2017 Blogging Goals

With 2017 just around the corner I have been evaluating the blog and planning where I want to take it. It took me a long time to really get into writing again; it used to be a huge passion of mine when I was younger. I found myself at a cross roads in my life about 9 years ago and I had a choice to make; Medicine or Journalism. I chose to train as a nurse and whilst I don’t regret that decision it hasn’t exactly panned out how I expected. Perhaps that is why I have finally embraced the blogging journey more this year. Although I started it in 2015 I had no confidence left in my writing style or my voice. I had spend so many years writing evidenced based essays, dulling my own opinions that weren’t supported by medical evidence I found it hard to write about a simple opinion. I have many opinions and I base most of them on experience and knowledge that I have gained in my lifetime. I am happy to admit that they are just my opinions and do not make me right, but may also not make me wrong. In nursing and medical teachings you cannot have an opinion or take action without ramifications if what you do or say doesn’t have recent scientific evidence to back it up. This is what keeps patients safe but it is also what squashed my writing passion. 2016 has been about getting that passion back and rediscovering my ‘voice’.

2017 is going to be about pushing my own writing boundaries and seeing where it takes me. 2017 is about being bold and being daring.

Only this morning I read a post by Aby at You Baby Me Mummy in which she said ‘If your goals don’t make you feel uncomfortable, they aren’t big enough.’ Read her full post here.

Well my blogging goals for 2017 are making me feel uncomfortable. I am already doubting if I will be able to achieve the sort of things I want. I believe success is subjective. I already feel like my blog is successful because I have achieved what I initially wanted. I hoped to find my confidence again, in both my writing and myself. I have done that. I wanted to explore my passion for baking in a blogging form. I have done that. I wanted to find a little piece of myself that made me feel more than just a mum. I have done that. My stats and numbers may not be huge, sometimes that bothers me but ultimately I know that doesn’t matter and that isn’t why I started blogging in the first place.

With that said part of my goals are increasing my social media followers. I finally feel ready to shout my blog from the rooftops. I am proud about most of my writing and I have begun to realise that some of my best work are the posts that make me the most nervous to push the ‘publish’ button.

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First up I want to increase my Instagram following. This is my favourite platform by far; I love the variety of photos you can find. Flat lays, interiors, children; crisp white tones to slightly blurred or colourful images. My biggest sense of community comes from Instagram and I have virtually met some amazing women on there who I feel I have genuinely come to know without ever having met face to face. We exchanges messages regularly and they are always there for support if I need it. You all know who you are!

I have been reading various blogs and have found some really useful advise on hashtags which help increase followers and the whole community feel. One of the best blog posts is by Katy from Hot Pink Wellingtons about hashtags for parent bloggers read it here. Talya from Motherhood: The Real Deal also has a very helpful post on hashtags.

I have also found THIS post by Colette at Going on an Adventure blog and THIS post by Gin the Mystery blog really helpful to increase followers.

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I recently took the plunge and started a Facebook page for the blog. I have been putting it off as I really don’t understand Facebook as well as I do Instagram and Twitter. I still don’t really understand how to increase your followers but I am more comfortable with that. Fran from Whinge Whinge Wine has written a post about it that explains it is really hard but just persevere… Well I will! I’m sure in time followers will come but for now I am enjoying the support offered by lots of blogging groups and another way of connecting with new bloggers.

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Now for the big goal…. The one making me the most nervous… Vlogging! I want to give it a go but am at a total loss of where to start. I have been toying with the idea for a long time but am really struggling with the confidence to take the plunge. Helen at Just Saying Mum is a huge part of my inspiration to just get on with it. She has written a beautiful post on her vlogging decision and I can relate to so much that she says. I found a few helpful posts from some of my favourite vloggers on hints and tips of getting started. Rebecca from Mrs Meldrum has written a great post on her vlogging equipment. Although some of what she uses seems pretty advanced for a beginner I can see the use of it all in the long run. Alex from Bump to Baby has written a really helpful beginners guide, which includes things like ‘Don’t hate your voice.’ This is a huge thing for me, which may seem like a silly thing for someone who wants to start vlogging. I have found Alex’s advice incredibly helpful and I can relate to a lot that she has said about getting started with vlogging.

I am not exactly sure when I will plunge into the vlogging world but I feel it needs to be sooner rather than later or I risk never doing it.

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The final thing I am going to do in 2017 is physically put myself out there a bit more, into the blogging community. I want to attend a couple of blogger events and seminars. First up is the Lucky Things Meet Up at the end of January. Sunita from Lucky Things Blog has arranged a bloggers meet up (her second one) which aims to inspire and connect like-minded people. I am really excited to be going but also a little nervous to be meeting so many new people all at once. This is hugely out of my comfort zone as I usually stick to groups of two or three people at once. I look forward to meeting everyone going but please be patient with me if I seem a little quite; I’m not being rude, just a little shy.

