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Educational Play with Schleich I'm a big fan of learning through play. Unforced educational play. I'm not a teacher and I don't want to be. I want my children to naturally learn whilst they are having fun. When I was contacted recently...

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Say Eh-Oh to the new Teletubbies toys! There back!! Teletubbies made a joyous return to CBeebies last year, and this year marks the launch of the new range of toys. As you know I was sent a box just before Christmas, and today I can finally...

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Travel: Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough Last weekend Nana and I took a rather lengthy journey north for a night away at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel in Scarborough, with Little Dude in tow. The Ox Pasture Hall Hotel is a luxurious country hotel...

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A Place To Enjoy My Garden I love my garden. I love the fact that I have a garden, especially with the recent gorgeous weather we've been having. Whilst I have a pretty compact garden, there's a lot going on out there. Plants, fruit...

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Cuddles With Ben Cohen Some days I have a really difficult job. Days like this for example. *Ahem* That rather nice young man is former rugby player Ben Cohen. Ben is a bit of an expert when it comes to cuddles. He has...

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Christmas 2013: Breville Blend Active

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Christmas Gift Guide, Foodie, New Year New You, Product Reviews | Posted on 04-12-2013

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Christmas is a time for indulgence. I’m sure we’re all guilty of overdoing things a little during the festive period with too much food or drink. Huge Christmas lunches, boxes of chocolates and biscuits, and just one more slice of cake. January dawns and everyone starts panicking about how much weight they’ve put on, as well as how much they’ve spent. If you or a loved one is planning on embarking on a new diet and fitness regime come 2014 then a Blend Active by Breville may well be the best present you get this Christmas.
“Not another blender/smoothie maker!!” I hear you cry. Well this one is a little bit different. This compact blender comes with two 600ml drinks bottles which you use to mix your drink in, and then take out with you to the gym or on the school run or for a healthy drink later in the day thanks to the none spill lids. The one-touch blending system is super easy to use, and the blades and bottles are all dishwasher friendly. The Eastman Tritan Copolyester bottles are also durable, shatterproof, and odour, taste and stain resistant.
Now I don’t do exercise – apart from running around after a three year old all day – and my school run is particularly lame as I take the car because my stamina is pathetic due to me being pregnant, so I gave this nifty little blender to my Dad to review – also known as Pops. He works four days a week for a taxi company in Chichester and generally tends to leave for work at 4am – don’t ask me how he does it, I have no idea! Leaving that early means his meals are generally at random times and he tends to grab things on the go. Not the healthiest way to live. He’s a fan of smoothies but has never had the facilities to take them with him. He is the PERFECT guinea pig for this little review then.
I must confess I expected the novelty of this to wear off pretty quickly, but I can report that Pops has been using this machine daily – even when he’s at home –  since I took it over several weeks ago. He’s having a huge range of fruit smoothies with yogurt in and fruit juice, and the machine is so easy to use.
He is a huge fan. The convenience of the pieces being dishwasher proof is a huge plus point as he can make his smoothie at 4am before he leaves and pop the blades in the dishwasher. Having two bottles is brilliant as there is always one in use and one getting washed.
Its the ideal healthy drink for someone who spends the day in a car driving, and its much more cost effective than stopping and buying food and drinks when you’re out on the road.  You can currently get this Blend Active for just £20.00 on Amazon which is great value for this nifty bit of equipment.

I was sent a Breville Blend Active to review by Amazon.

Competition: Charlie & Lola Best Bestest Play Tickets

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Competition, Days Out | Posted on 03-12-2013

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This festive period sees everyone’s favourite siblings take over Glow at Bluewater with their Best Bestest Play. Charlie and Lola – stars of the hit BBC TV series and the gorgeous books by Lauren Child – will be brought to life through the magic of puppets, live action and music.

Will Charlie ever get Lola to sleep, even though she is not sleepy and will not go to bed? It wont be easy – the Tigers want their bedtime milk, the Dancing Dogs have borrowed Lola’s pyjamas and Lola thinks there is an ogre hiding in the wardrobe!

