Monday, 18 December 2017

For Bloggers Christmas Comes Early

Lottie and I were wearing our matching Christmas dresses to Horts Bristol (eclectic pub with a small luxury private sofa cinema) the other day. As above it was a BUMBLE Baby Cinema event to see Disney The Muppet Christmas Carol, hosted by the lovely Queen Bees She and Hem. Daddy was like "they'd be so lovely to wear on Christmas Day" and despite many years blogging I had to explain to him we get things way before Christmas so that we can share them with others as a great idea. I got our Want That Trend dresses so early my tree wasn't up so as below I used Costco as the backdrop for an Instagram pic. Luckily the staff thought it was a great idea so I didn't have to take pics looking over my shoulder. An employee even took some of the pics for me but Aaron took the one I actually shared on Instagram (Actually they're all there, as it's a slideshow of 10 pics if I remember rightly):
We went to Drayton's Magical Christmas in November and even Noah's Ark more locally as they were both blogger events. I don't mind doing things early doors as it means the festive period and the excitment to Christmas just lasts longer and it's less of an anti-climax than it is when you pile the pressure on just one day to be good.

We even already have our Christmas Day LONDON PJs thanks to Alex and Alexa and we all adore them:



It's the πŸŽ„Christmas πŸŽ„ for matching PJs & they couldn't be cuter. I'm being clever here as the London red on the buses, post boxes & phone boxes mixed with the London Eye ferris wheels which look like snow flakes are all quite festive yet because there's nothing actually overtly Xmassy about them they CAN wear them all year round 😁clever Mummy. I did this lil photo shoot while they were engrossed in Peppa πŸ½πŸ–πŸ· Do swipe left as there are 10 pics πŸ“Έkeep an eye out for the one where they're holding hands 😒😍 πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„πŸŽ„ I've had my eye out πŸ‘€ for classy matching PJs for weeks & was thrilled when I stumbled acrross these on @alexandalexacom ... take a look the design is incredible as there are Underground signs, black taxis, beefeaters & even Big Ben & Tower Bridge. As if that's not enough there's even a tea pot, cup and royal crown. We lived in London for 41 years and have been gone long enough that these are beautifully nostalgic. The Peruvian super soft pima cotton jersey feels like silk. Aaron said "they feel incredible" you can see the pic where he's hugging his knees. They're called Kissy Kissy White London Landmarks Print Pyjamas AND CURRENTLY HAVE 25% OFF meaning Lottie's are now £30 instead of £40. Machine washable at 30 degrees. #AlexAndAlexa #ad #KissyKissy #PerfectAndProud #BrotherAndSister #Siblings #childrenofig #XmasPJs #MatchingPJs #worldoflittles #childhoodunplugged #lifecloseup #developinglife #myhappycapture #dayslikethese #pixel_kids #cherisheverymoment #documentyourdays #candidchildhood #our_everyday_moments #UKParentBloggers #instakids #mamalife #thatsdarling #tinybeansmoment #letthekids #littleandbrave
A post shared by Parenting Blogger Liska (@newmumonline) on
We haven't done any toy reviews this Christmas so were thrilled to be asked to review

  • a Mr. Tumble SS01 Something Special Learning Pad for Lottie (Let your child learn with Mr Tumble and Friends. Press and picture or image on the tablet to hear fun sounds and facts. Includes six games to encourage learning about colours, numbers, shapes, letters, characters and musical instruments. The touch sensitive screen makes exploration fun and easy to follow).
  • a Thomas and Friends Flip and Learn Phone for Lottie (A chunky classic flip-up phone in blue, with a backlit answer screen and image of Thomas and Percy. Call Thomas and his Sodor friends to hear their greetings. Includes games to help children with number and colour recognition - press. Kids can even pretend to take pictures with the camera-phone feature. Helps children with colour and number recognition. Helps with simple communication skills. Sturdy, solid design is ideal for preschool children
  • an Xtrem Trooper Bot for Aaron (Here comes the ultimate Xtrem Bot, Trooper Bot. Over 35cm tall, the high tech trooper bot is armed and ready for combat, with a missile launcher built into its arm – take aim and fire using the infrared remote control. Then when the battle is over, trooper bot can perform its own robotic dance! trooper bot can walk and slide forward, turn, move backwards, and follow up to 50 consecutive commands. The multi LED eyes have a variety of facial expressions. Trooper bot comes with a protective visor, 5 missile darts and USB cable for recharging (2 x AA batteries only required for the controller). infra-red transmitter reaches range of more than 5 metres. For ages 5 years and up.
So our delivery arrived and kept them busy this week which was great as Aaron broke up from school Friday 15th December.... I find that TERRIBLY early, as I am Irish and we celebrate Christmas till 6th January and breaking up that early means he goes back on 2nd January *cries*. Imagine spending New Year's Day saying "you better go to bed soon you've got school tomorrow" :-( I do know though that this year must be a DREAM COME TRUE for any office worker who works Monday to Friday. Normally up to 2012 that'd have been me. Getting everyone in the office to set out of offices on Christmas Eve with me then dashing to Stansted to collect my Mum from the airport. But with Christmas falling on a Monday people have 23rd and 24th off. They must be stoked!!!!! If only school holiday dates worked just as well.

