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What a year it’s been. We are so glad to be getting into the Christmas spirit nice and early. There is something about twinkling Christmas lights and colourful decorations that bring a smile. It is also wonderful to have a toddler who is big into everything Christmas. Since December the 1st Annabelle has insisted on wearing Christmas themed clothes and her new BFF is the Nutcracker!

One big adjustment this year has been the move to online shopping. Okay it’s not new but when we are looking for gifts we like to wander the shops to find something different. It’s not the same online, you have to have more of an idea of what you are looking for.

So if you, like us, are looking for inspiration for something a bit different here are a few suggestions from us:

Adults:

Mapiful: Do you have a special place or significant location? Then Mapiful would make a great gift. Essentially this is customisable wall art. You can pick any location, choose your map style and colour and add a personal phrase to add your own touch. We debated between Garden Valley, Idaho where we got married – but it was a just a blank map (it’s was in the middle of nowhere). Sydney where we lived for a year, but in all honesty we didn’t want to look at it everyday wishing to return. Birmingham, our home, was a close second choice but as it is ever changing we wanted to wait for the significant changes to finish. And so our top choice was London. It’s where we met. Where we fell in love and where we lived for 5 years. Plus it’s iconic.

Final date to order from Mapiful is December 15th!

Razor: Okay this may sound like a strange one but we have recently tried razors from Estrid and they are so good. Here’s the thing, they are vegan razors! Designed to be kind and gentle to your body – seriously no nicks with these razors – and the planet. This is a gift for someone you care about and who has a social conscience and it’s only £7.95 for the starter kit.

It’s vegan as it uses natural ingredients like aloe vera instead of animal substances in the soothing strips. Buying one even helps make a difference. For every purchase they donate a portion to Kvinna till Kvinna, Medica Mondiale or the Fawcett Society. These organisations all work to support women and gender equality around the world, click the links to find out more.

Available in a range of colours you can pick Blush, Lemonade, Peach, Space or Cloud. I went with Space as I like purple and Laura went for Blush as she likes pink, they look super cute hanging in the bathroom together!

You can read more about the razors and the Estrid mission here.

Tiny Tot Tribe: Our personal go to for comfy jumpers. At some points this year I have managed a whole week of outfits with jumpers from Tiny Tot Tribe. They have tons of designs and lots of clothing options. Whether you want something cute or you want to match with your kids you should check out this small business. Oh and use Annabelle10 for a discount!

Children:

Puzzles: Annabelle has loved puzzles for months. Not only do they hold her attention but she seems to enjoy the satisfaction of completing them quickly. We rarely check the age suggestions on the boxes and instead go for designs we know she will like.

Our latest addition has been a stunning Finding Nemo 24 piece puzzle. The reason it makes the suggestion list isn’t just the design though, it’s because it’s two-sided and the back allows you to colour it in. Not only do you get the puzzle to complete but it becomes an art project too. Annabelle loved it. Available from ToysandBearsonline this would make a great gift for a toddler or younger child and it’s currently on at a discounted price of £6.39.

In fact check out the online store for a huge variety of toys and games. There are lots of great puzzles and educational toys available for all ages.

Books: As well as puzzles, Annabelle’s big love is books. We read 3 or 4 stories every night and we are often asked to read stories during the day. During quiet time we often hear Annabelle reading the books to herself or to her dolls and it never fails to make us smile.

We have found that raiding our childhood books hasn’t been a good idea. Heteronormative families are the only ones represented. The grammar can be terrible. The stories just plain weird. And there are no POC represented.  It has led us to seek out stories that show a different view of the world for Annabelle. Our two favourite books right now are:

Whose In My Family. This book covers every type of family situation there is and tells a story that Annabelle loves. She finds herself represented in the pages and it gives us an opportunity to discuss why being different is a good thing.

For a similar reason the other book we are enjoying is Big Splash Circus. The story is about finding your own special talent and not comparing yourself to others. It is also about having a go and trying new things. As the book is filled with vibrant colours and different characters it is easy to communicate the messages in a way that Annabelle enjoys.