Charlie and Lola has been something of a hit in our household since Little Man first discovered the CBeebies channel. We’re a big fan of the lively animation and the cute little stories, though Daddy and I often wonder exactly where their parents are! Little Man and I will be heading to Glow in a couple of weeks to see this show – a review of which will follow – and we’re so excited to have a family ticket to give away to one of our readers. The Family Ticket allows up to four people into a performance of their choice – subject to availability – during the shows run from December 13th through to January 5th.

To win this great prize enter via the Rafflecopter below – and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Christmas 2013: Hendon Kitchen

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Christmas Gift Guide, Product Reviews | Posted on 27-11-2013

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Whenever we went to baby and toddler groups or toy shops there was always one toy that Little Man would make a beeline for. The kitchens. Generally always the ones that were that big that they’d fill my house and would look fancier than my own kitchen, but cooking and pressing buttons was always something that enticed him. I bought him a compact table top cooker from a charity shop in our village about eighteen months ago and its had lots of use. It came with a good stash of play food, and when combined with some new pots and pans he was set and would often bring us random meal combinations. Whilst I was at Christmas In July this year I spent a lot of time at the Plum Products stand where they were displaying their new indoor toys, to compliment their extensive outdoor range – some of which is occupying our garden, as well as Nana and Pops’. The stand out product for me was the Hendon Kitchen, and Plum were kind enough to send us one over to review.
The main thing that stood out for me about this kitchen was the colour – its not pink. SO many play kitchens – especially the quality wooden ones – are pink. Now believe me this has not stopped my Little Man from playing with them, but wouldn’t it be nice for someone to create one without the pink stereotype, assuming only girls want to cook? What I also love about this is its size. Despite incorporating a cooker top, a sink with taps, an oven and two shelves its surprisingly compact and takes up very little room in our already jam packed lounge. It is in fact the ideal height for my Little Man who plays with it loads, and randomly gets himself a drink of air from the taps during the day, or washes his hands, or even, on the really odd occasion, gives Teddy a bath in the sink.
I like the details too. On the end of the cooker there are three hooks to hang the included utensils on, and there’s a picture of a tea towel hung up too. There is a hot and cold water tap – they don’t move but Little Man is happy to press them and make the noise of water coming out. There’s two dials on the front which turn round and make clicking noises to control your oven, and there’s even a (fake) digital clock. The two spacious shelves are well sized and we’ve managed to cram plates and Little Man’s tea set on there so all his “cooking” items are together. I must get him some new cutlery for Christmas though, as currently we get to eat our meals with either a ladle or a teaspoon!
Could it be better? Yes. Whilst its a great little kitchen I’d make a few small changes. I would add a shelf to the oven itself – currently its just one huge space and more like a cupboard than a realistic oven. I’d also make the taps turn and click in the same way the oven dials do. I would probably also make the overhead shelf run the full length of the kitchen and perhaps add a second, for items like condiments and tins of food.
On the whole this is a brilliant little kitchen, and it was really easy to put together, even with the help of Little Man. At £70 it is also really well priced, with other wooden kitchens on the market for a lot more. Whether its for a little boy or a little girl I think this compact kitchen would look great in any lounge, bedroom or playroom this Christmas morning.

Christmas 2013: Aeromax Nasa Jr Astronaut Suit

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Christmas Gift Guide, Product Reviews | Posted on 20-11-2013