So this is Aaron's new toy - call it an early Xmas present from the world of Blogging and scroll down for our video review of it...
Video review of our new robot on my youtube channel


Anyway bye for now. Hope to touch base with you all again before Santa comes down my chimney - oooh errr. And, you can always find me over on Instagram NewMumOnline my happy place.

Thursday, 14 December 2017

Getting Your House Baby Ready

Getting the house ready for baby's arrival in the midst of Christmas? I totally get it. Lottie was born nearly two years ago on 25th January 2016. You don't know whether to buy bibs or Christmas Crackers. Whether to get the tree down out of the cot or her brother's old cot. The secret is making space for it all and being prepared.

Whether you’re in the early stages of planning for your pregnancy or looking at the final weeks before you expect to bring a new addition to the family home with you, one of the key issues you need to tackle is getting the house ready. You need to make sure it’s safe and clean for your new baby, and also that you have all the supplies you need both for you and the baby conveniently at hand. This is particularly important given that the midwife expects to land in on top of you for a home visit within a day or two of your being discharged from hospital - if you haven't had a home birth that is. Worrying about the house is the last thing you need so get it sorted whilst you're nesting and delegate delegate delegate.

Today we’ve got a few helpful tips to make sure you’ve got every angle covered when you bring your newborn baby home.


Clean and Clear

It’s important to bring a newborn home to a clean house – on top of that, with a young child in the house, you simply won’t have time for your normal housework routine. Doing a deep clean in advance of your predicted due date will ensure your house is ready, and also with what little housework you have time for in the weeks and months to come will be more valuable: you’ll be returning your home to that pristine state, not fighting back against accumulated years of clutter.

Creating a bit of extra room is always valuable, and never more so when you’re bringing a whole new person into your house. Don't forget you'll also need space for all those visitors that come with having a new baby. When Aaron arrived my Mum moved in with us for NINE WEEKS so you might not just be making room for a Nursery you might just be having to clear out the spare room too. If you are looking for self storage London has plenty of options for you, and this allows you to clear the clutter out of your house and into a secure storage facility, whether it’s something dangerous you don’t want in a house with a new baby, or the relics of an old hobby you have to admit to yourself you won’t have time for until your new baby is a little more independent. Even something as simple as bikes if you live in a flat without a garage or shed.


Food

Another useful thing to do is clear out your fridge. Make sure you have designated baby space – you’ll be storing a lot for them, whether it’s formula or breast milk, and the last thing you want is to mix it up with last night’s leftovers. This also creates space for you to cook and store lots of batch food. Time is going to be at a premium in the next weeks and months, and batch cooking a whole week’s worth of food when you have the opportunity to store and eat when you have less time is a great idea. My Christian friend is studying Theology and whenever one of the students or their spouse has a baby they all take it in turns to drop off a meal for the new parents scheduling it on Meal Train.

Stock Up

Make use of all the space you’ve cleared by stocking up on the essentials: nappies and wet wipes, of course, but also cleaning supplies: paper towels, baby friendly stain removers and detergent. You really can’t have enough of the essentials, so making sure you’re fully stocked up is a great way to feel ready for when you bring your new-born baby home.

When my 1st baby arrived in 2010 I got loads of decorating done in advance as I wanted my bedroom to be a tranquil place as I knew he would be in with us for the 1st few months. I was really happy with what we achieved: Baby Living in a Flat. 2 years ago I was busy tidying for baby Lottie's imminent arrival.