Elf Cards: If you want a game that children and adults can enjoy then this is it. A modern take on snap this card set allows you to make up your own games. We play snap with the pictures but you can also do it with colours or with designs. Annabelle will happily play snap with us and it’s a game where my competitiveness is aloud 🙂

Dogs:

Bandana’s are our latest favourite for Bisbee. There isn’t a season that doesn’t need a bandana. Now Bisbee is getting more walks (thanks lockdown) it makes sense that she always looks good. Her Christmas one is from Jeliandmac the bandana is only £5.50  and is double sided. We also love SewBlueShop they are super cute designs that work on all collars and each bandana is £4.40.

Light-up collar sadly a lot of Bisbee’s walks are after it gets dark so we have invested in a great light up collar. Click the link to check our one out. It is great as you can cut it to size so it works for any dog. It also has a number of settings from flashing to bright. Best of all it is rechargeable so you don’t have to worry about batteries!

We hope whatever your Christmas plans are looking like that you have a wonderful time and let us know if you take up any of our suggestions!

Disclaimer: we were kindly gifted the items from Mapiful, Estrid Razors, ToysandBearsOnline and The Big Splash Circus Book for review. Having used the products ourselves the comments above are all our own and we received no payment in exchange for the reviews. 

There are a few things in life that you can guarantee but when visiting Wales we find three things to be always be true. You will have stunning views just about everywhere you go. Secondly it will rain. Thirdly you will have an amazing time even if you just go for the day.

We don’t have a favourite part of Wales. It changes every time we visit. But we are fast discovering that areas surrounding Snowdonia National Park are well worth the visit. Our latest trip was to Harlech. Situated on the coast this place offers a beautiful beach, a castle with stunning views and a great base to explore.

When we visited Oslo in 2017 we had an amazing trip. You can read all about it here. From the scenery to the people, from the food to the history Norway has plenty to offer. Having explored the biggest city last time we wanted to try something different this time and headed to the gateway of the fjords – Bergen!

We recorded our trip, partly so we could remember the scenery and the majesty of it all. Partly so that we could remember Annabelle as a little one. Partly because the trip was jam-packed and we didn’t want to forget anything.

2020 certainly started in an unexpected way.

So when the opportunity to head to Gran Canaria as a family presented itself, courtesy of my parents, we jumped at the chance. It was an opportunity to get some sun and most importantly get some time as a family away from life demands. To get there it meant taking a 4 hour flight from Birmingham Airport to Las Palmas then a 40 minute drive to Taurito – our destination.

For New Year’s Eve 2020 we wanted to celebrate somewhere new. We choose Krakow, Poland as our destination. We chose Krakow for two reasons: 1. There was a 50% chance of snow and 2. It is cost effective from the UK. In fact we paid £150 per person for return flights and accommodation for 4 nights was £400.

It is also turned out that Krakow was super child friendly!

Waking up on Sunday morning to glorious sunshine was not what we expected on a November morning in Wales. Thankfully it was what we got.

Having had a busy Saturday we planned to take things easy on the Sunday. The only problem with easy Sundays is that sometimes you end up being busier than if you had planned things. This Sunday followed that description.

With too many places we wanted to see we narrowed down the list based on three things: proximity (we didn’t want to go too far), uniqueness (we wanted something we couldn’t find elsewhere) and child friendliness. We also ruled out a few places for not being dog friendly – Portmeirion being one.

However after researching and planning we decided to throw caution to the wind and get in the car and drive. It wasn’t a great plan. We did see stunning scenery as we drove through Snowdonia National Park, especially the trees were in glorious Autumn colours. We also came across some lovely quaint villages with gorgeous houses that looked straight out of a painting. What we also found was quite a few of our potential stops were closed on Sundays.

We decided to book in a final getaway of the year to Snowdonia National Park, a chance to escape as a family and have some down time away from our regular chaos.

Leaving at Annabelle’s 7pm bedtime we drove 3 hours north west to the village of Tanygrisiau an area within Blaenau Ffestiniog and famous for it’s slate mining. We had booked a 3 night stay in an airbnb cottage that was dog and child friendly and as we discovered in the morning – a stunning view!

The weather forecast had predicted rain for the weekend so on waking up and seeing grey skies we weren’t surprised. We quickly got dressed in wellies and coats to head to breakfast at a recommended cafe less than 10 minutes walk away. Annabelle loved the puddles and was excited to be out in the rain, we were excited when we turn the corner and saw a hill covered in waterfalls – it was stunning! Our weekend of exploring was just getting started….