The Snowman & Snowdog Grotto – Trafford Centre

snowman snowdog trafford centre

There’s something very magical about going to see Santa with your children. This is my 12th Christmas as a Mum and each year, we try to visit a different grotto. I’m not sure Santa recognises us at each event – I suspect that it might not ALWAYS be the ‘real’ Father Christmas ;-)

We were lucky enough to be invited to The Snowman and Snowdog Grotto in Barton Square, Trafford Centre last Sunday so off we trooped. I need to apologise at this point for the less than brilliant photos – We forgot the big camera, something to do with us having to set out at 7am to go to synchro training first.

santa's grotto trafford centre

You arrive at The Snowman Grotto to be met by one of the Elves (at least I think they were elves). Our slot was 12pm but there were a lot of other families milling about trying to book in (You book in at the main Trafford Centre Customer Service desk). The Elves were so patient and friendly – it would have driven me potty having to explain that they were fully booked until 4.30pm to so many people. An A frame board explaining which slot was next and how to register would have saved them so much hassle.

trafford centre elves

About 10 minutes before your time, you go in and queue inside – Another Elf welcomes you and gets the children all excited about Christmas – At this point you are given a gift of some Reindeer food for Christmas Eve (Anyone else got more reindeer food than real food in their house at the moment?).

Inside the grotto is a living room where an actor creates the atmosphere, telling the story of the Snowman and Snowdog with the aid of a massive video screen. Children sit on the floor and adults on benches. The younger kids were enthralled and its not too long (about 10-15 mins) for anyone who feels a little bit old (Your 12 year old for example!)

santa trafford centre

I thought this was going to be it but then the magic continues with a visit to Santa – At this point my children decide to ask for a real life monkey and 2 hamsters – Has anyone else heard that Santa isn’t doing livestock this year?! Santa was lovely and his room is great – complete with yet another friendly Elf!

You can have your picture taken with Santa and then go to choose your print if you like it.

santa's living room

After the Grotto experience, the fun can continue with a ride on the traditional carousel and plenty of other little stalls – Kangaroo Burger anyone?

To finish the afternoon, we tucked into a huge Cadwalladers’ Ice-Cream Sundae and a huge Mocha! The experience was so much better than we thought it was going to be – Our girls were really pleased with their gifts from Santa (who incidentally agreed with me that perhaps a real life monkey might not be possible this year but a cuddly one might be better still!)

carousel trafford centre

Questions!

giant question mark

Its day of questions … Can you help with any of these from The Costello house?

From Violet: How does the internet work?

I thought I’d start with a harmless but difficult one – She means as a whole, not how does our house get it?

From Tara: How can I get a tail to come from out my bum?

Erm….?

From Me: Why did the man at David Lloyd earlier today, think it was ok to shave his chest poolside then jump in the pool to rinse down?

Eew!

From Me Again: Why did the lifeguard sit there watching him??

Clueless.

From Derm: How after a massive swim, an afternoon of playing and an evening of traipsing about everywhere, can Tara STILL not go to sleep at 10.30PM?

I fear this is one of the mysteries of life and that if we solved it, we would earn millions.

From Me: Why did we think to put ONE trainer up in the loft in the Hand-me-down box?

Anybody want a used Size 11 Child’s Lacoste Trainer?? A Left One

From Derm: Do we put the charity clothes in the Air Ambulance or the Cancer Research bag?

How does one choose??

It may be messy but its ours – The Costello Shelfie

shelfie blog competition

We’ve all heard of selfies, but have you heard of the ‘Shelfie’? Its exactly what you think it is, a picture of a shelf.

I’d love to be showing you a neat and today, freshly dusted, everything precisely where it should be shelf but I’m not. Actually what you are seeing is everything current about our family. This is the first thing that you see when you step into the living room.

Our shelf is constantly changing – somethings remain on it always but most items get moved and changed regularly.