Good luck Mumma you can do it. Great thing about the festive and new baby visitors is you CAN get them to help with stuff. Delegation is key. Just don't give them the baby. Get those snuggles in while you can. Sniff that newborn head. Those heady newborn days don't last long AT ALL...
This post is a collaboration

Wednesday, 6 December 2017

Christmas at Noah's Ark Bristol

We recently received an invite to review Noah's Ark Farm Zoo, visiting on Saturday 25th November and I jumped at the chance. A sane woman would say "no I have a Christening tomorrow that I have been planning for months" but no, this was too good an opportunity to turn down and I have wanted to visit the place for 3 years. The fact that the kids would enjoy it was a bonus. The fact that Daddy and Grandma could do all the last minute shopping and errands for the party and buffet in peace... well that was the icing on the cake. So plans were made, cousin invited, alarm set and off we trekked. Oh and the usual prep for any event, Aaron was tasked with watching You Tube videos to get suitably excited and that he did in bucket loads as he was beyond thrilled with the selection of animals he was about to meet. Way more than we've seen in other places recently.... errrm... moving swiftly on.... oh but just look at that tractor above. They loved posing for a pic there and that's right before the entrance so they were delighted with the place before we even dived in or met our blogger group in the Food Barn. Even before that after getting out of the car in the car-park we were greeted with this scene of reindeer. They look quite mature don't they.
But that was not all. Whilst we gathered round chatting, having by now gone through the ticket barrier, the kids ran off to climb on this boat. Before I knew it Lottie was with them, safely climbing up, between cousin and brother and I was greeted with this scene. My 22 month old, gulps, up in the sky, having only turned 22 months that very day:
Clearly instead of telling them to get down I got my camera out and then greeted them (getting video footage too naturally) at the bottom of that yellow slide you see in the pic. To be honest I am a HUGE fan of silhouette photography so when I saw the scene above I couldn't get my camera ready quick enough. Well... clearly I did LOL! They look like they're going on a bear hunt don't they. And funnily enough there are bears in Noah's Ark. That's Lottie in front, cousin behind. then a stranger followed by Aaron taking up the rear. I was so glad that they had this to play on whilst us adults got reacquainted. It's been too long since I'd last seen Jane and Heather. With both ladies I have linked to their Christmas in Bristol posts so do have a looksie if you're local or nosey :-) There are bears at Noah's Ark but we didn't see them, mainly because the soft play area and not so soft (wooden) play areas are exceptional, so we kind of got holed up in there for hours but more on that later. It was now time to go in and meet everyone, so the kids were beckoned into the Food Barn so we could congregate for a tour. I'm actually impressed now with hindsight that they agreed to stop playing and came in. Once in the Food Barn I ordered some drinks and food and chatted with Jane and Heather. I suddenly thought "how come I am not being asked questions by the kids?".... a quick scan of the room and this is what I was greeted with. It was such a serene scene and too good to be true so I doubled up laughing at how very sensible, surprisingly so, they were being. However short-lived...... Again a moment for the camera
We then discovered that our blogger welcome pack had 4 vouchers for Hot Chocolate in it so I think I then got one for me and one for my niece (later giving the remaining 2 to 2 of Jane's ever so lovely boys). The Marketing lady who was our tour guide for the morning arranged with the catering department that we'd have pizza at 12:30 so off we trotted knowing we were building up a healthy appetite. At this point I had no idea just how very delicious that pizza was going to be. Aaron was pretty much on the go all day, whereas my niece was happy to help with Lottie and stay by my side a little more. Of course they were both free range in the soft play but this was Aaron pretty much the whole time we were outdoors. For an outdoorsie boy such as him Noah's Ark is a dream come true. It is LARGE - set in over 100 acres of beautiful countryside. Aaron having met the Emus:
