hall. The hubby wants to visit the Oyster and Champagne bar there but I was quite happy with all of the cake, chocolates and doughnuts on offer. I had a taster of some white chocolate with pistachio and sea salt with gold on the top, it was extremely scrummy and I should have treated myself (even after the shoe purchase!) but I didn't. 

Selfridges exclusive Krispy Kreme doughnuts. On the left is the Champagne Touch and on the right is the Magic Unicorn. 

The Krispy Kreme counter awaited and I purchased half a dozen of their exclusive to Selfridges doughnuts. These looked special, I love a Krispy Kreme doughnut anyway but these were even better. With magic unicorn, Champagne touch and Red Berry Drizzle amongst others to choose from I was in doughnut heaven. Doughnuts bought we decided to head back towards home. 

With cake and shoes in hand we had had a lovely day and definitely one that needs repeating.  We could try a different restaurant in Kingly Court, buy more shoes, more doughnuts and maybe fit in a trip to the theatre too. 

Some gorgeous Wimbledon themed cakes I spotted in Selfridges food hall. I did purchase the tennis racket cupcake.

Here's to more Sundays with the bestie wherever they may take us! 

Sunday, 6 August 2017

A busy family birthday month including 3 birthdays on the same day. Why I am loving lots of birthday family get togethers too.

So it's that time of year again. August is our busy birthday month for family and friends and since Thing 5 started school last September we have recently discovered it's a busy time for school friend birthdays too! 

We are only on August 5th and I have already had my Dads birthday and my sister in laws plus a school friend of Thing 5's whose party he went to today. With friends birthdays heading this way too and 4 birthday parties lined up for Thing 5 throughout August I am losing track of whose birthday is on which date! 

The gorgeous cake we had for my Mum's birthday from Marks and Spencer. The butterflies were edible although I really didn't want to eat them!

The most important date of all in August is of course August 10th. Unfortunately for my brother Thing 2 first gatecrashed his birthday way back in 2003 when she was born. Then in 2012 Thing 5 decided to do the same! So we have 3 family birthdays on the same day. 

This year we are aiming for a quiet day with a family lunch followed by a takeaway tea. We will have a birthday cake for each child and they will each choose what they would like for birthday tea. We try and make it as special for each child as we can but it's difficult when their birthday is on the same day yet one will turn 14 and one will turn 5 so they both want to do completely different things on the day! 

We had birthday lunch for my Dads birthday recently and a few weeks ago we had a lovely afternoon tea in the garden for my Mums 60th birthday. It was a lovely day with gorgeous weather. There was plenty of food (and drink) plus some lovely cakes and we were surrounded by family. I love it when the family gets together for a birthday whether it's a birthday lunch or a meal out. For my Mums birthday tea we all helped out with making sandwiches, buying cakes etc... The children all played in the garden together and we chatted and sat in the garden until late evening time. 

Birthday celebrations have been in full swing for the past month and will continue for the next month with lots more birthday tea and cake!

Family time is always great although I am sure my parents will tell you that maybe nearly every Sunday is a bit much when we pop round for lunch. However I do value our time together and always think there is something wrong if I don't hear from my Mum for 48 hours! 

So party time is in full swing. Thing 5 is counting down the days until his/his sisters/his uncles birthday and has requested lots of different presents, a Mcdonald's and KFC birthday tea, a trip to the play area and a Blaze and the Monster Machines cake. Thing 2 has asked for Krispy Kreme doughnuts as an alternative to a birthday cake which I won't argue with. So bring on more family time, more get-together's and please August some lovely sunny days so we can enjoy celebrations outside!

Now lets see how many birthdays I forget between now and the end of August! 

When is your busy birthday month? Do you have 2 or more birthdays on the same day?

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Looking at the new autumn winter childrenswear releases from Burberry, Gucci, Kenzo, Dolce & Gabbana and more

As the Summer sales come to an end there has been an influx of new Autumn Winter arrivals at some of my favourite websites that I like to visit. They stock designer brands such as Burberry, Gucci, Hugo Boss, Kenzo, Dolce & Gabbana, Armani Junior and much, much more. Even better that they have such fab websites where I can shop from the comfort of my own home and have it delivered within just a few days or sooner if needed, who doesn't love a bit of internet shopping?! 

With five children they are always needing new clothes and I particularly love buying for the Autumn Winter season. Chunky knits, cosy trousers and snuggly coats are all on our list for this year and so I have been taking a look at what is on offer for the new season ahead. 

As well as stocking their wardrobes with purchases from Next, Gap, Zara and more I do find a few select designer items from websites such as Alex and Alexa, Childsplay Clothing, Childrensalon and DesignerChildrenswear. 

There are new Autumn Winter arrivals being added to websites every day so there is already so many things to choose from for the boys winter wardrobes. With Thing 4 just about to join a school where they have no uniform he needs more in his wardrobe than the other children who will be in school uniform all week. 

Here is what has caught my eye so far from various brands collections; 

First up we have these 3 items. The first item is a t shirt from Dolce & Gabbana with a fun sports print. The second two items are both from Burberry. I am loving their new jogging trousers this season. Thing 4 and 5 look much more comfier in joggers than in jeans! Also from Burberry is the burgundy striped long sleeve top which would go well with the jogging trousers. 

Next up we have three items all from Burberry. Again the outfit contains a pair of Burberry jogging trousers this time I've added the cosy 'Head in The Clouds' jumper and I love the light blue Burberry Heacham trainers with the signature Burberry check detailing. 

Sticking with a blue/grey theme I picked these 2 items to go together. The grey knit cardigan is from the Boss Kids collection and the blue long sleeve top with grey collar and button up front is from the Armani Junior collection. 

The mustard striped Burberry top is the same as the burgundy one further up. Long sleeved with Burberry written across the front. This would go well with grey joggers or jeans. I also like these Gucci trainers. With monogram all over print and the choice of either white soles and laces or navy soles and laces. They are smart yet comfortable for small feet.

These last three items look cosy and warm for chilly autumn days. The jogging suit is from Armani Junior. The fab vibrant printed Kenzo jumper adds a bit of colour to Winter warmers and the Gant jumper looks smart with its half zip collar. 

All of the items featured can be found on various designer childrenswear websites as mentioned above as well as on the brands main websites too. With different retailers offering different items there was so much more that I could have added to this post with more autumn winter clothing being added daily as more items become available. 

Go and check out the new autumn winter collections today and let me know what you find that you like the look of for your little ones.