Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Christmas at John Lewis

You may remember that last year John Lewis invited me to Christmas in July and it was truly a fabulous thing! This year I was invited back again (yes, I can behave occasionally) but due to the usual work commitments, sadly couldn't make it. As the people that work for John Lewis are so lovely they invited me to have my own personal tour at my local store. Yesterday, I duly went and met the lovely Louise who is the Marketing Manager at the Nottingham store, who gave me a whistle stop tour. I could have actually spent all day there to be honest......

Obviously the first thing that we had to talk about was the John Lewis Christmas advert that everyone has been raving about on Twitter and in the press and I must admit that the first time I saw it there may have been tears *ahem*

If you haven't seen it....which rock have you been living under??? With it being the season to be jolly, Christmas was obviously our hot topic of conversation!! We started off with the trees and decorations:

What I really like about this years John Lewis Christmas campaign is that they seem to have gone back to basics.  Most of the in-store decorations were wooden or paper and very simple but effective. Of course there is still plenty of room for cosiness and colour too:

A brilliant new idea that they also have in-store is a picture/art gallery. I was amazed by how reasonably priced they were and also what a selection they had (*ahem* if 'the man' reads this he should take note of the shoe picture which would look so nice in my bedroom ;-) :

One of the other things that I wasn't aware of until yesterday is that John Lewis have specialists in a number of departments. The most obvious ones are probably the personal shoppers in Ladies wear who are just absolutely lovely and have so much knowledge about fashion and what looks good....they are in fact a bit like Gok!!!  

Also they have specialists in Home and in Nursery that you can make an appointment with and who can discuss what you may or may not need for an imminent arrival or can give you advice on what trends would suit your home and lifestyle.

Back to the Season of Goodwill and the number one recommended Christmas present is probably on the wish list of millions of people:

There are of course plenty of goodies in-store for the kids, my favourite of which was the Lego Sort and Store head. It not only stores Lego (as the name would suggest!!) but also sorts it by size and stores over 1,000 pieces!!! What a brilliant idea. I'm also a fan of the Sylvanian Families John Lewis store and spotted some cooking bits for Chick:

To top off my lovely visit, I received a fabulous goodies bag with some London Olympic 2012 goodies (John Lewis are one of the sponsors), two boxes of gorgeous chocolates (one by Hotel Chocolat that I've managed to nibble my way through today.....without sharing!!), a spaghetti measure and some lovely cashmere socks for 'the man's' stocking!!!

A huge thank you to Louise and John Lewis for their hospitality.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Silent Sunday

Silent Sunday

Friday, 18 November 2011

It's D Day!!

So today is the day I have my operation and I don't mind telling you that I'm absolutely petrified....as well as hungry and thirsty! As I type this I have another three hours until I have to even be at the hospital and I'm thinking that by then my throat will be so dry that I won't even be able to talk.

I'm also wondering at my wisdom of not letting 'The Man' come with me. Initially I thought that I would be able to handle it (after all I am forcing my Mum to come with me) but I desperately want him here to hold my hand and to keep me calm. 

This week I've had a raging ear infection and so had actually been quite calm about everything as I want the Op doing so that I can stop being ill constantly and so have been fine. Until I dropped Chick off at school this morning. She didn't want to let me go and I had a quick chat with the Teacher about why she may be unhappy today and that's when I felt my resolve to be brave begin to crumble!!!

I tired to go and do some Christmas shopping but as my brain isn't really with it that didn't work so well either so I came home. I now need to go and bathe in anti-MRSA lotion and finish packing my bag!! Gosh my life is so glamorous isn't it??? 

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Marks & Spencer Christmas Hampers

*Guest Editorial

For all of its joys and festivity, the Christmas season can be a very hectic one that keeps everybody – and especially Mothers – very busy. Of course, there is much to enjoy during the holidays, and there is at some point time to sit back and relax. However, somebody has to make all of this popular, and while your children are perfectly happy believing that that somebody is jolly old St. Nick, you know that in reality much of the work falls on Mum. Between decorating the house, hosting guests, shopping for presents, and all of the other seasonal details, Mums have their hands full during the holidays – which is why it can be very nice to find a quick and convenient way to shop for gifts for people outside of your home. If you’re looking for something like this yourself, you may want to check out the wide selection of Christmas hampers offered at Marks & Spencer.