So let’s look a bit more closely at what is on our shelf …

It was Violet’s 8th birthday on Tuesday so this is where most of the cards go. You can always tell what recent occasions we have celebrated by this shelf. Christmas, Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day …the cards all appear on here. And if I’m honest, most of them stay there until the next occasion!

birthday card shelf

The Money Tree… As christened by my friend, Sue. Any money we get for birthdays goes on here until it is spent. (It moves quicker than the birthday cards do!) Gift vouchers, thank you cards, party invitations – Its all on here. And I love it!

card tree

Who says money doesn’t grow on trees?

A new addition is our chocolate bouquet – How fabulous is this? I’m determined to make my own one eventually but I couldn’t leave this in the shop when I saw it. Perfect colour for a little girl called Violet on her birthday!

chocolate bouquet gifts

Like any self-respecting shelf, there are the photos. I love the black and white ones of my girls – I know they need updating but I can’t get rid of this one.

home photos

One of my most precious possessions is on this shelf too … The picture of my Dad receiving his MBE from The Queen. There are so many happy memories in this picture. A really special occasion for a really special man.

mbe picture

So there we have it. A glimpse into the world of the Costellos. That’s not all there is on that shelf … there’s a rogue nail varnish, some nail clippers (obviously someone has been improving their personal hygiene recently!), a healthy sprinkling of dust, a clock (that we set 5 minutes fast in a desperate attempt to get to places on time – it doesn’t work) and a spoon (no idea!).

You may be wondering why I’m blethering on about shelves – I’m taking part in the Victoria Plumb Shelfie Competition in conjunction with the Tots100. This comp is all about celebrating style in the Great British Home – I could win money or help with a new bathroom (which considering we still have a grey bathroom suite which makes estate agents gasp, is no bad thing).

Victoria Plumb would like you to take part in the Great British Home Quiz to see which celebrity your shelf is most like – You could also be in with a chance of winning £250. I took the quiz and found out we are Mr & Mrs Glamorous and I’m most like Joey Essex?! I have no words.

Crime & Underpants

curly haired Tara

When you read on, you’ll know why I couldn’t put a photo of today’s incident up!

Now that’s a catchy title? Nope, this isn’t a recipe containing undies *ponders if they would work?*. This is a post to give you just a little window into our world this week.

I try to add the odd snippet of info into my recipe posts but every now and then, a week comes along that necessitates a post all of its own.

Let’s start with Monday Morning – always a joy. Not especially when you open the front door to find your car and your Mother-in-laws have been broken into. No sign of entry, just a holy mess where everything has been ransacked. And a missing purse. Don’t judge, we ALL forget things in our car sometimes?

The Police arrive most puzzled that the car we are adamant we locked (we remember doing it when I got home from Bristol at 10.30 the night before) has been opened. Before long, it appears that 11 other neighbours on our cul-de-sac have also had their locked cars broken into.

We are a veritable Wisteria Lane. Mr PC looked positively bemused when we explained that EVERYONE knows each other in our street and we have a Facebook page to prove it.

The long and short of it is, they caught the buggers. Yay, Police! They have returned some property that they found in their house but not unfortunately the iPod that I told the police was white – how was I supposed to know its black?

Mr Criminal has been sentenced today. He has a curfew and has to stay in his house (probably listening to my iPod) between the hours of 8pm and 7am. Bet that made him think twice *cough*

And so onto other news …

The Jehovah’s Witnesses were around today. They mustn’t think we have had enough uninvited guests around our way this week.

Tara beat me to answering the door. Dressed ONLY in her knickers.

For once the JW’s bade a hasty retreat after looking at toddler T strutting her undies.

It was only when I got in the house, I realised she had 3 Happy Land figures stuffed down her knickers.

Why? Because she says she’s a boy!

