What Are Benefits of Having An Artificial Christmas Tree?

I’ve got no loyalty when it comes to the never-ending debate of real versus artificial Christmas tree. I’m avoiding the word fake, on the grounds of attempting to eradicate all negativity from my life over the festive season.and fake being a negative word. My PMA is through the roof right now as I push bad thoughts away and saying fake, to me, reeks of things trying (and failing) to match something good.

I say fake, what comes to your mind? fake snow, yeah, that’s total pants. Fake money, worlds worst practical joke, how fake boobs, see where I’m going with this? I’d be lying if I hadn’t contemplated it. Being a size 6 has it’s good and bad points, but I’m still not convinced I’d pull off fake boobs at 90 in the nursing home when everything else has gone south. replace it with artificial and boom, it’s a little more woolly. We tried to make it real, but the nearest we got was artificial.

We’re not mentioning the F-word.

So, cleared that up and now back to my question, what are the benefits of having an ARTIFICAL Christmas tree

Now, this is where I’m struggling with an air of authenticity. You see, I’m typing this while sitting 10 foot away from a glorious real Christmas tree. It smells lush, it looks lush and the dog is well impressed we have some greenery in the house. In all my years of home owning (about 20 now, I think) I’ve only had a real tree 3 times, this year is the 1st time I’ve gone out and bought it myself.

I've been pondering over the difference of going real and not having an artificial Christmas tree. There are benefits to both....Years past have always seen the big decorating day begin with the assembling of the artificial tree. And I’ve been pondering over the difference not having an artificial one this week.

Decorating Is Totally different.

This light bulb moment popped into my head as I looked at the mish-mash of decoration on my tree, and for the tenth time that day rehung the ones which the dog and the 3-year-old had knocked off. There’s less pressure to decorate a real tree.

Instead, it’s just a case of aiming for the most sticky out branches with very little attention to detail. Yet here’s the thing though…… I like that attention to detail.

I like carefully arranging a theme of colours and alternating between things that wrap around and things which dangle. I like making sure my mathematical mind is satisfied that everything is in its place and pattern. I’d go as far as to say my strategically arranged artificial Christmas tree made me proud and when visitors came through the door I’d wait for that,

“wow doesn’t your tree look amazing!”

compliment.

Other than the odd comment on my current tree having a nice shape, not one person has complimented my decorating skills. And let’s face it, who does love a compliment?

Maintenance is key

Or not if you’re talking artificial. I was the proud owner of my last artificial tree for, give or take, 5-6 years. That poor thing was pushed down the stairs in its box as I navigated it down from the loft then rammed back into a box when it was time to say goodbye. There was no remembering to water it (something I didn’t realise you had to do with my first one which was in a very sorry state by Christmas day, I was young and inexperienced, don’t judge me.) There was no panicking everytime the kids got a little hyped up, and there was no working out what to do with it once it’s served its purpose.

You would never see my artificial tree lying in my front garden shamelessly waiting for the Christmas tree fairies to take it away.

An artificial tree is a good investment.

And finally, I’ve done the maths, and if I was to invest in a new artificial tree for say £100 and kept it for 5 years, (or more!) then that’s worked out a lot cheaper than buying a real one each year. Now don’t get me wrong, my £30 real tree IS glorious and I do not regret buying it one bit. The real bonus, I guess, was being able to support a local business.

But will I do it again next year?

I’m still undecided.

But……..

I’d be lying if I didn’t look at my mums with a little envy, sitting all perfectly proportioned with it’s perfectly arranged decorations and wonder if I’ll go back to an artificial tree next year?

I've been pondering over the difference of going real and not having an artificial Christmas tree. There are benefits to both....Disclaimer. 

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Staying Stylish When It’s Freezing Out There!

So temperatures have plummeted this week and I’ve been scouring my wardrobe for ways to look stylish while not wrapping up like I’m on a ski holiday. Only yesterday I was swanning about in a leather biker jacket and dress, this morning, totally different story. The only problem was today, I had various chores to complete from walking the dog, dropping my youngest to preschool, heading over to a nearby town to get some Christmas presents, an important meeting and equally important mate date o coffee.

and I didn’t want to run back home to get changed in between.

So what does one wear when they want to make sure they look stylish mooching round the shops, but comfortable enough to dash around after a dog or 3 year old.