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Little Man is a typical boy. He’s into cars and trains, science fiction and Peppa Pig, and above all else, Buzz Lightyear. Toy Story has been very popular in this house since he was old enough to focus on a TV screen, and Buzz Lightyear has always proved his favourite character. We bought him his own Buzz Lightyear action figure for his third birthday last month and he barely puts it down. As well as a love for Buzz he also likes rockets, stars and the moon. Space is a topic which I think will prove very interesting for him as he gets older. It seemed very apt therefore that Maps Toys sent us an Aeromax Nasa Space Suit to review.
An impeccably well designed and detailed dressing up costume that is ideal for future astronauts, this is a full body which comes with a replica Nasa cap. Bright orange in colour it features a Nasa badge, as well as an American flag,  a space shuttle badge and a “Commander” patch. There are zip pockets, stitching detail and adjustable velcro straps to the ankles.
I was immediately impressed with this costume when I saw photos of it, and the reality was even better than expected. It has great detail and the quality is incredible. It will last for many years to come and will withstand lots of wear, even from the most boisterous of children. Its very lightweight so there’s no danger of your little space traveller overheating whilst they are on their missions, even with their usual clothes on underneath. And most importantly for us parents, its machine washable!
Now whilst it might not look like look like Buzz Lightyear, it does bare a tremendous resemblance to a suit worn by his second favourite TV character – David Tennent’s Doctor Who – in a couple of episodes, so Little Man is a big fan. I would LOVE to show you photos of him wearing it, but unfortunately this costume is a bit too big for him at the moment – the one we received was age 4-6 – but I am sure he’ll never take it off when we do get him into it.
This costume is available in sizes 2-3, 4-6, 6-8, 8-10 and 12-14 and retails at £38. Its not the cheapest costume you’ll ever buy your children, but I guarantee it’ll be the longest lasting.

Christmas 2013: Winter Fashions from Fat Face

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Christmas Gift Guide, Fashion, Product Reviews | Posted on 13-11-2013

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I LOVE Fat Face. It is without a doubt my favourite high street store when it comes to buying clothes for myself. Whilst it may not be the cheapest place to buy clothes, you know you are always going to end up with a high quality item which will last for ages. Truly worth the investment. I actually went into the Chichester branch yesterday to take advantage of their new sale. Finding clothes to fit when pregnant is never particularly easy, and despite being only 13 weeks I already have a not-so-subtle bump to work around. The determined part of me however managed to pick up a couple of bargains which show off my lovely little bump brilliantly, and I’m content in the knowledge that I’ll be able to wear them again afterwards.

A while ago the lovely team at Fat Face sent me an early Christmas present from their new Autumn Winter range. They’d been in touch a few days before to ask about my clothes size so I was very excited when a parcel landed on my doorstep. I wasn’t worried about being sent a mysterious item of clothing as I’d happily wear anything from the store, but I was particularly thrilled with the contents. They sent me the Amy Gilet in Navy to test out.

I tried it on the instant it was out of the packaging – I do love a good coat. At that stage I could still fasten it up – sadly my 13 week bump is now a little too big for me to fasten it comfortably – and pulled the hood over my head. I felt SO snuggly and warm. In fact to say I was only wearing a gilet I felt the cosier than I did in most coats! I headed over to Fat Face website to read more about my lovely Christmas present.

“In a shower resistant outer with super warm duck down and feather filling, plus a cosy deep pile fleece lining; this gorgeous gilet is perfect for beating the chill this season.”

That’ll explain the warmth then!

I adore this gilet. The length is brilliant – a previous gilet I’ve owned was irritatingly too short – and makes sure no drafts are getting in. It can be worn over layers or thick jumpers – if you’re not pregnant… – and whilst I wouldn’t wear it in a downpour it copes admirably in brief showers. I love the fleece lining which feels nice and soft and whilst I ordinarily wouldn’t choose a fur trimmed hood it does add to that feeling of cosiness.

The Amy Gilet is available in a choice of six colours – the Cobalt Blue is an online exclusive – and retails at £65. If I went into store and tried this on I don’t think there’d be any doubt in me buying it. I think this is a very reasonable price for a gilet of this quality which looks and feels great on. A lovely item to add to your Christmas Wish List or to drop subtle hints to family about wanting. If anyone asks me what I want this Christmas, I think I’ll just point them at the Fat Face Gift Guide! What would you choose from Fat Face this Christmas?

 

Christmas 2013: Chill Factor Squeeze Cup Slushy Maker

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Christmas Gift Guide, Product Reviews | Posted on 06-11-2013

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I’m sorry, but there’s no escaping it any longer. Christmas IS coming and so begins my weekly series on the top gifts for your children this year. Please don’t hate me.