I. Give. Up.

I’m adding this post to the new look Wot So Funee – This week we are being hosted by Nicki from Stressy Mummy . I’m also somewhat big-headedly adding it to http://honestmum.com/brilliant-blog-posts-may-15th-2014/#comments

Wot So Funee?Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Frozen Inspired Food – Marshmallow Olafs

frozen olaf food

It was a very exciting day for my children yesterday. Violet has never been the same since we took her to see the movie, Frozen just after Christmas. She has lived and breathed that film. Like a lot of children, she knows every word of every song. She spends many an hour ‘researching’ the film on the internet (YouTube!). She has waited and waited, and asked and asked near enough every day, ‘When is Frozen out on DVD?’ and yesterday was THE DAY!

Off she went to school with me promising to get the DVD (Nah, I’m not organised enough to pre-order it) and so off I tripped to the supermarket. I decided we would make a celebration of film night by having a Frozen inspired tea.

Here’s what I came up with – I’m pretty impressed with myself considering I only had an hour. Once Tara got the drift of what I was doing she was solo excited – I’ve never seen her jump up and down so much. Really cute!

I had seen on Pinterest, a few people have had Frozen parties and loved the idea of Olaf noses (Carrots!) so there was one dish.

olaf noses

We had snow topped pizza (Marguerita with some extra Mozzarella) cut into mountain shaped peaks.

My ultimate favourite (and the one that took the most time) has got to be the Marshmallow Olafs – 3 marshmallows stuck together with sugar glue. Matchmakers for arms. Mini chocolate drops for buttons and orange marzipan noses, I drew the mouth and eyes with edible pen. As you can see from the picture below, Tara was more than chuffed with her Olaf! God knows why, but all 3 girls changed into white onesies for the film – bit strange at 4pm in the afternoon but who am I to argue?

Frozen inspired food

Millie made us some paper snowflakes …

disney frozen food
We had snow topped popcorn (Freshly popped kernels with melted white chocolate mixed through it), Snow Mice, Snow topped Marshmallows (dipped in blue icing and edible sparkles), Blue shortbread cookies (which were vile – far too sweet)

frozen white chocolate mice

And best of all…Me & Derm had Chilli for tea (Get it?)

The girls had a ball and were high as a kite from all the sugar when Grandma came to visit as we had parent’s evening.

I think I earned some Mum Brownie points and I did it all without the help of gin!

Body Parts – Wots so Funee

funny children

What do you call this? A belly button? A tummy button? Navel (Eew!)

Apparently in our house. we have a new word for it – Tara has this week become obsessed with showing everyone her BELLY BOOB!!

We’ve had a few alternative names for body parts over the years – Violet at 7 still calls her big toes, her THUMB TOE. I admit I quite like it and am in no rush for her to change its name.

I’m sure most kids also get mixed up between their Shoulders and their Elbows.

Do you have any Body Parts that have unusual names in your house – Clean Names Only Please!!!

I’m joining in this week with Helen at Actually Mummy with Wots So Funee.

Wot So Funee?

The Rules of Trick or Treating …

The obligatory picture of Tara with an axe

The obligatory picture of Tara with an axe

 

…or ‘How Not To Behave WHen Trick or Treating’.

I’ll admit I’m a miserable git when it comes to Halloween. I can’t help but breathe a sigh of relief when its over. We sort of ‘do Halloween’ without ‘doing Halloween’ if that makes sense.

I could harp on about how awful it is celebrating spooks and evil beings (that good old Catholic upbringing coming in again) but there’s not much point. I think each to their own, if you want to celebrate Halloween, go ahead – have a fabulous night! We do carve pumpkins and the girls make their own decorations for the house, which have been brilliant this year. See, I’m not totally miserable!

One thing I cannot abide though, is Trick or Treating. Its not just the accepting sweets from a stranger thing, whilst teaching our kids about stranger danger – although that is a jolly good point. I find it hard to think of something I’d like less than to drag the kids around the streets, knocking on people’s doors.

