I appear to have gone full Christmas on the blog this month. For those of you that are understandably “bah humbug” about the whole thing, I apologise. However, I have been wanting to share our advent celebrations for the last couple of years and have never got it done in time. I am fixing that today. I am unsure as to why, but I loathe chocolate advent calandars. Possibly because  having that amount of the chocolate in the house would always cause some kind of tantrum and it seems impossible to buy one that isn’t covered with a distinctly unfestive character. So, ever since MM was small we have done an activity advent calendar. Things to do to get us in the mood for the big day. The children love it and it’s become a favourite tradition of ours.

Every year, someone asks me what kind of things we put in our little numbered pouches and I thought I would share them, so that you can see it’s not as much work as you may think. As school is part of our lives now I’ve had to scale back on some of the things we used to do, we just don’t have as much time or energy for crafts. Each year Mckdaddy and I sit and look at the calendar for December, we slot in the things that have a definite date, such as a carol service and decide when we’re busy and need easy and quick things to do. Gradually the month becomes filled and in the past, Mckdaddy has done drawings on small bits of card to show what that day is, this is brilliant for non-readers. 

Rather than a list of dates, I’ve organised these into groups, so if crafting or cooking isn’t your thing, I hope you’ll find other ideas to inspire you to create a advent activity calandar.

Getting ready for the big day

  • Ice the Christmas Cake
  • Make Christmas biscuits
  • Make mince pies
  • Choose a Christmas Tree
  • Decorate the tree
  • Get ready for Father Christmas’ visit (obviously this one is Christmas Eve)
  • Make peppermint creams for gifts
  • Listen to a message from Father Christmas

Out and About

  • Go on a woodland walk
  • See the Christmas Lights in the city
  • Drive around to find the best house light display
  • Visit Father Christmas
  • Choose a new Christmas Decoration each
  • Go to a Carol Service
  • Go shopping for sibling or parents gifts
  • Buy a gift for charity or donate to a food bank
  • Collect pine cones
  • Go ice skating

Easy Wins

  • Candlelight bath (with or without glowsticks)
  • Dinner by candlelight
  • Read a Christmas Story
  • Watch a Christmas film
  • Do a Christmas puzzle
  • Have a Christmas kitchen dance party
  • Have a special festive hot chocolate (Hot Choc, Squirty Cream & Christmassy Sprinkles)
  • Make a sparkly smoothie
  • Light some sparklers
  • School Christmas Lunch


  • Make Christmas Decorations
  • Colour a Christmas picture 
  • Make paper chains
  • Make pine cone firelighters
  • Make Christmas Cards
  • Decorate gift tags (Use Parcel tags and some Christmas stamps)
  • Decorate wrapping paper

So, there you have it. 35 pretty easy Christmas activities to slowly build up and get you and your home ready for Christmas. A little bit of organisation now and you’ll be ready for December 1st.

 I’ve rather optimistically given this post a number. I have no idea if it’ll become a series, but when done right, I love to read a rambling, catch up type post and it occurs to me that I don’t often record the little details of our lives, even though I know these are the things that will fade from my memory, so I intend to reflect on the week we’ve just had and never mind the lack of comments, likes and shares. 

It’s been an odd week this week. Mini Mck finally had his operation and I had my first and hopefully last experience of a child under general anesthetic, as he instantly fell asleep in my arms, before I lifted him onto the bed. Very disconcernting. As usual, he took it all in his stride. He was so calm and unphased by it all and he has continued to recover in his usual stoic manner. It’s been rather nice having him at home for a while, just him and Lady Mck. They have such a lovely dynamic. It’s heartwarming to see him in full, kind and caring big brother mode. Spending time alone with him, when she’s been sleeping is such a treat. We’ve played many games of Lego Batman on the ipad and Guess Who from a box, we’ve read together and done a little school work.

However, Lady Mck continues to need her Mama for a large part of the day. Her naps seem to get shorter as each week passes and the time she spends in my arms seems to get longer. It makes getting anything done a challenge, even with a wrap. In order to wrestle some control over our home and get some much needed head space, I set my alarm at 5am for a couple of days this week. Nano often disturbs us at this time anyway and whilst Mckdaddy can get back to sleep, I never can, so I decided to embrace this and go to bed early. I’m still not sure the experiment worked, but I’m prepared to try it some more to see. 

I continued with my quest to get Christmas organised early, for me, at least. It seems that almost everyone is secretly beavering away at Christmas preparations and not telling anyone. For those of us that don’t and wonder how people are so much more organised than us, this is why. 

Yesterday, I had some much needed child free time. A cut and colour hair appointment and some shopping. I really need to step out of my boring uniform of blue jeans and so forced myself to go into Zara, a shop I never usually bother with. I came out with some black and white small chequed trousers and a tee. I’ve now decided, that despite my previous misgivings I need some ankle boots in my life. Thank you to everyone who gave me hints and ideas on Facebook and Instagram, I still have some more pieces on my wishlist. Incidentally, does anyone know the difference between treggings and leggings? Clueless.