Does anyone else have any plans for 2017? The year is long and I would love some more suggestions of goals and ambitions.

 

My Top Instagram Food Pictures 2016

Having seen a lot of ‘Instagram Best Nine’ posts recently I couldn’t help but join in. I did it last year too so how could I resist seeing the difference.

As I wrote in my previous post My Instagram 2016 I loved the best nine but because it was based on number of likes theses weren’t reflective of my favourite. I thought I would do my own! This is actually harder than it sounds, trying to pick my favourite nine photos from a whole year! Naturally I had to separate them into two categories ‘Family’ and ‘Food’. I have done a lot of baking and cooking this year and I am very proud of some of my creations so I really wanted to pick my Best Nine Food Photos.

Top Food Photos

I was so proud of this cake! It was a chocolate sensation and I already have something even more chocolaty planned for next easter!

Coffee, Ameretto, chocolate Ameretto biscuits. Saturday night 👊🏼 #lovelife #homebaking #instamum

A post shared by ✨ Kirsty ✨ (@winnettes) on

What a Saturday Night treat! These biscuits are some of our favourite and they are so quick and easy to make I can do it in under 20 minutes. (Shhh! Don’t tell Hubby he will want them all the time).

Homemade pizzas for dinner 😋😋😋

A post shared by ✨ Kirsty ✨ (@winnettes) on

Ok, so I know this is the only non cake picture and maybe I should have included more food, or perhaps I shouldn’t have included any? But I am hungry just looking at this pizza! Good job its on the menu this week!

Lime and chocolate macaroons for watching GBBO later 😋

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I can not watch Great British Bake Off without a sweet treat in hand! These macarons were filled with a lime curd surrounded by chocolate ganache… They were AMAZING! Even if i do say so myself.

Gin & Elderflower Macarons as suggested by (and dutifully delivered to) @klakey1 😋

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After posting about the previous macarons I had various suggestions of flavours given to me, the one i found most intriguing was the Gin & Elderflower… So what else could I do? I had to try and make them! I made a Gin Jelly for the middle and an Elderflower Buttercream. Delicious!

Aren’t I a good wifey! Aren’t I! What an amazing cake filled with smarties 😉  This was actually really good fun to make and far easier than I expected.  Chocolate cake, chocolate ganache, vanilla Swiss meringue buttercream coated in sprinkles.

Fireworks biscuits for tonight 😋

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These were the start of my ‘festive’ baking.  I love how bright they are!

How could I go empty handed when visiting two of our favourite Uncles? Well I couldn’t! I had to gift them some chocolate macarons.  I taste tested…. They were up to standard!

Gingerbread Christmas Tree decorations! Seriously yummy! 😋😋😋

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Finally, some Christmas baking.  These were such good fun to make and design I had to include them.  They didn’t make it to the tree!

I am really looking forward to lots more Instagram posts in 2017.  I will definitely be doing another Food Roundup next year although it really is hard to keep it to nine!

 

Elf on the Shelf: Week 3

Well Sparkle Heart (seriously Pinky did that have to be her name?) has been with us a little while now and it is starting to show….! The cheeky madam seems to have had a little party for one on Friday night!

Day 15:

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Day 16:

Naturally on Saturday she was a little hung over! So she decided it was best just to sit and watch the girls play rather than getting up to mischief.

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Day 17:

Back up to her old tricks again of irritating me whilst making the girls laugh… She was found sledging down my precious Christmas Tree! She knows no one is allowed to touch my tree other than me!

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Day 18:

Next up in ways I can annoy Mummy whilst making it fun for the girls… Light swinging! I mean seriously Elf!

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Day 19:

This morning Sparkle Heart delivered the girls letters from Santa.  They loved them!

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Day 20:

We found Sparkle Heart chatting to her new best friend, Mr. Snowman (imaginative I know!)

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Day 21:

Sparkle Heart bought the girls some lovely new toys to play with; a food set for their kitchen.  She also discovered that she isn’t the only elf in the house…. Shock! Horror!

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My Instagram in 2016

You may have seen recently on Instagram lots of people posting their ‘2016 Best Nine.’ It is calculated by a website using your username taking the most ‘liked’ pictures into account. Last year was the first year I did the ‘Best Nine’. I instantly loved the idea I knew I would be doing it again next year.

So first up: Here are my 2015 Best Nine.