Before you start thinking that my kids are deprived …they have all been to a party tonight (Tara dressed as Tinkerbell, but what does a 2yo know?) and I’ve given them so many sweets myself that the dentist will be a-knocking tomorrow.

Some people get Trick or Treating so wrong though. I’ve seen it all here tonight. Here’s my guide on How not to Trick or Treat…

  • Silence – I’ve answered the door to more kids standing there looking terrified than to anyone saying ‘Trick or Treat’. Parents, tell your kids to at least have some manners and say hello at the door.
  • Say Thank You – nuff said!
  • Dress up properly – A school uniform with a Scream mask does not make a costume.
  • Too Scary – This is a message to the adults. There is absolutely no need to walk around with a face like you’ve just stepped out of Seattle Grace ER.
  • Adults, you don’t need to hold out your hand for sweets – If you are older than 16 its just sad!
  • Don’t say, “We’re not from round ere. We’d get the cr@p beaten out of us round our way”. I kid you not, a woman said it to me tonight. My kids are still stunned.
  • Don’t also say, “Keep away from that cat, Lad” “He can’t stand cats. Hates ‘em!” – Got news for you, love. That cat lives here and is lovely. You don’t and you’re not. (And I don’t know if her son is really called Lad)
  • If you call round after 8PM and wake my kids up, you’ll end up with the dregs of the sweets that we’ve been saving from party bags since last October.

And so its over for another year. I’ve got no more eyeliner left from drawing spiders on the kid’s faces and I’m off to eat my own body weight in Haribo. Happy Halloween!

Funkita – Funky Swimwear – Brilliant PR

funky kid's swimwear

A couple of weeks ago I had the most lovely email ever. You may remember reading a post from during the summer where I talked about my kids using the paddling pool. In the post I used a picture of Violet acting the goat in the pool wearing a red and black costume. The costume is one of Violet’s favourites that we ordered from Simply Swim. As you can imagine we go through tons of swimwear in this house with someone swimming every single day (and more often than not Millie swimming several times a day)

My email from Funkita was basically a thank you for putting up the picture. All the way from Australia!

Even more surprising was the offer of some free gifts as a means of saying thank you. The guys from Funkita expected nothing in return – they just wanted to introduce themselves and send a gift.
I nearly died a week later when a parcel arrived with swimwear for all 5 of us!

A Unicorn Costume for Tara – generous sizes – This is age 3-4
funky children's swimming costume

Mil and Vi are pictured above wearing their Pollock Party Single One Piece and Wings of Paradise One Piece. Both have confirmed that they love their costumes – one thing is certain, they will get a lot of wear!

Last weekend I even got to wear my present at a Spa weekend with some school friends as we continue to celebrate our 40th birthdays. Don’t panic, I’m not going to post a picture of me modelling it!

funky swim wear for men

Perhaps the most talked about present we received though, were these Funky trunks for Dermot. Now let me tell you about Derm’s choice of swimwear … he favours black, plain and understate. Much hilarity when these beauties turned up! Even more when he put them on – Not sure Millie will get over that sight in a hurry. To our surprise though, he says they are perfect for surfing under his wetsuit – expect to see them on Hell’s Mouth beach in Abersoch soon!

Many Thanks to Funkita for the lovely gifts. They did not ask me to write a blog post about the costumes. We are just very grateful and this is our way of saying, Thank you!

Meet the Chimps: The Costellos go to Chester Zoo #MatalanZooDay

family tickets to chester zoo

The day the Chimps of Chester Zoo met the Costello Chimps! We were kindly invited by Matalan to spend the day at Chester Zoo last Sunday. They couldn’t have chosen a nicer September day – the sun was shining & the animals were out in force.

Matalan Girl's clothes

We had a couple of meeting point through the day but other than that, had free reign where to go. The pram was a must – not for Tara, for the packed lunch!