If you're reading this as a blogger who was there that day, 25th November, this moment pictured below was the moment when I got cross. Lottie wouldn't let Aaron move her over at the glass and instead of being the "bigger" person and brother he kept trying to muscle in, on the same centimetres of glass that she was viewing the Leopard Tortoise through. I shouted out for him to stop as she was starting to press her head against his, like a rhino, and had he listened to me that would have been the end of it, but no he dug his heels in and tried to squash in front of the glass even more. I took this photo before what happened next. But he pushed so much that Lottie pushed back and ended up banging her head on the window frame. I was LIVID so if you heard me frustrated and telling him off just after this, then now you know why. I was too embarrassed to make eye contact with anyone after that. But if you are the parent of siblings you probably have the attitude "these things happen". I just get annoyed because he can be so so so very very good with Lottie. A complete Saint. So then I am not prepared for it when he acts SO stubborn and out of character. She's old enough now that she doesn't just back down either. Oh dear. You'd NEVER guess all of this from this pic would you (I think my niece is just looking at them in disbelief considering there is lots of glass to choose from):
Because she had a wee bump on her forehead after this I stayed cross at Aaron for a couple of hours. I can't bear it when she's hurt as a result of his behaviour and I was even more cross knowing it'd happened after I said something rather than before which meant Aaron was really disobedient. Looking back on it I wish it hadn't happened as it is SUCH a beautiful place but luckily the pizza and the soft play solved all problems and we were in very good spirits for meeting Saint Nicholas straight after food. But before food we went on a whistle stop tour of the whole zoo. So we met a donkeygoats and camels to name but a few:
Noah's Ark has artfully told the Christmas story through signage, which is very touching. This rather apt sign was next to the donkey. Visiting this signage is part of the History and Mystery Tour which is an illuminated walk culminating with a visit to Saint Nicholas. It is quite literally Christmas at the Ark. The day we were there he was available from 1-2, so it may be that you don't complete the tour completely prior to meeting him unless you whizz round as fast as we did, leaving soft play (and tractor ride) till later, as we did.
When we went to visit the Elephant Christmas Tree Forest the kids had to first stop to have a go on this. A slide in the shape of an elephant - FANTASTIC. It was cold but as you can see the sky was spectacular. One of those chilly sunny days. Aaron briefly posed and smiled for me below before whizzing down the slide. I guess I was lucky he did as this is sill before the pizza lunch. We must have made up by this point except shortly after this I remember we couldn't get him to join us. Can't remember what he was climbing on or doing by then. SO SO SO much to do there at Noah's Ark, but when he wasn't keeping up that time before lunch, Heather held back to take up the rear and walk with him. Thank you if you're reading this. What a great day out and such good value for what they charge.
I love this pic of my daughter and my niece in the Elephant Eden House. Jesus is safe. Again part of the Christmas story. Noah's Ark is Christian run. It has a magical vibe about it and Jane was lucky enough to meet the owner.
So not long after this we went to the Food Barn for lunch. It was packed despite it being out of season. There was a cheery hustle and bustle atmosphere and we headed for the reserved tables for our pizzas. They were handmade and utterly delicious. I must have had about 5 large slices and the kids had loads too. I didn't do that Instagrammer thing of taking pics before eating as the fresh air had made us too hungry for all of that. Shame though as the catering team deserves me to sing their praises with some beautiful foodie pics. If you go though do try the pizza as even the bases are made on site and they are goooooood. This is Pizza like Mamma used to make.... 
But then with full tummies we were off to meet St. Nic and his trusty Elf.
The kids LOVED the animals but they were laying an egg to get to the soft play and it didn't at all disappoint. I thought Lottie would be frightened being deep in a ball pit but she wasn't phased at all. Even copying her elders and sinking right down into it.
I have BRILLIANT footage of them in the play areas both wooden and soft but not really any photos as they were moving so fast any I did take were blurred. Plus in the wooden play area, while Aaron and his cousin ran ahead I was often with Lottie, so didn't get chance to stop for pics. Can't wait to edit it all into a vlog when I get chance. We did stop for a break though to do the tractor trailer ride which I can highly recommend. I must advise though that it is £2 per person and not included in your admission. The driver did a guided tour of Noah's Ark and it was very entertaining and original. It took us so long to convince Lottie to leave and put socks and shoes off that we missed one ride and met some animals while we waited for the next which would be the final one of the day. Aaron and his cousin were delighted to be able to have animals on their knees and to stroke them. I think they handled 3 different animals in total each.
We had such a good time at Noah's Ark and I wouldn't hesitate if I had the opportunity to go again. Although we were there as bloggers to review it, I do think it's well worth the admission fee. I had 3 children with me of such different ages: 1. 7 and 9 and they'd all give it a huge thumbs up. 

