Sunday, 31 January 2016

Christmas time with a toddler: it doesn't get more magical!

Anyone who knows me will know that I am all about Christmas! It is the most wonderful time of the year for sure, but oh man...throw a toddler into the mix who is just understanding what it is all about and it becomes ten times more magical! We kicked off all the festive fun in Edinburgh, because it knows how to put on a show!

The Dome does not get more festive! 

Ella was 'oohing and aahing' about this tree!

and every one of these garlands is decorated with dozens of bundles of cinnamon sticks so the smell as you enter the building is incredible! 

You can't beat a giant garland! 

Special memories!

Not strictly Christmas related...but, we finally made it to Mary's Milk Bar on a Friday which means only one thing - doughnut oysters!!!! A fresh doughnut from the mighty Twelve Triangles filled with the best gelato in the city - and I happened to strike it lucky and get there not only on a Friday but also when pumpkin cheesecake ice cream was in the house! it was incredible! and we all know Ella is a huge Mary's fan too!

We went to the opening weekend of the grotto at our local garden centre...mainly to see the reindeer, but I think Ella was more taken with this horse!

She was not shy at all, and kept trying to get up close and personal with it! 

She had a glimpse at the reindeer but then took off running to go and pat the ceramic garden animals instead! 

We had to grab the Santa's sleigh photo op! It was quite funny because we ventured past the grotto at one point and Ella caught a glimpse of Santa in there, she gasped and started trying to rush toward the entrance saying 'bubby, bubby' which meant she wanted to go in there! I wasn't sure how she would feel about Santa this year, but it was clear that she was pretty excited about him! 

Anytime we mentioned him in our house, she would point to the chimney and she seemed to really get what was going on! 

December 1st rolled around and I was desperate to get our tree up in true Braithwaite tradition.  This year was a little bit different, because our forester picked one out for us and cut it down at work! Usually this is a task he'd never be trusted with, as per my previous blog post I have strict ideas on what constitutes the perfect tree! 

Fortunately he did good, he did so good that we struggled to fit the 8 footer inside our house! haha! but after a bit of pruning it may have been our biggest and best ever.

Ella got stuck in with the decorating...and mommy tried hard to let her do her thing even if it meant putting 3 baubles on the same branch!! 

We are starting a new tradition where she gets to buy a new decoration for the tree each year.  This tradition had a rocky start.  She picked out this giant red star decoration at the garden centre and as she was running to the til with it she dropped it on the floor and it smashed to smithereens! Fortunately there was one more left, so we took it and she was very excited to hang it on the tree knowing she had picked it out - we also had to hear the story of the one that broke everytime she caught a glimpse of it on the tree from that point forward!! Ella never forgets! 

She was also seriously excited about putting the star on top of the tree! We started reading Christmas books at the end of November to get in the mood and anytime she saw a Christmas tree she'd look for the star at the top and start singing the 'north star' song she knows from Peppa Pig.  Somehow she'd decided putting the start on top was definitely going to be the job for her - at some point I remembered we didn't actually own a star! so a quick trip to the shops and she got to choose the star that she wanted.

Here she is pointing proudly at her handiwork! 

Our first Christmas as a family of 4! Daddy still refuses to join in with the Christmas jumper wearing fun, so he got stuck with the Christmas pudding hat instead! 

We also kept up our tradition of making yummy treats to enjoy while decorating the tree! 

So the night before Ella (my reindeer helper) had joined me in whipping up some mint aero cookie sticks!

She likes it when I take pictures - it gives her time to scoff for more of the chocolate we'd just chopped then mommy would usually allow!

She was also completely obsessed with the massive Christmas tree in our local Sainsbury's this year, and mostly with the fact that after about the 3rd or 4th trip of seeing it the star on top had gone skew.  This was a disaster and everytime we went in after that we had to talk about that star the whole way round and she kept saying she wanted daddy to fix it but I had to explain why he couldn't - she believes that daddy can fix everything rather cutely! and so the first time in January when we went in and the tree was no more she very sadly sang the north star song and pointed to where it had been and I had to explain that the tree has gone away now until next Christmas.  15 trips later to Sainsbury's and she's still singing her sad song and I'm still reminding her why it's gone - like I said she never forgets!!