Our favourite animals were the Meerkats with the cutest baby Meerkat ever. Not so sure about the massive porcupine that they live with though!

chester zoo

We went on the train ride which only cost £7 for all 5 of us and is a perfect way of seeing the zoo when your feet are throbbing.

We even saw some turtles doing synchronised swimming – they must have known we were coming!

synchronized swimming animals

Matalan were also very generous and sent us some vouchers to kit out the girls with some clothes for the day. We chose from the online collection (most of which are stocked in store too – I know because I developed a bit of an addiction that week and kept ‘popping’ into Matalan to buy more!)

What they wore: (left to right)

online girl's clothes

Violet: Sequin Collar and Leggings Set £9.00

Tara: Girl’s Tutu from £5.00, Girl’s Pink Top from £5.00, 2pk printed Tights £4.50

Millie: Lace Top £9.00, Skinny Jeans £14.00

(Shoes & Smiles: Model’s Own ;-))

The clothes were lovely quality – I have been into Matalan a few times over the summer and had some lovely t shirts which have washed well and kept their colour. We also bought a beautiful cable cape and a Navy jacket (not pictured) in case the weather was poor – which amazingly it wasn’t! Sizes are very generous so perhaps err on the side of caution if you are ordering for now.

Thanks so much to Matalan for a wonderful day – I can highly recommend Chester Zoo if you have a wide age of children’s ages to cater for.

A 40th Birthday, A Poem and A Lot of Cakes

A rare picture of me & Derm!  Do I look 40?

A rare picture of me & Derm! Do I look 40?

Well, we are back from our holidays! France was fabulous as ever – our 5th year now and we loved it as much as ever. Meeting friends from previous years and making new ones. More on the holiday soon!

I have survived a week of being 40 too – last Monday was a lovely celebration in France. A relaxing day, plenty of champagne and a lovely meal out with friends.

I’m not one to stop at one celebration though so as soon as we headed home on Thursday night, preparations started for a gathering with friends on Saturday. It turned out slightly bigger than the small getogether it was originally supposed to be.

3 sisters drinking 3 sisters beer!

3 sisters drinking 3 sisters beer!

I may have mentioned once or twice about a 40th birthday cake (ok, I haven’t stopped going on about it for months!) My youngest sister amazed me on Saturday by turning up with a real life, proper birthday cake. She said it was one of the most stressful things she has ever done – ordering a cake for someone who makes cakes. I loved it! I did what I always hated customers doing and prodded and poked the decorations like the best of them! Thanks Ray! Fab cake! I actually ended up with 4 cakes – this one, a malteser one, a carrot cake and a costco spectacular!

baker's 40th birthday cake

I’m amazed at the fab presents that I got – plenty of gin! Tons of Pandora jewellery! and much more …
One gift that has stood out though is a poem from one of my friends that I’ve known since we were 4. How did I not know Jo could write poetry like this? I’ll leave you for now with the poem that sums me up perfectly – Normal service will be resumed once I’ve tackled a month’s worth of washing, kids have gone back to school and maybe some of gin and champagne has been consumed …

Hectic as Hel 

Seems I’ve known you forever and you’ve always been
Out there. Involved. Let me set the scene
Youth Mass was fun. Lowe House was the hub.
Followed by debates on Theology in the pub!
 
You set an example of lofty pursuits
Piano, Synchro and playing the flute.
You seemed to stretch time with how you spent it,
You multi-tasked long before it was invented.
 
Now a wife and a mother, nothing has changed.
In fact you carry on like someone deranged!
 
Running your own business with really no fear,
I watched the great bake-off and expected you to appear!
Making, baking, there’s nothing you won’t try.
So hey! You set up your own WI!!
 
Your social networking seems like an art
With links to all sorts, I’m not sure where to start.
But Facebook? And Twitter? Is there really a need?
Ok, I confess Casa Costello’s a good read!
 
So please don’t ever change what you do,
Which is EVERYTHING while others just try a few!