Thursday, 18 December 2014

Christmas at the O'Hanlon's

This post has been sitting here waiting since CD Day (Christmas Decoration day, 1st December in our house) but I've been busy working and merry making and I'm now poorly so my blog has been a little quiet this week.

But in the spirit of the season, I've decided to show you around our Christmassy home and let the pictures talk for themselves, to save this post from sitting in drafts forever or to so you don't end up reading it sometime in the New Year, long after the Christmas tree has been packed away in the loft.

We don't confine our decorating to the tree or lounge alone - oh no, if it can be made festive, it WILL be made festive! We've added a few things to Ethan's nursery, hubs' desk has had a Christmas makeover and there's lots of elves and baubles and other decorations to spot here there and everywhere... it makes tidying up in the New Year lots of fun!

We have my homemade advent calendar house, Christmas wreath, card holder and snow globe on display and lots of warm, seasonal throws and even our bedding has been changed to a lovely Nordic pattern. I really love the Nordic and homespun looks and red and white are my key colours every year. 

I've filled our tree with so many old and new decorations and I love nothing more than sitting back and watching it twinkle away in the evening. I don't ever think that photos can do a tree real justice and I am so proud of our tree this year as I love the eclectic mix of decorations, including the new ones we added last year when it was Ethan's first Christmas, pieces we have collected from the Frankfurt Christmas market and some fab new felt snowflakes and coloured bells from several new purchases we made at Wilkos this year.

So here's a mini tour around our home this Christmas and if you'd like to hear about our family traditions, just take a peek here...

Can you spot our dog?!

Monday, 15 December 2014

Where can you see Santa on Safari? West Midlands Safari Park!

When you think of Santa, the last thing that probably comes to mind is a safari. No, Father Christmas lives at the North Pole and wears a big furry red suit, hat, gloves and boots to keep out the chill. No need for sunglasses!

Well, right now, Santa IS on safari and can be found at West Midlands Safari Park. I know, because we tracked him down and saw him and if you're quick, you can too.

I've wanted to take Ethan to the safari park for a while as I knew he would be really interested to see so many different animals up close and both hubs and I enjoy this kind of day out too. We have gone to the West Midlands Safari Park fireworks for a few years now as they're just fantastic but we were keen to pop back for the full safari experience and going to see Santa was a perfect excuse. 

We made an appointment online, arrived in plenty of time and stopped off at the Discovery Trail cafe for a quick bite to eat plus a complimentary mulled wine / hot chocolate and mince pie (part of our ticket).

We then headed to see the penguins and were just in time for the sealion show - we really felt for the assistant who was doing her best not to slip into the pool in the cold conditions!

We then followed the signs to the North Pole at our allotted time and before we knew it, we were climbing on board a little ride that would take us by magic to our destination. We then had a grotto to walk around and enjoy and we were really impressed by how everything had been put together. It was the biggest grotto we have been to and we were really impressed.

The man himself was jolly and Ethan was very happy to see him. We posed for a family photo then were taken to pick a toy of Ethan's choosing. I do like this element that some grottos have as it means that your little one will get something that's age appropriate and that they want to play with. There was a good range and Ethan decided he needed another stuffed toy for his collection, becoming rather taken by a horse.

After leaving the North Pole, we walked back through the Discovery Trail, picking up a hot chocolate on the way, before getting in the car to drive around the four mile long safari.

Ethan was excited from the minute we set off and over the next hour and a half, we enjoyed touring around the various sections of the park, seeing all kinds of big cats (the white tigers are just beautiful) as well as rhinos, elephants, zebras, camels, deer, wild dogs... 

Even though hubs and I had been before, it's the kind of thing you want to go back and enjoy again and with a little one in tow, there's lots to see, do and learn.