We were there till closing, such a good time we were having. Being 25th November it was dark when we left. Good night Noah's Ark.
Definitely add Noah's Ark to your list of things to do in Bristol. It's well worth a visit, such a large and beautiful place. This Christmas they have various things happening. The below is from Noah's Ark website, see www.noahsarkzoofarm.co.uk/events/christmas-at-the-ark:


Saturday 9th December: Ark Angel choir performance at 2pm in the Ark Arena. Come along and join in with some festive favourites as our Zoo Keepers sing some tunes to fundraise for the Crisis Centre.
Saturday 16th December: Come and watch a festive perfomance of the Christmas story with real animals. The Portishead Brownie group is kindly putting on a Christams Nativity for you all at 2pm in the Ark Arena. The nativity showing is included in the entry price.
Saturday 23rd December: Come along and get involved with your very own Christmas Nativity with real live animals. At 2pm in the Ark Arena we're inviting you to get involved and tell the Christmas Story. All props and script will be provided just turn up on the day and get involved.
 Do you belong to a local school or community group? This year our traditional Christmas Nativities featuring real animals are returning and we would love for you to get invloved. Please note booking is essential to take part and performance dates run from 4th - 22nd December 2017.

Disclosure: I visited Noah's Ark as part of a bloggers' experience arranged by Bristol Bloggers, therefore our admission was complimentary. I do however remain honest and haven't been told what to say. We truly LOVED our day at the zoo farm and can't wait to visit again. You'll see truly how much fun we had when I publish a video, as soon as I get time to edit it that is.

Bye for now, Liska xxx

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Drayton's Magical Christmas at Drayton Manor's Thomas Land | REVIEW 2017

Drayton's Magical Christmas (formerly known as Thomas's Magical Christmas) is SO MAGICAL that a spell was cast over us for weeks before we arrived. Aaron so excited to head off, already, at 40 days prior to going, started a daily countdown. Yes it felt and was LONGER than ADVENT and now I have that to look forward to too, ha ha ha... or rather ho ho ho! He'd say things like "I can't wait till it gets to 30 days!". To put this in context Aaron's been to Thomas Land about 7 times, 2 of those having stayed the night at Drayton Manor Hotel. I said "I thought you'd have grown out of it by now!", to which he'd sternly reply "I won't grow out of Thomas Land till I am 10". He's currently aged 7 and not 8 till June 2018.  Oooh that's the first time I've typed 2018. The ONE fly in the ointment is that Lottie doesn't do rides (past tense) and even cries cried when you'd put a pound in a vehicle in a mall. But thankfully on Bonfire Night there was a Fun Fare and she wanted to be the same as everyone else so went on all the rides. This being 5th November and our Thomas Land visit planned for 18th November meant Aaron had lots of time to be excited now knowing they could go on rides TOGETHER. So there was lots of planning: "I'll go on Troublesome Trucks with you or Daddy while you or Daddy stays with Lottie and I'll go on X and Y and Z with Lottie". It was incredibly cute being that the last time we visited Lottie was a 4 week old newborn and very much remained in the buggy under about 20 blankets given that it was February and freezing.
Once you go over the foot-bridge from the car-park the excitement really builds when you see the ticket booths and entrance gates. What's truly brilliant though is once you are outside that Thomas Land brick archway we know all too well. Except it was even better this time as we've never before been at Christmas. Aaron therefore of course utterly loved climbing into the photo opps available and didn't need to be asked to smile. Spot the photo that really makes me chuckle though as Daddy's legs can be seen where he's trying to stay out of shot whilst making sure Lottie is safe. I'm keeping his legs visible as I want to remember that he was fully on team day out that day. Was so lovely to have Daddy not only off work but fully with us both mentally and physically. It was incredibly special as not only did we do many things together as a family of four but we also split up many times when they'd go off to do older rides and I'd do something different with Lottie. It was the first time I noticed we can be split into a girls and a boys team. We've not really ever done that in Lottie's nearly 2 years on the planet but at Thomas Land it really worked ESPECIALLY when Aaron wanted to go on the Drayton Manor roller coaster: Accelerator (which WAS/IS OPEN at Magical Christmas). It's the one that used to be called Ben 10. Wow Aaron's really grown up as he could never do roller coasters aged 5 and 6 but he's watched so so many on You Tube he was just laying an egg to go on one. You'll see his reactions both before and after once I edit my video of our day out. I did about a week ago spend 12 hours on it but then I lost it all and then this weekend just gone we were very busy and tied up with Lottie's Christening.


Our very first ride upon arrival was Jeremy Jet's Flying Academy Planes. I sat in the back with my 2 young and capable pilots in the front as you see above. I was beyond thrilled that Lottie stayed in and happy despite the planes flying fast, high and low. She, being new to rides, hasn't mastered the art of concentrating whilst simultaneously smiling LOL. At this point it was time to go to Eat Drink Enjoy for our complimentary spread of sandwiches that were laid on for us bloggers to enjoy. It was perfect as the location was directly opposite the Accelerator roller coaster I referred to above so that was what Daddy and Aaron did next whilst I watched Lottie run round and round her buggy and the large Christmas Tree that routinely breaks into music and lights all day. This footage of her totting around is my favourite out of everything I filmed all day. Accelerator (when Drayton Manor is open in full, in season), normally has an hour long queue, so Christmas really is magical because you get to go straight on. I thought this would mean Aaron would go on the ride more than once, but it being his first time on an older child roller-coaster he was a bit overwhelmed and didn't dare do so again bless him. While having lunch I got to finally meet Donna and family
https://whattheredheadsaid.com/getting-festive-spirit-drayton-manor/ 
for the very first time 
and the lovely Laura 
http://www.mylifeunexpected.co.uk/
who apparently goes to Thomas Land for Xmas every year the lucky devil. 
I did also see Mrs Shilts 
https://www.mrsshilts.co.uk/2017/11/draytons-magical-christmas/
but was too shy to tap her on the shoulder.