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I still love all of these photos.  But I knew I wanted to post more in 2016.  I wanted to average one a post a day, which as you can see I achieved.

Here are my 2016 Best Nine.

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I like all of these photos, of course I do but they are all from the last month roughly. Since this website takes into account your most ‘liked’ pictures I can at least see that my account has obviously continued to grow month on month. This is positive for me to see but I don’t think these are my 2016 Best Nine so I thought I would pick Nine of my own that are my ‘Best’ regardless of likes and comments. Then I realised that I couldn’t stick to just nine because some of my baking pictured are my favourite so I am splitting this into two categories: Family and Food. I will do the Family pictures in this post and the Food pictures will follow later in the week.

Family Best Nine

This is one of the least ‘flattering’ photos I have of Perky but her whole face exudes happiness.  I absolutely love it!

This was taken at RHS Wisley which is one of ur favourite places to go.  Pinky thought this little gazebo looked like a witches house so she had to go in and have a look.

How could I not include with one… Her expression makes me laugh every time! As does the caption.  She used to ask some crazy stuff!

I love this of Perky and Daddy.  They had just gone down a huge slide together, her big sister was too much of a wimp to have a go but Perky kept asking for more!

Too cool for school 😎 #mysundayphoto

A post shared by ✨ Kirsty ✨ (@winnettes) on

The caption says it all… Look at that attitude.

This was taken on our summer holiday in Menorca.  This had to make my top 9 as it includes all of us, we all look happy (because we were) and we are all looking at the camera.  All parents can relate to how hard it is to get this shot!

This really does just sum them both up!

Exploring #wisleygardens today and I lost my camera to this budding photographer 💕

A post shared by ✨ Kirsty ✨ (@winnettes) on

This had to be included.  Pinky really began to find a passion in photography this summer, I basically lost my camera.  Her favourite things to capture were flowers and as you can see here things like height difference were not going to get in her way.

This is a recent post but I love it.  Over the past (nearly) two years these two have become closer by the day.  Yes, they bicker and fight, what can feel like all of the time, but they are also each others comfort.  They turn to each other for reassurance.  They give each other their biggest smiles and no matter what has happened that day they always give each other a good night kiss and cuddle.  So when I managed to capture them walking hand in hand chatting away, how could I not share it?

I have really enjoyed writing this and going through my Instagram to choose my favourite photos.  It was unbelievably hard to pick just nine.  I am definitely going to do this again next year (but I may have to pick a few more than nine).

Dear Perky

Dear Perks,

You little monkey! I could just eat you, you are so cute! Your personality is growing by the day. You are funny, you are strong willed, you are grumpy but you are kind. You wind up your sister constantly and I know you do it on purpose. I’ve seen that look in your eyes!

You give the best cuddles and are so affectionate. I love that you will sit and snuggle for ages and just not move. You suck your thumb (sorry about that, that’s my fault) but you are relying on it less these days. Please don’t loose your sense of humour, I love that you make us all laugh daily. You have biggest, most infectious smile.

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You are a little singer. At every opportunity you sing, you even ask for more drink whilst singing! (You aren’t even 2 yet!).

You eat absolutely everything as long as it has lots of flavour, curry is your favourite meal. But you are starting to get a little fussy. I hope you snap out of it.

I know you miss your sister when she goes off to pre-school but I think we have fun. Soon she will go off to school and we will have even more time together. We are both going to miss her but I hope we can make the most of it. She had all that time just her and me but I think you get the better deal. You have always had to share me but when she goes off you will be 2 ½, you will be able to appreciate what we do, when we go for coffee you will be able to have cake and not just sleep in the pushchair. When I try and think of fun things to do just the two of us you will be able to give me ideas. I always felt guilty that you never had me to yourself but now I don’t. You definitely have the best of me. You have an experienced me, a less tired me (as long as you sleep at night), you have a more relaxed me.

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There are things I would change if I could but what is the point on dwelling on things outside of our control. I’m sorry if we go to the park too much but it is close, free and you seem to enjoy it. I’m sorry if I get cross when you and your sister fight, it simply drives me crazy. I’m sorry you don’t have any of your own friends but rather the siblings of your sister’s friends. I’m sorry you don’t go to nursery, I know you would really enjoy it. I’m sorry we do everything your sister wants to do, you will get a choice soon.

I know these are little things and you will never remember them anyway. I hope one day I can forget too.

I love you with every fibre of my being. Please don’t ever stop giving me those cuddles.

Mummy X

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This post originally appeared on Meet Other Mums where I am a regular blogger.