Last night we had a fluttering of snow, but enough to coat the roads and cars. Nano had been ill, through coughing so much. Looking out of the roof window with him was a most welcome distraction. Even the smallest amount of snow changes everything outside. Suddenly it is light and the hue of the streetlights becomes pale and diffused. Sounds become muffled and everything seems blanketed. The air smells different, as if outside has been given a spring clean. I’d hoped it would snow all night and today, so that no-one had to to go to school tomorrow, but alas, whilst I am keeping Mini Mck off for another day or two, we will still be taking Nano and I may even try the 5am start again tomorrow. Any more tips on how I can start my day off right and get some contol over my surroundings would be hugely appreciated. 

If you like these trivial snippets of a life, I do of others, please do follow me on Instagram or give my Facebook page a ‘like’. See you next Sunday……maybe.

Styling the Seasons, by Apartment Apothecary and Lotts and Lots :“Reflect the change of seasons and show those changes in your own home, by styling any surface (shelf, dining table, mantelpiece) with something you like to reflect the new month and what it means to you”

For their exciting collaboration with Emily and Ruth from Makelight Studios, Katie and Lottie have asked for a flatlay to reflect the month of November. I have to admit I love a flatlay, as long as I remember that it doesn’t have to be artfully arranged petals scattered ‘randomly’. As much as I love those photos and admire the people that can style them so beautifully, it just isn’t me and that’s OK.
A flatlay photo is a great way to photograph when you live in a chaotic house with three children. You don’t need much space to make it work, it doesn’t take too long to set up and of course zooming in is the friend of the messy, real life blogger. It literally hides a multitude of sins. I have a few places in the house where I can set up a flatlay photo, with different backgrounds. Nano has a beautifully light, white bedroom, with a nice big roof window that is perfect for clean, bright styling. Lady Mck has a lovely, vintage, waxed wood chest of drawers and downstairs we have a dark wood dining room table, although I am always battling the light in this room, even in height of summer. One of my most used flat lay areas for a quick iPhone shot for Instagram is a wooden side table directly underneath our lounge window. It’s not my favourite surface, but is easy to clear and set up while the children are around and chaos is everywhere.

November is a time for hunkering down. For me, it feels like a dark month, when we really have to accept that winter is here and will be here for some time. I close the curtains before I leave to pick up the boys from school, turn on the side lamps and the heating goes on in November. Usually it is also the month that I avoid any mention of Christmas. Grumbling that it all starts too early and everyone should just calm down! However, this year I have decided to avoid my inevitable festive meltdown, as the present wrapping and card writing converges with school events and requests for baking by getting organised early.

One of my favourite things to do at Christmas is decide on how the presents will be wrapped. We always go for plain brown paper and then I decide on a colour scheme for ribbons and string and order my supplies. I love grosgrain ribbon and bakers twine for a simple, homespun look and this year I have avoided the traditional reds and greens for a, more grown up, palette of black and white. I may, also, dig out a roll of the kid’s IKEA easel paper as a change from the brown paper.

My aim is to get all the presents bought, made and wrapped by the end of November, so that I can really enjoy the children’s activities and excitement in December. I have never even attempted this before, so am curious to see if I can manage it.

sts -NOV1



I styled this in Nano’s room, while he was at school, when we had a brief spell of sun last week, with Lady Mck happily playing around me and ignoring me, until I actually picked up the camera. Then, she realised I was up to something and started undoing all my efforts. I had to abandon until she was sleeping, when unfortunately the light had gone. Thankfully, this room is so bright that I still managed to get some shots I was happy with.

People who get ready for Christmas are pretty annoying, don’t you think? They’re breezy smugness takes all the festivity out of the season. I have to admit that my dislike of the shops being full of Christmas trees and decoration turns me into a petulant child, shouting NO and I vow not to do anything until the beginning of December. Then I realise that I only have three weeks to do everything and once you add school events and request for baking and raffle prizes, I am probably to be found up until midnight wrapping presents the day before we give them to people and weeping into my Christmas tipple. 
The way that Christmas falls this year means that the boys and Mckdaddy will have almost a whole week of their two week holiday before the big day and I am determined not to spend that week getting ready for the festive celebrations and so this year I havedecided things are going to be different and my aim is to have most of the preparations done by the end of November, leaving December free for cooking, nativity plays and carol concerts. Our decorations will still go up at the same time, late according to most of my Instagram feed, who seem to put up their tree on December 1st (What the heck is that about?!) but there are many other things you can do behind the scenes that won’t make it feel jaded by the time Christmas Eve arrives. 