The next thing we spied and rode on was the: Vintage Carousel, which technically just like Accelerator is a Drayton Manor Ride and outside the scope and border wall of Thomas Land. It feels very Christmassy and nostalgic so I am glad it was indeed open. Definitely one of the highlights of the day. Aaron started off by mounting a horse adjacent to mine on my left and then decided that he'd prefer the rooster to my right. Sitting high up on one of those wasn't ideal for what was then a 21 months old Lottie so I was pleased there were those seats you see photographed above for Lottie and Daddy to sit in. Lottie constantly wants to copy Aaron but I was relieved to see she knew her limits and happily stayed sitting for the duration of the ride - no stress. Just so you know the Jolly Buccaneer is actually open too, but we decided that was a little too fast for Lottie and we didn't even get chance to go on it with Aaron.
Next up was Diesel's Locomotive Mayhem. Given this has a height cap of 1.2 metres it's the perfect ride for Lottie. With it spinning even more than teacups I was worried if she'd like it but my little lady seems to be a theme park rider rather than a novice at her first attempt and was more than fine. She didn't put up much protest getting off rides as she quickly seemed to realise that there was always something bigger and better yet to come. So nice at theme parks when you don't pay per ride and even better out of season like this as the queues are at a length even a wee toddler can cope with, although she didn't understand why we weren't yet at the front for Sodor Classic Cars so Daddy gave her back to us (me and Aaron) once we were at the front.
Aaron himself (so proud I was) then calculated it was now the best time to queue at Knapford Station to travel down to the other end of Thomas Land in order to be back in time for Santa. Was a good move as some of the rides down that end of the park end at dusk so there's no way we could have gone after Santa. Good one Aaron. Upon entering the train station, I felt as if I had been romantically and ever so nostalgically transported back in time when I saw how quintessentially British the decoration of the train station was. Pure class. Simple yet stunning I am sure you'll agree. Something about the luggage just adds to it. Makes me think of lovers saying goodbye at a steam train station with me snuggling up to watch them in a black and white movie whilst young myself. Anyway there's no better time than Christmas to feel dreamy and reminiscent about years gone by.
Nothing out of the ordinary happens on this train ride, but at 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and now 7 years of age Aaron never fails to LOVE it. I mean really LOVE it. But then he's been a fan of trains since 18 months and Thomas since 2 years. No surprise there then.
It was absolutely wonderful when our train carriages and engine finally pulled into the station because it was THOMAS himself pulling the train (his engine is not on every train, you can get Thomas Rosie or Percy) and we were thrilled to see his festive antlers and twinkly fairy lights. He goes to the very end of the platform, disengages to do a 180 degree turn and then overtakes your carriages so as to be back at the front again and all of this is part of the excitement and wonder. What's fab when you have babies and toddlers with you is there is a lot of space for buggies on board. Only trouble being they are not kept with you. Although this was ideal with toddler Lottie now, as of course she's more than happy to be separated from her buggy being a very able walker, toddler and runner, when we came last February, she was a newborn in a pram and I therefore had to walk to the end of the park and meet Aaron and my friends there as they disembarked. Given the queuing that is sometimes involved to board I actually got there before them and it's not that long a walk. Getting on at Thomas Land's Knapford Station at Christmas and off-season poses no problem with queueing at all but having been to Thomas Land in August 2012 I can honestly say it is better in peak months to walk down to Tidmouth Hault and train ride BACK, as the queues are more manageable down that end.
It's a single ride from Knapford Station to Tidmouth Hault where you are then able to leave the train and do an immediate right to Spencer's outdoor activity park (an AWESOME playground), to the zoo, to the Dinosaur Park and Farmer McColl's Farm. There's also an ace cafe (tea rooms) opposite the station with picnic outdoor seating and toilets. As we left the train I tried my hardest for a pic of my 2 with Thomas but we didn't quite pull it off LOL:
What we always do first  upon arrival at this end of the park is loop over to the left passed the large Thomas train set exhibition (miniature moving trains like a traditional attic train-set in a HUGE display well worth a look) and over to do Terrence's Driving School. After many visits years ago where Aaron's feet could NOT reach the pedals we were so excited finally when they COULD. I knew this would be Aaron's very last time on it (given his above average height - he's in aged 9-10 clothes at 7) so I am not ashamed to say I cajoled him to go on it against Daddy's adamant statement that he was too old. I kept saying I bet the man has a wooden measure to check if you are too tall in addition to the one that checks if you are too small and sure enough he DID! Aaron was holding my hand and happy to get to the top of the queue and let the measure decide till Daddy tried to encourage him not to go on it. We nearly had the family version of World War 3, with Daddy wanting to pull him away from the ride and me wanting him to stay in the queue, but luckily Aaron did let himself be measured and was secretly pleased that he COULD indeed go on it one last time. I later got it out of him that he enjoyed it even though he felt disloyal to Daddy who was encouraging him not to drive. Luckily I can feel his vibes as Aaron and I have always been telepathic so I knew well that he enjoyed it even though he pretended not to once he spied Daddy watching.
So after Terrence's driving school off we headed to the playground and then Dino Trail, which Aaron loved showing to Lottie. I was surprised we got her away from the playground actually considering how much she was enjoying the ladders and slides.