If you are unfamiliar with the concept of Christmas hampers, they are essentially elaborate gift baskets that can be ordered during the holidays. At Marks & Spencer, these baskets can include any number of different types of items – for example, many include fine wines, a number include chocolate treats and desserts, and others have items like cheeses and crackers, or cooking ingredients inside them. Most of the items are geared toward food and drink, but there is certainly enough variety in the selections that you ought to be able to find something to suit just about any friend or family member, or group for that matter.

Besides providing you with nice gift options, the main benefit of Christmas hampers for a busy mother is that they provide a very quick and convenient shopping option. Picking out a hamper is quite simple, and once you have decided upon one you can simply order it sent directly to the recipient with whatever message you want attached. This completely takes away the whole process of combing through shops and packaging your own gifts, and could ultimately save you a lot of time.

In general, many people dislike the idea of taking shortcuts during the holiday season, as it may imply a certain lack of care toward whomever you are buying gifts for. However, with Christmas hampers, you can still be getting somebody a very thoughtful, and very nice present, while avoiding the hassles of mall shopping and gift-wrapping. If you feel a bit too busy this holiday season – or even if you’re simply looking for a unique new gift to give to somebody – this is definitely an option worth exploring.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Build-a-Bear Birthday Fun!!

As you can imagine, after the last 2 years of being Toyologists, Chick has more toys in her bedroom than the local Toys R Us!! On Monday it was Chick's 9th birthday and my one stipulation was that she wasn't allowed any more actual 'toys' for her birthday, so she decided that instead of having a birthday party we would head to Build-a-Bear with her two best friends.

Back at the start of September, a brand new Build-a-Bear opened in Leicester. We were invited to a special blogger day to check out the new store but as it was Chick's second day back at school we had to decline. However, as we are the luckiest people in the world, they agreed that we could have a belated visit on Saturday to coincide with Chick's birthday!! We had our very own Build-a-Bear guide called Alicia, who could not have been more helpful. She talked the girls through the process of making their bears, choosing their sounds and hearts and getting them stuffed with some time to read all about 'Bearisms':

Then it was time to pick an outfit....which took Chick about 3 hours! Choices, choices:

With Children-in-Need being this Friday, Build-a Bear have teamed up with them to offer some special Children in Need bears. Sooooo cute and a percentage from the sale of each bear goes directly to the charity:

After what seemed like many, many hours (probably to poor Alicia too!!) the girls were finally satisfied with their choices:

Very big happy smiles from them all, as you can see. A huge thank you to Alicia for being our own personal guide and to Shannon for setting up a brilliant afternoon. My little birthday Chick was an extremely happy girl :-)

*Disclosure - Build-a-Bear let Chick choose and keep a bear and outfit.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Famous last words

Today is the start of Chick's birthday week (mah baybee will be 9 on Monday *sob*!!) and the fair is in town. Tonight we went for a look around  and to check out which rides are here this year so that she could plan her birthday night out with her Dad tomorrow. After she was done looking around we had this conversation:

Chick: Mum can I please try and win a cuddly toy?

Me: No they are monstrous, a waste of money and you will never win!!

Chick: Pllllleeeeaaasssseeee Mum, I won't ask for ANYTHING else. 

*lots of begging and pleading*

Me: No

Chick: But it is almost my birthday. Pllllleeeeaaasssseeee Mum.

Me: Fine but it's a waste of money and you will never win!! You may as well just throw your money down the drain!


Tuesday, 8 November 2011

On hospital appointments and being stone deaf!

For as long as I can remember I’ve always had a problem with my ears and hearing. Some of my first memories from school are trying to avoid having the dreaded hearing test. Sitting in the office of the Headmistress, Sister Mary David (once they’d caught me) and trying to outwit the beeps from the test and not cry at the ridiculously heavy headphones!!! Then once they had discovered that I actually couldn’t hear, being banned from swimming with the rest of the school as I wasn’t allowed to get my ears wet after having grommets.

This was then repeated when I was eleven as I started having the same problems all over again, which I’d completely forgotten about but the hospital still have my notes from then so I guess it must be true!!! Over the last couple of years I’ve had repeated ear infections but until recently hadn’t been infection free for long enough to have the dreaded hearing test.  I’ve recently had this and as expected my hearing is terrible!! I can hear conversations on a one-to-one basis but I struggle in a crowd, when listening to the TV and if I'm walking along the street all I can hear is the traffic!