Firstly start with the accessories, here’s where you can lift a so-so outfit to an I’ve-made-an-effort. Think cashmere gloves ( Mine are from Woolovers if you’re wondering ) Sometimes simply knowing you’re wearing something luxurious helps you exude confidence. Clothes should not only make you good, you should feel good. Top this outfit off with a faux fur headband from Joules

Same goes for footwear, I’m a huge boots fan come the winter. Whether it’s with skinny jeans or a dress, I feel much better going about my day in sensible shoes. My go to’s are Fly London boots, they’re super comfy and the subtle wedge helps elongate the legs while still being easy enough to walk in.

And last but by no means least, choose a functional coat which looks just as good as you strut down the high street or if you’re walking the dog. I live in my Jack Wolfskin jacket it uses only natural down insulation for tons of warmth without the bulk. (and comes with a pocket to wrap it up and tuck it away if you get too hot while out sale shopping!) Having a hood and being water repellant, you’re covered if you get caught in a shower too.

How to stay stylish when the weather's freezing

So there you go, some simple capsule items which will see you through the cooler months, a go-to which takes the pressure out of choosing what to wear each day.

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Keeping Toddlers Healthy Over Christmas

Simply having a Toddler-Sized Christmas time

Earlier this year I took part in the Toddler-Sized challenge, encouraging parents to use the evidence-based guidance on feeding toddlers, developed by the Infant & Toddler Forum, into something easy and practical. For me, it helped to take the guess work out of feeding my toddler healthy, well-balanced meals and snacks.  T

Along with my own ideas on how to create toddler sized lunch boxes, there were many others who took part in the challenge and you can meet the winners here. And the advice now extends to the festive season with the Infant & Toddler Forum’s festive menu to give little ones a healthy balance, while still enjoying some treats while the festive tips for active toddlers give lots of active play ideas.

Infant & Toddler Forum’s festive menu to gives little ones a healthy balance, as well as tips for active toddlers

Toddler menu and healthy hints and tips for a happy festive season

Christmas is a time for families to be together, to relax and to celebrate the season. It can also be a time of extra pressure as families get swept up in the holiday madness of parties, shopping and cooking! In such a busy period, everyday routines may go out of the window, and it can be hard to keep track, and make sure your toddler is eating the right foods in the right amounts and in the right balance. Some toddlers may become extra sensitive as routine changes influence moods. Nap-times are essential for toddlers but at Christmas these may be later or cut short, not to mention meals and snacks may be rushed and regular activity may get forgotten.

To help make the most of this busy period, the Infant & Toddler Forum has developed resources to help maintain a happy, active and healthy holiday season for all. Our festive tips for active toddlers (see below) have plenty of ideas to keep the little ones busy, and our festive menu is full of suggestions to give little ones a healthy balance at Christmas dinner, while still enjoying all the seasonal fun.

Facts and stats on parent toddler diet confidence

A recent parent survey (parents of children 1 – 5yrs) by the Infant & Toddler Forum found that:

  • Only 14% of parents follow the recommended serving frequency for each of the food groups when feeding their toddlers
  • Over a third (35%) are worried they do not give their children the right balance of foods and more than a quarter (26%) feel their child is not getting enough variety
  • Whilst 80% of parents correctly identified the key food groups that when combined form a balanced diet, only a third (28%) take the advice given to them by experts on what they should be feeding their children

Infant & Toddler Forum’s festive menu to gives little ones a healthy balance, as well as tips for active toddlers Infant & Toddler Forum’s festive menu to gives little ones a healthy balance, as well as tips for active toddlers

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Why I’m not Doing Elf On The Shelf This Christmas

I’ve been looking at all the Christmassy posts firing up on my social media and already I’m starting to feel like a total mum fail. I’m not going to lie, I’ve seriously toyed with the idea of doing the Elf on the shelf thing, but talked myself out of it at the 11th hour on the grounds that my 3-year-old is oblivious, and do I actually need any added pressure in my life right now? (the answer is no, no I do NOT need anything more to do right now.)

I have a good few years ahead of me where I will have to do these things, so if I can put it off for one more year then that’s a no-brainer, throw in the fact that he’s not here for a couple of weekends as he visits his dad, and my imagination couldn’t even begin to stretch to how I’d get around that obstacle.