Of course a huge highlight of visiting at this time of year is that you get to meet Father Christmas and that we did. But once we walked back from the zoo we were a little bit too early for Father Christmas so Aaron and Daddy whizzed off to the Troublesome Trucks.  Aaron was laying an egg to go on as he'd watched the video where he screamed all the way round aged 2. Lottie and I took the opportunity to get some retail therapy and bought this wee sign for only £1.50. Splitting into 2 teams several times throughout the day really worked for us. It's not something we've ever done before but the 1 to 1 time with each child was invaluable and we all got so much quality time out of it.
Once we met up with the boys it was off to The Castle of Dreams for our 3:30 p.m. slot with Father Christmas. I got a pic of Aaron in the queue. 

The suspense as we walked up was palpable as this was such a fitting glitzy building to host the main man in. We've only seen the big man in red in grottos before even if some of them have been fairly grand. 

There was something MORE MAGICAL about seeing him in a castle. I loved the Elf who bantered with us on the door and I loved him even more when he said we ARE allowed to take pics and video as so so so many Father Christmasses don't allow you to do so. He even told us that Daddy is on the naughty list which really tickled me as it's probably true ha ha ha ha ha.

Father Christmas was superb, taking our pic again and again (with a remote) till it was perfect. Allowing us to view it on the wall each time until we were satisfied. 

He was alone in the room, no elf to help and made lots of time for us. He was fascinated that Aaron only wants a watch for Christmas and then gave both children a lovely branded goodie bag which contained a chocolate lolly, a golden ticket (free child entrance in 2018) and a gorgeous book (which actually we are yet to read). As you can see Lottie is still at that "scaredy cat" stage. I remember Aaron going through this. So if you have a very little one be prepared for this. I however at that age was straight up in Santa's arms back when they were allowed to carry kids.
The above picture was taken on my phone and the below is the official one from Father Christmas's camera which he operates on a timer and lets you view before leaving. For love nor money we couldn't get Lottie to smile so we just focused on making sure we were all in shot all with our eyes open LOL! 
Normally when your time with Santa is finished at other places it's a HUGE anti-climax as you depart but not so here in the magical place that is Drayton Manor. You are then out into a castle that feels beautifully medieval and authentic. I felt slightly tearful as again it was magical and that's the effect magic has on me. Cue opening of the heart, a lump in my throat and tears pricking my eyes as I get in touch with MY inner child. There was free face painting, an opp to have a photo on a sleigh with reindeer, thrones to pretend to be King and Queen on and plenty to look at. I could have stayed in there ages but Daddy was wanting to crack on and neither of the kids wanted their faces painted which is highly unusual for them both. Aaron was anxious to finish his time at the park on rides.
This Father Christmas is definitely up there with the best we've seen even though we have discerning taste having met Santa at Westfield London and Stratford, at Hamley's Regent Street AND several times at Harrods. I say it again, I loved that we were allowed to video and take our own photos. 
The boys now dashed off to get some rides in before the parade and fireworks. I just knew I didn't want to miss the parade. After exiting The Castle of Dreams I was near the donuts and nibbly, a dangerous combination. Also really in need of my daily caffeine fix and couldn't resist warm donuts. I got enough for us all, but personally ate most of them. OOoooops. But the coffee went down so very well.
We then found our boys at Cranky's Drop Tower and they did the ride twice so that on the second go Lottie could get a better view of them. A better "vantage point" as Daddy called it!
Rocking Bulstrode is very nearby so of course they then had to do that too and Lottie was very patient watching them.
I think it was at this point I said it is too long since she herself has been on a ride so all 4 of us then queued for Harold the Helicopter because luckily with those you CAN have 2 adults in the back and 2 kids in the front. Perfect. The view from up there is great too. Just what the Doctor ordered and the dusky sunset - as by now it was late - was looking stunning and added to the other worldly atmosphere that had weaved its way through the day. I don't think I have photos of us on Harold the Helicopter but I do have footage once I do my video. Another ride we did with us 2 adults in the back and the 2 kids in the front was Winston's Whistle Stop Tours, our favourite ride as it tours above the park and with all the twinkly lights at this time of night it was just pure bliss and to use that word yet again, magical. There was a long queue for it and as we looked down through the windows into the soft play area (Emily's [indoor] Play Adventure) we didn't have time for, Lottie and Aaron ate their chocolate lollies from Father Christmas. Just look at the size of them:
When we got off Winston we weren't at the same place as where we boarded. In fact we were at a green screen where I purchased a brilliant snow globe style block framed photo of us all with Thomas. No opportunity to collect the buggy we'd left at the entrance then but it did mean the boys were nearer to rush off and board Toby's Tram Express which Aaron was excited about. This meant Lottie and I could have a slow meander back to get the buggy and ended up we did a ride whilst there that would have been too babyish for Aaron. He was still disappointed later to hear we'd done it without him as he loves seeing Lottie happy.  So we had a ride of Lady's Carousel by ourselves. Aaron decided NOT to go on Flynn's Fire Rescue as he hated that in winter the water isn't on as he loves spraying it. We did instead as a whole family go on Captain's Sea Adventure, after a nearby loo break, which is in real water. Lottie AND Aaron adored playing with the spot lights and pointing them around. It was a slow chilled out ride and by now people were getting in place for the parade so we were one of only 2 families on there. The staff member knew this but after letting the adjacent family out she still went clockwise instead of anti-clockwise to come and let us out. For a few seconds I thought we were there for the night LOL!!!!

