Well, that’s it! Another year is almost over – I really don’t know how time is passing so quickly?
I really do enjoy Christmas, especially with children around, it makes it all the more magical. Being a family on a tight budget, Christmas can be difficult, with all that pressure to spend extra money, but I’ve put together a few fun ideas, which won’t cost the earth and will help get you into the festive spirit.
1. Get a personal message from the big man himself. Yes that’s right – I love this website, direct to Santa Claus at his home in the North Pole. It’s called Portable North Pole and if you sign up you can get a free personalised video message to your loved ones. I love the look on our children’s faces, we’ve done this for a couple of years now, and it always brings a tear to my eye watching them. PS – we always go for the free option and it’s fab!
2. Visit a garden centre. Most have a huge array of pretty lights and decorations and if you check your local garden centre's website, they will probably have a reindeer and husky day happening soon or a grotto. Knights garden centres in Surrey do this every year, and last year the kids got to stroke a reindeer - they are super soft.
3. Go to a Christmas market! Even if it’s just to soak up the atmosphere, the sights and smells will get you feeling merry. We particularly like Kingston’s German Christmas Market, where you can sample gluhwein, bratwurst and lebkuchen.
4. Head to Winter Wonderland. Okay, so we are lucky we live close to London and two years ago we went up to Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park to celebrate my birthday (one week before Christmas). It is free to enter, but of course there is lots of temptation to spend money. We went in the evening as seeing it all lit up makes it all the more magical. I had paid for us to go into the Ice Palace, which is full of ice sculptures and even has an ice slide inside. The children went on a couple of rides each, a treat from their uncle, they even had a go on a double decker carousel!
5. Make a gingerbread house. You can pick up pretty good kits for around the £5 in most supermarkets. We have done this for the last two years and the children really look forward to it.
6. Make your own Christmas Wreath. Last year (before I’d officially started blogging) we went on one of our famous woodland walks and came back with bundles of holly, ivy and pine branches – our aim was to make a wreath for our door. Lee did a grand job, we got loads of Facebook comments, and we’re planning to make another this year. We’ve even had a request from a friend.
7. Watch Christmas movies, under blankets, by candlelight! Christmas isn’t Christmas until Home Alone has been on – my kids all really enjoy it as much as I did when I was 9 years old. We also love Santa Claus the Movie, Elf and Gremlins too. For a special treat take a look at the Backyard Cinema's Winter Night Garden.
8. Ice skating. I know this can also be expensive, but it is an experience. You’d be surprised how a small child can skate around. We went to Hampton Court ice rink a couple of years ago and it was truly magical as is the Natural History Museum rink.
9. Try some hot chocolate with gingerbread syrup, and a candy cane to stir it with and why not throw in some marshmallows too.
10. Let the kids help decorate the tree (then re-do it when they're in bed). I have to say, I am a Christmas tree snob and I do love a real tree. We can’t always afford one though.
This year I would really love to harvest our own! At Hindhead Common near Guildford you can do this.
There will be lots of activities happening at Hindhead and the Devil’s Punchbowl throughout December, where you can step into a magical Swiss-inspired festive world, with seasonal food and drink, children's activities and some of Surrey's most beautiful landscapes to admire and walk in.
Hindhead Commons and the Devil's Punch Bowl have long been known as "Little Switzerland" because of its pine-clad hilltops, majestic landscape and fresh air.
I hope this has inspired some festivities – let the season to be jolly begin.