A while ago we were sent a Chill Factor Squeeze Cup Slushy Maker to review after seeing it at Christmas In July. The concept of it is fairly simple – you place the cup in the freezer and once its frozen pour in a drink of your choice. Squeeze and release the soft sides of the cup repeatedly until its frozen into a slushy type consistency, and enjoy. Overall its a very clever cup which can transform pretty much ANY drink into a slushy. Now we tested this out with Little Man so obviously we used something child friendly like orange squash. He was fascinated by the giant yellow cup and once I poured the drink inside he was happy enough to start squishing the cup. After a few minutes the drink had started to solidify and a slushy was made. I handed Little Man the included straw with spoon on the end and he duly sat there and ate the slushy, occasionally offering me a spoonful. The drink we used was a strong mix and we found that worked much better than a weak mix which lost most of its flavour during the slushy making process.

Now whilst this product is aimed at children – suitable from age 3 upwards – there is no reason why adults can’t get in on the action too. This Christmas and New Year how about a nice frozen cocktail? I can see this method working very nicely with a Pina Colada or Margarita to make delicious frozen cocktails. Obviously I recommend cleaning it out thoroughly afterwards especially if your children are going to be using it again! Like I said we used orange squash for Little Man, but pure fruit juices, milk or even fizzy drinks would work well. My main tip is not to overfill the cup, and to squeeze calmly and gently. Frantic enthusiastic squeezing from Little Man did result in a slight overflow issue!

Priced at £12.99 for one, or £39.99 for a family pack of four, I think the Chill Factor is a great little item for all the family to enjoy.

Review: Tonka Town Fire Station

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Product Reviews | Posted on 30-10-2013

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Little Man is a pretty typical boy. He loves cars and space ships and dinosaurs and Doctor Who and anything that’s loud basically. When we were contacted by the team at Tonka Town and asked if we’d like to test out one of their new play sets we couldn’t resist, especially after spotting a rather cool looking Fire Station.
The Fire Station comes with two characters – Jose and Bruno – and a fire car. The station itself includes ladders, a fireman’s pole, a spinning satellite dish, and a pop up fire for your crew to put out. The garage section also extends out and doors open to allow access for your car. Behind the computer on the top of the station is a button to press to sound the alarm.
As soon as this arrived and I opened the box Little Man was straight over and wanted to play immediately. He was straight at the button that made the alarm ring – obviously – and that won him over. He can sit for ages driving Jose and Bruno around in the car, walking them up and down the steps, tackling the pop up fire, or pressing the alarm button. Endlessly. Thankfully the alarm isn’t too loud so even when it feels like its going constantly its not that annoying. He also enjoys opening and closing the garage doors and twisting the satellite dish round and round.
I really like the Fire Station as its fairly compact and because the alarm is reasonably quiet. Its all plastic and not perhaps the sturdiest of plastic toys but its coping well under the pressure of an excitable three year old. My only real criticism of it is the fireman’s pole. Attaching one of your characters to it is not particularly easy. Little Man can’t do it, and to be honest I struggle at times. This in no way affects his enjoyment of the toy though.
You can buy a Fire Engine separately to go with your Station – something I’ll be pointing Aunties and Uncles at this Christmas – as well as a Jail Play Set which will match this one nicely. Tonka Town is available from a wide range of stockists, both on the high street and online. Suitable from age 3 plus I think they’d make a great set for children this Christmas.

 

Review: Due Patent Diving Blue Fitflops

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Fashion, Product Reviews | Posted on 24-10-2013

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When I think about Fitflops I automatically think of those chunky flip flops that were all the rage several years ago. Not my idea of nice footwear – I don’t do flip flops unless I’m honeymooning in Hawaii. When I was contacted by the team at Fitflop to take a look at their website and choose a pair to review I wasn’t particularly hopeful. How wrong was I. After a bit of surfing I’d found several pairs that looked amazing – like “real” shoes, not just flip flops. After much deliberation I settled on a pair of Due Patent in Diving Blue.
Fitflop Due Patent Diving Blue Shoes

How pretty are they!