The 1st December also brought advent calendars! I'd bought her this Hello Kitty one off amazon because it sounded fun as you got to build a little Hello Kitty scene with characters and pieces of furniture and things.  I excitedly told her it was December 1st and we could open one of the doors and she got a tiny random piece of plastic in her first window - I didn't even know what it was (on the final day she got lots of stickers you put on to the plastic furniture and then it became clear what it all was but most days it was pretty random!) so I popped out and picked her up a chocolate one alongside it so that she had something to really get excited about! She was SO excited for it she didn't understand it was only 1 per day and would point at her Gruffalo calendar many times throughout the day saying 'open mommy'!! 

This was her on Christmas eve, once all the windows had been opened and she could set up her little Hello Kitty house!

She was pretty pleased with herself! 

Another tradition we started was the book advent.  I gathered 24 festive books, ones we had got her last year, ones I borrowed from the library and ones her Granny had gifted her - then wrapped them in festive wrap and stuck number stickers on for each day.  

This was something Ella really loved.  We would open it each evening before bedtime so she would have something to look forward to in the morning and at night with both her advents! She also really loved taking the wrapping paper off and immediately saying 'ire' and placing it in the fire! 

We took her to Bowhill for her very first visit to Santa.  I knew from the start she was enamoured with him because she even let him see her monkey up close and personal - what an honour!

He was very sweet and asked her lots of questions and she was very agreeable as she was still in her yes phase of saying yes to everything! He asked her to leave something out for him and I told him we were going to bake him cookies! We had to get the family shot in there...and she was ever so delighted with her penguin cuddly toy he got her.  Who knew that in a few weeks later she would become penguin obsessed so it has fared much better than the elephant puppet she picked out from Santa last year that she liked in the grotto and then never played with again!!

A few days later she got to meet the big man again at Bookbug which was an unexpected surprise! Even last Friday when we attended another book bug session she pointed to the door where Santa had come through and said 'ho, ho ho'!! 

She was very happy to go up and get her present from Santa, now she knew exactly what this Santa thing was all about! and she ended up with 4 new books which was a great bonus!

A few days later it was time for more seasonal fun at her toddlers group Christmas party! 

I set up a little festive scene to take pics of all the kiddies.

Ella was loving the fake snow! Little did she know she was going to get to play with lots of the real stuff before she knew it!


She met another Santa and was very happy with her peppa pig pen haul!

That evening we headed to Edinburgh for a night of festive family fun! It was always a tradition growing up to go to London on Christmas eve as a family and see the lights - we obviously were too far to do that this year but Edinburgh seemed like a good alternative! plus we went on the 10th because we got tickets for the special festival of lights event they put on then.  I forgot my camera in the car so bad quality phone pictures it is...

Waiting for the light show to begin!

She was pretty excited! She really loved the first song and the arches above lighting up - after that one was over she signed all done!! I told her there were a few more songs to go and she lost interest after that!

We were far more impressed!

We had to enjoy some bratwurst and German market fun!

Ella loved running up and down this tree lined path of lights!

and oh the highlight of her night was for sure that carousel with daddy!

She also requested the helter skelter but it actually went pretty fast and she wasn't too sure! 

Nutella poffertjes - it just doesn't get more Christmassy than that!

I was so excited to take Ella to see the giant tree at Jenner's!

She peeked through the rails and oohed and aahed! It was a perfect night made making memories! 

A few days later it was time for our pretend Christmas in Shropshire.

We were greeted with the decorations already put out - early for the Jones household! and Ella got stuck into a little bit of present opening on arrival.

All kinds of goodies in her little suitcase of fun!

She also wasted no time in getting some books in with Granny (all whilst sitting in her bear suit - one of her fave things to wear in December!)

The next day Granny had taken the day off work and we had the best day at the amazing Ice Cream Farm in Cheshire.

From mini bouncing trampolines in the ground...

to strawberry rivers...

and giant swings

and little houses made of sweets with candy cane fences!

Riding in tractors...

and checking out all the animals with Granny

She was mesmerised by the deer...

but not half as mesmerised as she was by all those ice cream flavours!

She was very insistent that she wanted to pick the blue one so bubblegum flavour it was! She is such a little ice cream lover!

We loved this giant tree and the kind passer by who took this photo for us!

and the biggest indoor water and sand play area defo lived up to expectations! 

Ella was in her element! 

This ice cream tree was all kinds of fun, with exploding foam and a countdown timer so you knew when it was coming!

Ella was amazed!

and was jealous that some had landed in my hair and not hers!

We went for lunch at the coolest place in Shrewsbury - Granny knows all the best places.


and the best festive burger ever - stuffed with chicken and bacon and breaded camembert and cranberry sauce!