Elf on the Shelf: Week 2

Well this week has been a super busy week for us! It is the last week of preschool and boy can we tell! We are all so tired, the girls have been going to be a little earlier to try and help, it is having little effect.  Hubby and I can barely speak past 8pm but of course once in bed we are wide awake.  Why is that?

We put up the tree at the weekend and went through each and every stage of decorating it. When we moved into our house a few years ago we found an abandoned Christmas Tree in the loft, so now each year we get it down and the girls have it in their playroom.  They can decorate it and ‘destroy’ it as much as they like so they don’t disturb the main tree too much.  We took then out to choose a cheap pack of decorations to put on the tree. Naturally they chose pink and sparkly!

Following that I have been making a Santa cake for my Grandma (professional photos to follow).  My Uncle and his daughter have come over from Australia for Christmas as she asked if I could make them something.  This took up all of nap time and some of the evenings so the days have been spent getting the girls out of some fresh air and finishing other little jobs: the online shop, getting some bits from HobbyCraft etc…

The tumble drier broke last week, we had a company come out the next day but they had to order in a part.  That is now finally fixed so I have a mountain of washing to do.  I kept on top of some of it but in the absence of being able to hang cloths outside t dry i was running out of space! Never again will I underestimate my love of the tumble dryer.

As busy as we have been it looks like our Elf, Sparkle Heart has been even busier rushing between here and the North Pole.  I’m sure she is glad her job only lasts for 24 days a year. See what she go up to last week here.

Day 8

She bought the girls a Bug Puzzle with a ‘fishing net’.  They loved this and played really nicely together (after some not-so-gentle persuasion from me).

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Day 9

This was a Friday, she was obviously getting tired because I walked in and found her attached to my wine.  I was not impressed! If she goes anywhere near my gin I will throw her back to the North Pole myself!

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WTF?

Day 10

She got the decorations out for the girls to do the tree.

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Day 11

She hid herself in the girls tree along with some Santa shaped chocolates that they had to try and find. (They didn’t take long to find then all, when chocolate is involved they don’t waste anytime!).

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Day 12

Sparkle Heart had a riding lesson from Barbie.

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Day 13

She took a ride on the Santa Express.

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Day 14

To ensure the girls spend their last 10 days behaving her found a very good vantage point in the light of the playroom!

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Tune in next week to see what Sparkle Heart has been up to in Week 3.

Gingerbread Biscuit Christmas Tree Decorations

As part of my Christmas baking plans I thought I would make some gingerbread tree decorations.

I love gingerbread; it is one of my favourite biscuits. The only problem with that is I find it hard to only eat one at a time. I usually discover I have eaten three in a row without realising it!

I have tried various gingerbread recipes over the years but this is by far my favourite.

Recipe

400g Plain Flour

1tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

2tsp Ground Ginger

2tsp Cinnamon

1tsp Ground Nutmeg

½tsp Allspice

180g Salted Butter (softened)

125g Light Brown Sugar

125g Treacle

1 egg

Method

  1. Put the flour, bicarbonate of soda and all spices into a bowl. I don’t sift this but you can.
  2. Put the butter and sugar in a bowl and cream together. I use a paddle attachment on the freestanding mixer. You could also use a handheld whisk.
  3. Once light and fluffy add the egg and treacle*. Scrape down the sides to ensure a through mix
  4. Add the flour mixture slowly on a slow speed (unless you fancy doing a ghost impression for the post man who invariably turns up at this point wanting a signature!). Ensure you scrape down the sides.
  5. Once a dough has been formed take it out of the mixture and wrap it in clingfilm. Place this in the fridge for 4-6 hours to fully rest. If you want to rest it for less time split the mixture into ¾ portions. Once it is hard it is ready for rolling.
  6. Preheat the oven to 170°C.
  7. Line 2 baking trays with greaseproof paper. I use baking spray to secure this to the tray but I don’t spray the top of the paper where the biscuits will be.
  8. On a floured surface roll out the dough to about 1/2cm thick.
  9. Cut into desired shapes. I used round, holly leaves and snowflakes for this bake.
  10. Bake for 15 minutes.
  11. Leave the biscuits to cool for a few minutes then place on a wire rack to cool completely.

*I have never worked out the best way to measure this out. However, what I do is place the treacle pot on my scales (digital will be easiest to do this with). I then ‘tare’ the amount so it shows as zero. I slowly spoon out the treacle bit by bit until the amount shows ‘-125g’. I don’t know if this is right but it seemed logical to me and it seems to work.

This makes a really dark gingerbread, which I personally prefer but I know lots of people prefer a lighter gingerbread. In this instance I would simply replace the treacle with golden syrup. The amounts required are roughly the same.