Here are 12 things you can do in November to make Christmas easier for YOU….

  1. Make lists. Food, gifts, cards, diary dates. Getting organized is half the battle
  2. Buy gifts. As soon as you think of a good idea for someone, get it organised and you won’t have to keep the information in your head anymore
  3. Make gifts. This one is essential. Some items, like chutney and sloe gin need time to mature and getting it done in early November, means you can get them packaged up much sooner.
  4. Buy gift wrap, ribbons, sellotape and cards
  5. Wrap gifts as you buy or finish them, put them in carrier bags for each family, store them away and forget about them until you need to deliver them. 
  6. Write cards. I am always rushing to finish our cards the day before the last posting date and it feels like such a chore. That leaves absolutely no time for the odd note or nice message in them and this always feels curmudgeonly. Write them, address them and put a date in the diary to post them. 
  7. Buy Christmas Stamps. I am a sucker for a picture stamp. They are released in November, so buy them and stick them on your already written cards.
  8. Plan your food. If you’re entertaining on or around Christmas, plan your menu now. You can even start popping the odd non perishable items in your shopping trolley, which will really help with budgeting too. 
  9. Subtlely find out what the children might be putting on their letters to Father Christmas. Family and friends are going to ask and there’s nothing worse than drawing a complete blank and blurting out random ideas. Remember, it’s your house that all this stuff is going to end up in. Make sure it’s going to keep your kids entertained and not end up in the charity bag by February. 
  10. Start deep cleaning the house. Every year, prior to guests arriving Mckdaddy and I are always battling to clean and tidy the house, we have even been known to paint a wall or two, to eliminate scribbles and mucky fingerprints. Start sorting now, so that you can do a quick clean and tidy before the festivities really begin.
  11. Make your cake and pudding. I know many of you will be rolling your eyes at this one, but I promise it’s really worth doing and not difficult at all. I recommend Delia’s pudding recipe and Nigel Slater’s Christmas cake from The Kitchen Diaries vol 1.
  12. Organise any presents and cards for December and early January birthdays. I’m sure many people with December birthdays get combined presents or presents wrapped in Christmas paper. Make it special for them and get it all ready now

So, there you have it. My plan to embrace the smugness and become one of those people, in order to prevent my annual Christmas meltdown and ensure that I spend December floating around making Christmas wreaths, plumping cushions and going to the cinema to watch the new Star Wars. 
Do you have anymore ideas on how to get ready for Christmas early, without taking all the fun out of it?

NB Under no circumstances should you be putting up your Christmas Tree or watching Christmas movies before December. I’m a stickler for these things. 

I’ve been filling the many hours of getting a small child to sleep with podcasts recently. I always have my phone with me, but after hours of continually pinging between social media sites, in the hope of finding something new to engage with, the little glowing screen in the dark can become irritating, to the point of wanting to fling it across the room.

After seeing a recommendation for the slow home podcast I’ve been catching up with their achieves and it’s led me to other material about slow and simple living. It’s such a hot topic at the moment, everyone seems to be doing it, but I’ve loved thinking about how I spend my time and live my life and whether it’s fulfilling me and feeding me in the way I want it to. I’m a little torn about the whole subject, to be honest. On the one hand I find listening to people talking about slow living soothing in itself and I can definitely see some changes that I can make which would help me feel less rushed and pressured. However, some of the navel gazing drives me bonkers and I can’t help feeling that some of it just cannot be anything other than smug and a little judgemental, however good the ‘Slow Movement’s’ intentions are.

One of the things that is mentioned, in various things I’ve heard and read is the how the pegging out of washing is a great example of slow living and this got me thinking about the whole topic, as I hung the washing on a cold morning, at 7:30am, to give it at least a decent chance of getting dry in a day. The example of pegging washing is usually given as a choice, a correct choice. By pegging out instead of using a dryer we are making the slow choice.


However, I don’t have a dryer, just as many others don’t. So, what is it that elevates hanging your washing from a laborious chore to slow living? Is it the choice element? Surely, that would make slow living something for only the privileged, of which I include myself. It could certainly be argued that all of this is the realm of the navel gazing middle class, spouting forth about the simple life and living authentically, whatever that means. You only have to look at how searingly accurate SocalityBarbie is to realise how irksome this movement can be. When you are working difficult hours, juggling childcare and just trying to pay the bills, sourcing locally produced, organic bread, is not, perhaps on your list of priorities.

Slow living doesn’t necessarily have to mean not being busy and when you dig down a little, I think it is about a mindset, rather than what you do, or what you earn. Slow living seems to me to go very much hand in hand with mindfulness. Being mindful about what we spend our money on, thinking more conciously about how we spend our time or, in the case of hanging the washing, giving ourselves over to a task. So often, it seems to be one thing. The evil of screens and technology or cutting out sugar and clean eating. For me, this is too narrow a definition and far too prescriptive.