So it got me thinking, am I right in trying to minimise stress at this time of year or is it part of the parcel? Am I total Rubbish Mum Scrooge?

I’m usually quite a level-headed person, don’t get me wrong, there are occasions where I lose the plot and things get the better of me. Like trying to get out the door in the morning, even 17 years on, I’ve not cracked the parenting code of the pressure to get out in an orderly manner. And ex-husbands, don’t even go there! But 90% of the time I’m total ‘what ev’s.’ But this morning, while chatting with my mum about how ace my sister and cousin are at doing the whole parenting thing, I found I had to justify my whole approach to the festive season.

Not wanting to throw the whole single mum card around too much, but it’s hard sometimes not having a backup person to remind you to move the bloomin’ Elf. I also know, had I chose to go along with thinking up new and exciting ways for our Elf to tantalise the toddler each night, that pretty soon the novelty would wear off and I’d resent him. That by week 2 I would wake regularly in the early hours of the morning in total panic as I’d forgotten all about him, and anyway, I rarely get enough sleep as it is. So if my current health aim is getting a good nights sleep it is bonkers that I’m even considering introducing something into my life which will make it worse. Right?

It’s not that I think it’s a bad thing, kudos to all the parents who are doing it right now. And please do keep sharing on social media as I’m making a mental note of ideas for next year. But this parent, the one who’s already staring at a long list of to-do’s of present buying, wrapping, Christmas events, card writing, putting up decorations and wondering how the chuff she’s going to get everything done before the big day is here, while working and adulting. Then sheesh, I need to cut myself some slack and face facts, there simply is no room in my life for an elf this year.

But for those of you who are wondering, what has happened to the Elf, who is yet to be named. He is here, busy keeping guard of all the badly hidden presents on top of my wardrobe.

I've seriously toyed with the idea of doing the Elf on the Shelf thing, but talked myself out of it at the 11th hour and here's why...

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Making Memories At Universal Orlando Resort

This is my final post sharing our holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I’m ending on a big one! You’ve read all about the amazing accommodation, The Royal Pacific Resort and benefits of staying onsight. And I’ve written about how to do Universal with a preschooler now here’s everything you ever wanted to know about all three of their theme parks and City Walk. Starting with the newest, Volcano Bay. A water park with gumption!

Volcano Bay

Bearing in mind the boys and I are total water babies when it comes to holidays, you can pretty much guarantee that most of our time will be taken up in water of some sort, so spending the day swimming, splashing and on the thrills and spills of the water rides kicked off our break perfectly.

As with all the theme parks, staying in a Universal Orlando resort meant we had free transport to all the parks. While Islands of Adventure and Universal Studios Florida were only a 10 minutes walk or water taxi ride from our hotel, Volcano Bay was a short bus ride away, or the Shrek bus as the youngest called it.

Now I need you to think of the downside of water parks;  endless queues at the rides right? Only Volcano Bay has tackled that problem by supplying all their guests with a TapuTapu a waterproof watch-like device which holds your place in a virtual line for one attraction at a time.

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

Volcano Bay

Once inside, we headed to the lockers and changing rooms then found a spot to camp down on the beach area. With free loungers and life vests you only need a towel really, you can also pay for everything via their app so you can leave your valuables locked away. the boys and I headed straight into the water where the mighty Krakatau volcano is the centrepiece. It’s the hub of the park with various water slides, sand, wave machines, it really gives a holiday vibe of a Pacific isle rather than a water park.

The eldest teen soon disappeared, never to be seen for a couple of hours as he went on as many solo rides as he could (and possibly avoid babysitting duties?!) So the rest of us took a walk around the park which caters for all ages. We all rode the lazy river, an all-ages ride in rubber rings through gentle rapids and waterfalls. But the bulk of our time ended up in the kiddies splash areas and trying to prize the 3-year old away from the rides and splash areas was nigh on impossible. He loved having the independence of going down the slides himself.

Universal Studios Florida

Day 2 was all about getting up close and personal with the characters from our favourite movies, we started with a very intense day zipping through queues with the fast pass which you get automatically as a guest staying in a Universal Resort hotel and is well worth the upgrade if you aren’t.