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To decorate I have used Royal Icing. You could also use Candy Melts if you preferred and they would work just as well.

Royal Icing

660g Icing Sugar, sifted

20g Pasturised Egg White Powder (or 4 egg whites)

½tsp Cream of Tartar

Method

  1. Prepare the egg white powder as per instructions. Usually this is mix with 50mls of water per 10g. But please double check.
  2. Mix in the powder until no lumps left and there is a think layer of bubbles.
  3. Put in the mixer with the cream of tartar and start whisking.
  4. If using egg white place these in the mixer and whisk until frothy with the cream of tartar.
  5. Slowly add in the sifted icing sugar a tablespoon at a time, ensuring it is well combined after each addition.
  6. Mix on a medium speed for 15-20 minutes until bright white and stiff with a smooth texture.

For these decorations I used the royal icing in stiff and flood consistency. I don’t line the shapes before flooding. I simply use a scribing tool to bring the icing slightly closer to the edge if I need in small circular movements. This also removes any air bubbles that you do not want! To combine the water I use a spray to ensure I don’t add too much at once. For the stiff consistency I was looking for a toothpaste type mixture. For the flood consistency much more water is required. This is also referred to as 20 second consistency because when all the water is mixed in if you draw a line through the mixture (and into it) with a knife or skewer this line should disappear without a trace at 20 seconds. Not before or after.

If you add too much water then the best and only way to effectively thicken the icing again is to add more of the stiff royal icing. Simply adding icing sugar will make it grainy.

Once the biscuits are iced I leave them out over night to set or for at least four hours.

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For the colours I used:

Red: Squires Kitchen in ‘Poppy’

Green: Sugarflair in ‘Holly’

I also tinted some white icing with Squires Kitchen Teddy Brown, which I then painted with edible gold lustre.

To make the lustre into a paintable liquid add some alcohol to the dust. The reason you use alcohol is alcohol evaporates really quickly so it doesn’t dissolve the icing like water would. I like to use vodka because it is flavour and colourless so it doesn’t alter anything.

I added some silver ball dragees to the snowflakes and so silver lustre dust to make them a little sparkly.

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Oh and because I totally forgot to say I made the holes for the ribbon in the snowflakes and baubles using a straw from one of the girls sippy cups when I cut out the dough! I think any large straw would work. The holes did close up a little during baking which I expected but they were still large enough for a thin ribbon to fit through.

The final product: Ta Dah! (Ok, I know I’ve already put picture above but just pretend this is a grand reveal for me… Please.)

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Our Christmas Traditions

There has been a lot of talk recently about family traditions. Initially I was a little jealous thinking we don’t really have any but then I thought about it and we do. We have loads of them and I hadn’t realised. Then the more I thought about it the more I got excited about it all.

Each year I make gingerbread biscuits and cut them into all sorts of shapes, this year I plan on making baubles for the tree.

I take the girls to see Santa. This is as traumatic as you would expect and we never have a photo at the end of it but it is tradition damn it so we are going!

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Hubby and I spend our weekend evenings drinking Winter Cocktails.

I watch as many Christmas films with the girls as I can.

We actually get crafty for a month, which normally I hate. I can usually get into it a bit more for Christmas.

This year we have started Elf on the Shelf… Stay tuned for more of that.

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We all go out and pick a Christmas tree together.

We put out food and drink for Santa and the reindeer, a mince pie, a G&T and a carrot, on Christmas Eve.

Hubby takes a bite out of the carrot so it looks like it has been eaten.

I make the girls a Christmas Eve box, which includes pyjamas, slippers, a cuddly toy (all of Disney of course) and some chocolate. They get to open it after dinner.

I sit and wrap all of the presents on Christmas Eve whilst watching Christmas films and drinking Santa’s G&T. Sorry Santa.

On Christmas morning the girls come into our bedroom so we can open their stocking gifts all together.

After opening the ‘tree presents’ we go to Hubbys parents house where we spend the rest of the day eating, drinking and unwrapping presents.

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We stay the night there, or at least the girls do, so when they are in bed the adults play board games late into the night.

Boxing day we go to the races at Kempton Park. If we can’t physically go we have the family round to our house and we ‘Host the Races’ in our living room.

This usually concludes our Christmas traditions. Hubby and I both get a little exhausted with it all and usually have the tree down by the 28th. Scrooge I know, but we don’t do anything for New Years Eve anyway now we have children (although I don’t think we ever really did). We are often asleep by midnight so our party season is over by then. Plus the sooner the tree is down the sooner the count down to my birthday can begin!

Does anyone share our traditions or have any good ones I can adopt?