Slow living is not just what you do, it’s how you think. I can either hang the washing in a rush, getting it done as quickly as possible, but feeling pressure because I haven’t left enough time or I can make sure I do have the time and allow myself to feel what I am doing. Notice the temperature outside, hear the sounds, breathe in the fresh, morning air. Even in the depths of winter when there is no chance of pegging out, I can choose a favourite radio programme or podcast and listen as I work or involve Lady Mck rather than shooing her away, because I’m in a hurry.

I know there’s more to slow living than how you dry your washing and I’m learning that it means different things to different people, but I think it can so easily veer into the exclusive territory of the smug or the priveliged and that seems to be against its true intentions. We could all do with a little slow in our lives.

Styling the Seasons, by Apartment Apothecary and Lotts and Lots :“Reflect the change of seasons and show those changes in your own home, by styling any surface (shelf, dining table, mantelpiece) with something you like to reflect the new month and what it means to you”


Once again, I am squeezing this in with only a few hours of October remaining. I’ve been battling with the light this week to get some photos taken. Well, battling with the light and the juggling of family life.
October half term always seems like the most needed, especially this year, with Nano Mck starting school and Mckdad starting a new and more demanding job. We all limped towards this break and it feels as always, like the last opportunity to take some big breaths before the speeding juggernaut of Christmas comes towards us.

It is always rather a balancing act. There are things we want to do for ourselves, jobs that need doing wither in the house or the garden and of course three children to entertain. I’m not sure we got the balance exactly right, as both me and Mckdaddy are feeling tired and worn out, but we gave it our best shop. The Beer Festival has been visited, books have been read and Lego has been built. A room has been decorated, the cinema has been visited and pumpkins have been carved.

October culminates in the children’s favourite celebration, aside from Christmas, of course, Halloween. I used to resist it and the misanthropic side of me still thinks it’s too commercialised, too American and too sweet based. However, it combines two of my kids favourtie things, sweets and dressing up. Mini Mck is always very clear about his costume and this year’s request of a vampire saw me battle with the sewing machine to create a two toned cape, complete with sticking up collar. So, for this months Styling the seasons I am embracing All Hallows Eve. The pumpkin carving, the apple bobbing, the sweets and the excuse to light candles in the day and watch Charlie Brown and The Great Pumpkin.



“Slugs and snails and puppy dog tails” , that’s what the old nursery rhyme tells us boys are made of. Outdated, right? And yet, in the last two weeks I’ve read two blog posts written by mothers about how parenting boys is so different to parenting girls. The latest, which I shan’t link to, equates parenting a boy to getting a dog. The blogger laments that she was able to craft and cook with her daughter and that when she discovered she was having a boy, she wanted to cry.  I’m afraid my rage that this nonsense is out there just became too much and so I’m using the only megaphone available to me to balance things out. 

I always suspected the idea that young girls and boys were dramatically different was a myth, but when you only have two boys it’s harder to argue your case based on your own experience. However, what I could’ve told you before I had a daughter, was that my boys are vastly different. They both love running, exploring, Star Wars, any kind of vehicle, playing football, getting muddy and rough and tumble.  So far, so boy. However, one loves craft stuff, drawing, colouring and cooking, while, so far, the other shows little interest in this. However, he is far happier to play with girls, loves pink and thinks ‘Let it Go’ is the best song ever. They are both chatty, sensitive, kind, imaginative. In other words, a good dollop of slugs and snails with some sugar and spice mixed in. 

Of course, now I also have a girl, I’ve really been able to notice any differences in her and, so far I can’t see any. She loves to climb, run, eat mud, play with cars and I often feel that my main job is stopping her getting into danger. She empties cupboards, scribbles with crayons, splashes in the bath, loves to kick a ball and builds towers of blocks. All things that I’ve seen most kids do, not boys, not girls, just kids. 

And, really that’s my point. They may not be very old, but children are complex individuals and the last thing they need is to be squashed into restrictive blue and pink metaphorical boxes. This “boys will be boys” attitude is not helping any of us one bit. We either marginalise those boys who don’t quite fit the mold or tar boys that do with an attitude that their behaviour is specific to their gender and therefore not in their control. None is this is helpful to girls. I don’t want my daughter to feel that she mustn’t push her physical limits or explore the world around her because it’s not considered ladylike. Or for her to feel that she can’t speak up about unacceptable male behaviour, because “boys will be boys”. However, I feel this is just as damaging to how we perceive boys. It seems so negative. They are noisy, disruptive and need to be run out like dogs.

Let’s celebrate our children and their uniqueness, their ability to be physical, to explore, to concentrate, to take care with things, to love the outdoors and to create, without ascribing gender to any of these things. 


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