Here, we got to dance with the minions in Despicable Me after a 3D ride helping Gru and the girls. One thing which I loved about all the rides was even the queues were entertaining and interactive.

We were lucky to  spend one of the days with fellow blogger Cornish Mum Steph and her family, which meant the boys were able to go on all the major rides and I got to see their faces when they got off; beams which were impossible to fake or hide summed it up.

During our post theme park chat they both decided that the Hollywood RipRide Rocket was their favourite, while I could’ve spent all my time in Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley. Your senses go into overdrive here as you take everything. Even the shop windows come alive, and the giant fire-breathing dragon was something else, our little preschooler still talks about it now.

Even more amazing is the ride on the Hogwarts Express between theme parks, everything is so real it’s hard not to imagine you’re heading off to a term at Hogwarts as you look out of the window. I could harp on about how breathtaking this area is all day, and how amazing Butter Beer tastes. But it really is something you need to experience yourself. Although I did managed to capture a snippet of the ride on camera.

While the boys got their kicks on the roller coasters, there was no hanging around waiting for me luckily, with all various shows and street performances going on all around. I even got to join in with a singing contest (not sure I could call it singing, more shouting) with a group of cappella singers on the streets of New York.( I live streamed this on Instagram so you may have caught it?)

Best part of this park for me was walking through the different themed city areas of London, Hollywood and New York, the rides here are only a small part of the whole experience.

Islands of Adventure

Our days of getting up close a personal to all the movies and movie stars didn’t end in Universal Studios as we soon found out at Islands of Adventure! I’d say the teenagers probably prefer this park out of the 3 with it’s ultimate rollercoaster The Incredible Hulk, full on experience at Skull Island and my favourote, Harry Potters Forbidden Journey.

Along with even more of Harry Potter, you also get to see Marvel characters come to life on the streets of Marvel Super Hero Island. It was here that my 3 year old got a meet and greet with his idol Spiderman, a total heart-melting moment seeing him totally in the superhero zone.

Even walking around the Jurassic Park area was an experience, right down to the fossils embedded in the walkways and dinosaurs hiding in the bushes. The older kids got their water ride fix here while the youngest and I took a slower aerial view of the park on a Pteradon Fliers and ran around Camp Jurassic.

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

CityWalk

You can’t reach Universal Studios or Islands Of Adventure without passing through City walk, and  although not a theme park per say, it was pure entertainment with its many bars, clubs and shops.It was great to see the security and bag checks at every entrance. It’s sad that this is the type of world we live in now, where you need extra levels of security to feel safe and be able to relax at big public areas like this. Nonetheless, I felt much happier having to go through this each time we visited.

We dined out in the new Toothsome Chocolate Emporium and Savoury Feast Kitchen, The NBC Sports Bar, The CowFish and The Hard Rock Cafe. Food was utterly amazing, with a good choice for all of us, including me as a vegetarian and portion sizes – wow! We left every restaurant with a carry home of some sort. Special mention has to be the milkshakes in The Toothsome Emporium, probably not the best choice of drinks for the teens as they struggled to make a dent in their meals.

You can order child’s meals in all the restaurants we went to at a fairly decent price, not sure I’d call them child portions mind! They’d have been fine for me to be honest.

Universal Resort Orlando In a Nutshell….

Totally and utterly amazeballs for all ages and all genders. The quality exceeded our expectations and left us speechless on many occasions. Go prepared with your camera, comfy shoes (wear trainers, it’s a lot of walking!) and get there early. My best advice is to start at the back of the park and get the big rides done asap then plan the rest of your day taking your time and don’t rush around from one area to the next. There are so many hidden extras and doing your research on the internet really helps. Little things like how to get the interactive cauldren to move in Diagon Alley, to spotting Kreacher the House Elf peaking through the window as well as the real-life characters popping up everywhere.

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

This was one of those holidays which we hope to do again one day, but even if we don’t, the memories we made will last a lifetime and for anyone wondering if it’s do able as a single parent, or with children of any age or gender.

 It totally is. 

This is my last post on my holiday to Orlando staying at Universal Resort and I'm sharing everything you need know about their theme parks

Universal Citywalk at Night

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This is a collaborative post between Mumsnet Bloggers Network and Universal Resort Orlando

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