On our third date (yes, I’m aware that I’m a romantic soul!!) ‘The Man’ came with me to see the Specialist who told me that I my eardrums have collapsed and I need bilateral (in both ears) grommets and a biopsy on a mass at the back of my nose. Fun times, huh?!?! Bet you wish you were dating me.......

Today I’ve been for my pre-op check up which I naively assumed would take about half an hour but actually turned into a 4 hour check up!!!! I’m grateful for the NHS but I can’t honestly say I wasn’t cursing it after being sat in a waiting room for no good reason for 90 minutes!!  So it turns out that the pre-op involves being tested for all kinds of random crap including MRSA and being pregnant......none of which I found out if I have or not! (sidenote: am definitely NOT pregnant Mum, don’t worry!!!!)

My operation is set for next Friday and if I’m honest I’m absolutely petrified. I’m making my poor Mum drive over from Norfolk to hold my hand and make sure that I don’t die.......quite how she has the power to prevent this from happening I’m not entirely sure but I’ll feel much better if she is close by to hold my hand and/or my sick bucket ;-) (Again......hanging out with me is FANTABULOUS!!) 

I’m hoping that they will let me out on the same day but it depends on how things go so keep your fingers crossed for me!!! I’ll make sure to take pictures of me looking sexy in my hospital gown and slippers.......

Monday, 7 November 2011

Interview with Susan Lewis

You all know that I love a good book so when I was asked if I wanted a preview copy of Susan Lewis’ new book ‘One Day at a Time’ I obviously said yes!! I’m not sure if you’ve heard of Susan but I’m pretty sure that you will have seen one of her 25 odd best sellers on the shelves of most book stores and supermarkets.

Susan’s latest book, One Day at a Time, which is released this Thursday, 10th November is a memoir of Susan’s childhood and describes the heartbreak of her losing her Mother (review to follow). In the run up to the book being released I was lucky enough to chat with Susan about the book and to ask her a few writer type questions!!!

The second part of your memoir, One Day at a Time, is due for release in November. Was it a difficult or emotional book to write?
It was both very difficult and incredibly emotional mainly because of how hard it was for my father back then.  Trying to cope with a troubled (nightmarish, totally out of control, but bereaved) teenager, while still grieving for the wife he loved so much must have been hell. Reading through his old diaries and his descriptions of loneliness while I was pulling the book together was absolutely heartbreaking.  Fortunately there were some lovely witty entries too, and his usual ramblings about class, communism, literature, and anything else on his mind that day.

You’ve lived in some exciting places. What’s your favourite story from your time in Hollywood? 
That has to be the time that my dog, Casanova (the great seducer of the canine world) became a little confused and broke into George Clooney’s garden to go after George’s pot-bellied pig.  Unfortunately – or fortunately - the gorgeous man wasn’t at home at the time, but I did see him at a premiere a few days later when I apologized.  He was very amused, having not heard anything about it until then, and he assured me there wouldn’t be any paternity suits.

How did you become a writer?  
I started out in TV production and was very interested in becoming a producer.  When I asked the controller of drama at Thames TV for his he suggested I write.  And so I managed to write my way out of television into publishing. 

Which book was the hardest to finish and why? 
To be honest I haven’t found any of them particularly hard to finish.  Sometimes there’s a problem in the middle when I fear I’ve lost the plot, so to speak.  Then I have to go back to the beginning and work it all over again.

Which is your favourite book?
 I have a few favourites – A French Affair and Darkest Longings because they’re set in France; Missing, The Choice and Stolen because of how well they’ve connected with readers.  And of course Just One More Day and One Day at a Time because they’re about my mum and dad. 
How do you deal with writers block? 
I take a break, sometimes for a day or two, in order to recharge.  Thankfully I usually find that works. 

Do you have a special writing area where you get into the zone or can you write anywhere? 
I absolutely have to write in my study at home.  If I’m anywhere else I simply make notes. 

                Has your writing changed over the years? 
It’s probably changed quite a lot considering how long I’ve been doing it, hopefully for the better!!  The stories themselves have certainly changed, but that’s probably because I’m so much older.  Having said that, my characters are still quite young with the exception of those in Forgotten as the kind of story it is would only work with older characters.

                Who do you write for? 
I think my books are mainly for those who enjoy a good escapist read, but want more depth than fluff.  I almost always add a twist that of plays havoc with the emotions.

I am lucky enough to have four copies of One Day at a Time to give away so check my review blog tomorrow to find out how to enter :-) Should you want to find out more about Susan in the meantime you can check out her Facebook or web page.

Sunday, 6 November 2011