We had a thoroughly lovely day out and we were impressed by the Santa experience which was enjoyable and great value for money when you take into account the grotto, Santa himself, the gift and the fact that you have a whole safari park to enjoy as part of your ticket. There's some special prices available online too, around £12.74 for children and £14.44 for adults, so take a look.

If you're still to see Santa and want to make a day of it, then I really think you'll love the Santa Safari. And if you have, why not go again? He's there until Christmas Eve. 

Here's some snaps from our family day out...


Friday, 12 December 2014

A real life nativity and a fun day out at Umberslade Farm

I'm always looking for new things to do and places to go with Ethan. He's growing before our eyes and learning more and more every day so we want to keep trying new things, introducing him to new experiences and nurture his interest in creative pursuits, animals and the great outdoors to name just a few things.

With the lead up to Christmas well under way, we have been keeping busy and we've been to lots of new places recently and tried new things with Ethan, including his first train ride.

Last weekend, we laughed in the face of the rain and decided to spend Sunday at a place called Umberslade Farm in Tanworth-in-Arden (not far from Solihull). It's a children's farm which really does have children in mind at every opportunity and it's part of a wider working farm estate which was first established in the late 1800's.

It's a 'free-roaming' kind of attraction, where you can wander around at your own pace and pop into any of the barns at your leisure to meet and greet a whole range of animals, large and small, from the ducks and geese to the small animal barn where children can hold ferrets, rabbits, guinea pigs and chicks, through to the pony stables and the animal barn which is full of farm animals from young calves, ewes and lambs to chickens and turkeys.

There's a lovely relaxed feel to the farm and from the moment you are warmly greeted at the entrance, you can tell it's a family run place and there's no hint of commercialism, just a great place to spend an afternoon.

We had a good wander around the different barns when we arrived and Ethan was facinated by all the animals we met, particularly the calves who he squealed 'Moooooo!' at excitedly and the young lambs, as he has a cuddly lamb toy at home he's rather attached to and seeing the real thing was a very happy moment for him.

We then popped into the Farmhouse Cafe, which is separated into two sections so there's plenty of seating, as we were pretty hungry. There was a lot to choose from and we had a nice lunch together, getting warm, before venturing out to find the man in the red suit.

Yes, you can see Father Christmas here and yes, Ethan has seen him a couple of times already this year but he didn't seem to mind meeting him again, just to make sure he knew what to bring him on Christmas Eve. The grotto was a warm and nicely decorated large shed and the man in question was friendly and Ethan seemed to really take to him. The cost of entry is just £4 and Ethan received a lovely farm animal sticker storybook which he seemed pretty pleased with - great value and an added bonus of our visit.

We made sure we stopped by the feeding of the goats and the calves and we also saw the petting session in the small animal barn, as well as passing the indoor play area and saying hello to the biggest pigs I have ever seen.

One particular highlight at Umberslade at this time of year is a live nativity, which takes place a couple of times each day, involving real farm animals such as donkeys to tell the nativity story, with a Christmas carol sing-along. It's such a unique and lovely idea and definitely something to make time to see. There's also a small Christmas market and mulled wine and mince pies to enjoy.

We spent the best part of three hours at the farm and really enjoyed our visit. The staff were friendly and the range of animals was great and it was nice to see them in their natural living space. Ethan's still quite young but he really loves animals and coming to places such as Umberslade is enjoyable for all of us.

If you live in the Midlands area I'd really recommend a visit to Umberslade Farm, which I'm sure will really come into its own in the summer months with the playground and beautiful scenery, and if you're not local, well you might just enjoy seeing our latest family snaps and some pictures of cute farm animals...

Umberslade Farm is open daily (check the website for seasonal opening times) and prices start from £7.50 per adult and £6.50 for two year olds' upwards during the week, making it a really affordable day out for the family.

* Thank you to Umberslade Farm for inviting us along to enjoy their farm festivities. We would highly recommend a visit, either before Christmas to make the most of the special events or at any other time of the year when you're looking for something fun and educational to do as a family.
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