I'd had a tip off on where to stand for the parade so off we went. Basically right under the balcony (above Knapford Station) so once they walk down to there you're in the front row to see their performance. It was THE best place to stand to get good video footage. Despite being by the balcony, somehow, when they then left Thomas Land to go onto the main concourse for the parade down to the lake, we managed to catch up with the buggy and all so I was more or less in the front row for each performance they did. Yes it meant I then wasn't close to the fireworks but I preferred looking at them in the sky anyway. I was sad to hear that some people thought the fireworks weren't extensive. It's not billed as a Fireworks Show (that'd cost a fortune considering they're doing it every night that Thomas Land is open for Christmas) it's simply a FINALE to the Parade and to celebrate the fact that the Magical Christmas is in its TENTH YEAR.

Happy Anniversary Drayton Manor.

Oh and just to warn you, in the minutes before the parade the world and his wife pop into the shops near Sodor Airport to buy light sabers. Daddy bought one for Aaron and Lottie cried so I had to get another. They were £7 each so factor this into your budget for the day. They're good quality and they've played with them every day since. Way way better than the one we bought for a fiver at a circus last year. They change colour and everything. Whilst your walking following the parade, playing with them takes their mind off being cold and the lights add to the glow of the overall evening.
For a few years I thought Christmas wasn't Christmas unless we saw Santa at Harrods. Then when I was pregnant with Lottie it was actually seeing The Snowman in theatre that actually set up my Christmas. Then last year it was reviewing Santas for Channel 4. A couple of months ago I wondered WHAT will make THIS Christmas 2017 and it was definitely Drayton Manor's Magical Christmas. The parade was so beautifully narrated I actually got all emotional and cried not long after it finished. The actors who took part were all so talented and really in the moment and in character. Very impressed. I know some people at the back didn't get the moving experience that I did so I recommend to Drayton Manor to either (a) do all of the performances on high stages like the first one where you have the benefit of Knapford Station's balcony (I know this means the cost of erecting stages but there may be a way to do so economically) or (b) have large screens near each performance so that people at the back (adults and children alike) can feel the magic too. Such a shame for only people at the front to benefit from seeing the fab show that is laid on. The narrative and the voice over were both superb though - I truly loved it.

Aaron is already asking when we can go back and I'd love to tell him "Darling until we're old and grey we'll be there every year". Daddy is a bit of a grinch and even he enjoyed it which certainly means it's 5 star for sure... 

Review: our visit to Drayton Manor, Father Christmas, lunch and our family photo were all complimentary for our family of four. We were not told what to say and all views remain my own. Apart from the photo of us all with Father Christmas all photography is mine.