Here’s what the website says about them:
“Built on a super-cushioned, height-enhancing midsole – our ultra-versatile DUÉ looks like a ballerina and feels like a sneaker. Scoop cut with a rounded toe cap, it’s flirty, feminine, can go formal or fun, works equally well with skinny jeans or a skirt, and feels amazing underfoot. Ladies, it’s that shoe you’ve been looking for your whole life.” 

The idea of Fitflops is simple enough. Ultra comfortable shoes that make you look and feel amazing. I was very keen to try them so put them on immediately. The curved sole does make them a little “bouncy” and going back to “normal” flat soled shoes afterwards was a bit odd. The Fitflops were really very comfortable and this style is both practical and fun. Flat shoes are all I wear so this pair is perfect for me, and I’ll no doubt end up wearing them with my jeans, but also with skirts and dresses, and in the summer months may be even with a pair of shorts. They can genuinely be worn with anything. And if the colour is a bit much for you, you can also get them in nude.

Now I own a lot of shoes – just ask my husband – and a lot of them are this style of ballerina flat. Finding shoes in this style to fit can be a bit of a mission though. Whilst I have fairly average size 5 feet my toes are quite long – yes, I have freaky feet – so I often struggle with standard size 5’s. With the Fitflops I was thrilled to find they did half sizes, so ordered these shoes in a 5.5. Perfect fit. It not only means I can wear them despite my weird toes, but also means I can wear them over socks if needs be or over thick tights in the winter, making them a truly versatile and year round shoe.

Overall I am really pleased with my new shoes. Yes, they take a bit of getting used to with their bouncy soles, but they are comfortable and stylish, and to be honest that’s all I’m really looking for in a pair of shoes. The pair I nearly chose was “The Cuddler” – and I think I’ll be popping a pair on my Christmas Wish List!!

#LeanOnTurkey : Marco Pierre White Christmas Masterclass

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Blogger Event, Brit Mums Live, Christmas, Foodie | Posted on 24-09-2013

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Ah Christmas. The one time in a year that most competent cooks go totally bonkers and freak out at the sight of a turkey. When all knowledge of the previous 52 weeks worth of roast dinners leaves their brains and they turn into a gibbering wreck. We’ve all been there. But its not that hard, I promise. Its basically just a giant chicken, so why does the idea of Christmas lunch cause a sense of dread and panic? Last week I was lucky enough to be invited to Stamford Bridge, home of Chelsea Football Club and the rather fancy “Marco” restaurant to meet the man himself – Marco Pierre White – and learn his tips and tricks for creating the perfect Christmas lunch without the stress. Now Christmas lunch doesn’t really fill me with dread – like I said, its a giant chicken – but I know it does intimidate a lot of people, so I wanted to be able to pass on some pearls of wisdom from an expert.

Marco Pierre White is probably one of the most intimidating people you’ll ever meet. He has a definite presence when he enters the room, and there was generally a sense of hush and awe when he wandered in, apart from the muffled squeals of one over excited blogger who spent a good part of the day trying to find ways to declare her undying love for him. I’m not sure if she succeeded…

There were 21 bloggers at this event and so we were split in to two groups for our masterclass sessions. Our group went first and we were allowed access to Marco’s kitchen where we stood listening to his tips for the perfect Christmas lunch whilst watching him in action. As you can see here, there was a lot of knife wielding involved – nobody was brave enough to point out the handle end – as we watched him cook turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and gravy.

Marco’s Top Tips:
* Remove the legs and wings of the turkey before cooking, or simply buy a turkey crown. Nobody really wants the brown meat, and it will speed up the cooking process. He cooked our turkey in about an hour and a half! The best way to find out if your turkey is done is to invest in a meat probe and use that in the thickest part of the bird to ensure its properly cooked and at the right temperature.

* To stuff your bird use a 50/50 mix of Paxo – yes, he did specifically say PAXO – and the best sausage meat you can afford – there’s is from a posh place in Chelsea, mine will probably come from Asda…. You can also add chopped onion or herbs if you wish. Don’t use as much water as the Paxo instructions tell you, but otherwise do as it says on the packet.