That night it was time for more presents! Ella donned her little Santa outfit that Granny got her, 

and was super happy with her little dolly and cot - she liked rocking it back and forth!

and was amazed at her talking peppa! We also had a delicious roast, because no fake Christmas is complete without a roast! 

The weekend before Christmas we headed to Yorkshire to meet our amazingly adorable brand new niece Mia!

Ellis showed us the ropes at the nearby Ice Cream Farm

and Ella took him for a spin in her tractor!

They checked out this awesome American school bus inside the restaurant...

and of course it was blue ice cream again for Ella! Key lime pie for mommy which was SO amazing. Why do we live somewhere without an ice cream farm - so unfair!

Mia, of course, slept through all the deliciousness!

Ellis opted for blue too - they are two peas in a pod!

We headed back to their place for some more present opening!

and Ella gave Mia a loving kiss, after initially being quite unsure about this new baby, and especially about mommy holding her!

Toddlers and presents = pure excitement!

Ellis was loving Ella's fairy treehouse!

and they played so cutely together with it!

Mia didn't know what to make of her presents!

We even had another lovely of our sleep deprived brother in law, Arne, to whip this up for us! 

It was delish!! and such a fun weekend!
I just love being an auntie! 

Another one of our fave traditions is checking out all the lit up houses!! Our neighbourhood put on a pretty good show...

We won't talk about the epic disaster of a night when Ella and I went to try and find this lit up house ourselves in the next village, but we were pleased we eventually got to see it a few days later in all it's glory! Definitely the best house we've seen up here!

A few days later it was Christmas eve, and time to sprinkle the reindeer food out the front of the house so Santa knew where to land! 

Uncle Cam and Grandpa arrived and Ella got stuck right in having books read to her!

We whipped up some nutella cookies for Santa, and Ella enjoyed leaving them out for him.

and of course sampling one or two along the way! 

and of course we made sure our advent book on the 24th was The Night Before Christmas.

Christmas day!! and Ella ran downstairs and firstly wanted to see if Santa had eaten his cookie - she was very disappointed when he had!! and asked for more! 

She was very happy with her dolls house! and all the little kitty's inside

and posting things into this post box was all kinds of fun!

She got changed into her special Christmas dress! and posed with Milo under the tree!

This trike was probably the highlight of her day - can you tell!

She loves to catch up on the phone whilst on the move!

We headed to our local park for a little swing,

Ella was loving her snowman hat from her Granny in South Africa!

A pic of the Braithwaite boys!

Getting taken for a spin by daddy!

This little teapot and mummy, daddy and baby mouse were also well loved gifts! 

Oh how she loves opening and closing the windows on her dolls house best!

Daddy, hard at work in the kitchen - whipping up our delicious feast! 

Our centrepiece for our table - each star contained a different name for Christ.

Yum yum, what a spread!

Turkey and gammon, chef By did us proud!

Share the joke Ella!

You just can't beat a roast and all the trimmings on Christmas day.

Ella got fully stuck in this year! and was also a big fan of crackers and the hats!

Chocolate peanut butter mousse pie for dessert!

Boxing day called for some more Edinburgh fun and Ella got to ride the 'nay-nay's' again!

which made her very happy indeed!

The little Christmas huts of the market look so good against the backdrop of historic buildings!

The boys posing in front of Scott's monument.

Ella picking out which delicious burger she should get at Bread meats Bread - we are so happy they have opened one in Edinburgh as we used to love this place when we lived near Glasgow.

Too much deliciousness!

but for me you just can't beat some pulled pork action!

On New Year's Day we headed back to Edinburgh for some family day fun at The National Museum.

Ella and daddy pretending to be scary dinosaurs!

Daddy making a puffin for Ella to appear in the little stop motion show someone was putting together.

She would have basically been happy enough walking up and down these stairs all day long!

and dressing up as an elephant! 

Everything is more fun when Ella is around!

We saw out the end of December with our first proper, eagerly awaited, snowfall!

which Ella thought was amazing! She went to sleep one afternoon with no signs of the white stuff and when she awoke from her nap there was a blanket of snow on the ground everywhere!!

Making and throwing snowballs has become a firm favourite!

She always looks super cute all wrapped up!

We went sledging with daddy that night, she wasn't too sure about the slopes...but she loved being pulled along the flat bit! and did go down a few times with mommy and daddy but not without a bit of protesting! 

Well done if you made it to the end of this post - that's basically the whole of December in a wrap!