* Marco’s Cranberry Sauce is made using 500g cranberries, 250g sugar, 100ml port and 100ml of orange juice. Simply boil the fruit and sugar together until you get a runny jam consistency. Take it off the heat to add the port and orange juice, and stir it all together. You can make this in advance and store it in your fridge in a sealed jar for up to a month. It also makes a nice gift if you put it in a fancy jar.

* The gravy was made from the chopped up bones from the legs and wings of the turkey which Marco removed at the start. He added onion, garlic, water, butter and bouillon. He thickened it to taste with cornflour. He did mention that we could use Knorr stock pots instead of bouillon if we preferred. No surprise there though!

Christmas lunch truly can be simple. It can be calm and it can be stress free. Now admittedly Marco cooked this in a quiet kitchen apart from having ten bloggers looking on, and he did have ONE thing that none of us will have on Christmas morning to help us. Marco has Roger. Roger has been working with Marco for 25 years, and there is a sense of “old married couple” about them. Roger is his right hand man and I get the impression he’s pretty indispensable. Despite many pleas, Roger is not available to hire out for special occasions, nor is he free Christmas morning to do all the hard work so we don’t have to.

After watching Marco – and Roger – cook, we got to eat which I think most people were rather keen on. We watched as the food was carved in the kitchen, plated up school dinner style – a fairly orderly queue was formed – and then we were dispatched back to the dining area to enjoy our meal with the odd glass of wine. Here’s my first Christmas lunch of 2013.

Yes I know, there’s no potatoes. Much devastation on my table about the lack of potatoes. It was, as expected, delicious. Was it the best Christmas lunch I’ve ever tasted… I’m not sure to be honest. My Mum is rather good at Christmas lunch to be fair. It was really nice though, and the cranberry sauce was very tasty. I don’t tend to enjoy homemade sauce, but this was simple and one recipe I will be doing this December. I’ll probably also be found mixing sausage meat with Paxo – other stuffing brands are available… – to make my stuffing. The idea of just cooking the turkey crown is interesting, especially with the speed of cooking factor. I do like leftovers though, so I’m not sure if I could get on board with this totally. In fact after Christmas Day you can generally find me stood by the open fridge picking bits of cold turkey from the carcass for ages!

This Christmas Day there will be me, Daddy, Little Man, Nana and Pops for lunch. I will certainly be using some of the tips and ideas I picked up on the day, and I hope you all will too. Most of all, I hope you have a very Merry Christmas – when it gets here! – and a wonderful New Year.

One last photo – the obligatory shot I think.
#LeanOnTurkey

 

Time For Some Cosy Sleepwear

Posted by SussexMummy | Posted in Christmas, Fashion | Posted on 19-09-2013

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Good grief its got cold suddenly hasn’t it? Autumn is firmly here with Winter well on its way and I am freezing. I just put the heating on during the day and the post lady came to the door in shorts. SHORTS! Its got really chilly at night too and my usual attire of a large tshirt isn’t going to cut it anymore I don’t think. Time for some new pyjamas I think. I do own a onesie – much to the despair of my family – and that does a pretty good job but its not really snuggly as its just a plain cotton one. I’m thinking something fleecy and hooded like this gorgeous set I found on the Camille website.

Just looking at it is making me feel warmer already, and what a gorgeous colour too – perfect for Christmas. I suspect if I put this on I’d never take it off. Look at the gorgeous fleecy hood! I’d probably end up going in to hibernation and living in it for the rest of the Winter! There’s also a lovely looking giraffe print one which I think my giraffe obsessed sister-in-law may well receive for Christmas, as well as a plain green one to make you look like an elf, or a blue one to turn you into a smurf. The choice is actually rather impressive!

Bed socks are another great way to keep warm in the winter. I have really bad circulation and more often than not my feet resemble blocks of ice as soon as I take my shoes and socks off. Whilst warming them on my husbands legs – who tends to be like a hot water bottle – is tempting, he’s apparently not a fan. Can’t think why. He did buy me some bed socks last Christmas – clearly a hint – but I have spotted a few funky patterns out there that should keep even my icy toes warm. Time to draw up my Christmas wish list I think…