The inevitable Christmas overwhelm

As I sit here writing this I am still  feeling the affects of drinking way too many cocktails at a Christmas party last night, and I am watching White Christmas for the very first time!

 

It’s the ultimate Christmas cliche isn’t it? Christmas parties, festive hangovers and idyllic lazy afternoons watching Christmas films and feeling like its just ‘the most wonderful time of the year’. However, what you don’t see is the inevitable Christmas overwhelm that I have now come to expect every year. My husband loves Christmas and says it’s his favourite time (and day) of the year………………..well I mean you would wouldn’t  you if you if it literally landed on your lap with virtually no effort whatsoever! That’s how it is most years, I sort ALL the presents (even for all his side of the family), I sort everything we get for our boys, I organise all of the food and treats………Oh and then I obviously cook dinner most years ( although thankfully I am not this year as we are at the in laws on the day). That generally leads to an annual Christmas meltdown for me at some point, normally fairly close to the big day, when I realise I haven’t got everything I need, haven’t wrapped anything and realise I haven’t got something we need for the actual dinner. Anyway you get the general picture.

Yet on good ‘ol social media everyone is literally Christmassing the shit out of life, putting their decs up as early as possible, having all their pressies wrapped by December 1st and their food order slot booked, and so can sit smugly back and take time for themselves to get their Christmas nails done, order their party dresses enjoy the wonderful festive season in all it’s glory.

Me, on the other hand, am still ordering stuff of Amazon, hoping I’ve got enough wrapping paper and already panicking about the ridiculously early morning I have on Saturday morning to go and get the all important fresh food shop. You see Christmas is very different when you suffer with chronic pain. It impacts every single day of your life let alone at THE  busiest time of the year. Trying to pace all the things you need to do with enough rest time in between, slowly running out of time and realising that if it’s all going to get done then there is no rest time…………..and that leads to flare ups and meltdowns, in my case.

So, my Christmas night out with my sewing group was fabulous and much needed and I knew today would be a wasted day in regards to getting anything done whilst also feeling a bit crap! ( however, I wouldn’t change that for anything as I had a fab time and it was totally worth it). But the overwhelm game is strong today which means I start to panic about how much I still have to do. On top of that, because its a busy time, I worry that I will have a massive fibro crash that will inevitably eat into the precious time I have left and therefore Christmas will be ruined! I know, I know it seems a bit extreme but that’s just how it is with chronic illness and chronic pain combined with the added activity and stress that leads up to the day itself.

But even without the illness, I think I would still feel overwhelmed. I can’t be the only one who gets like this though, can I? I literally feel like a total Grinch because I’m not drowning in festive hot chocolates watching Christmas movies all day long, with everything wrapped and ready.

So help me out here folks……………….am I the only one?

 

What to buy older teenage boys for Christmas

I’d like to think this is a gift guide with a difference!

First of all, anything I have suggested here I have bought my teens through the years or I know of friends who have bought their boys similar. Secondly, none of it has been sent to me to be promoted, so any companies I mention here I have actually used or bought from them over the last 7 or 8 years.

I also think that teen boys are much harder to buy for than girls ( probably because I don’t have girls but I would imagine with clothes, perfumes and makeup and jewellery most things can be covered and they are so expensive too so a designer item could certainly be covered as a main Christmas present!) and I appreciate I could totally be wrong about this, but I have only experience in buying for boys in this house and so I think that is where my expertise lies.

I also do not like giving my boys money! That’s just a personal choice I make and I also think they like it that way. Any family members who buy for them instead give them money so they always have cash to put towards something more expensive in the sales. We also aren’t the type of bargain hunters that go out first thing on Boxing Day to buy stuff in the sales either (again our personal choice). Therefore, I like to buy my boys things I know they want as a main present and then fill it out with the usual extras like, underwear, t-shirts, books, cd’s or films etc. That way we all still enjoy a chilled out morning with everyone opening their pressies etc as we did when they were little – and again they love it that way! Keep on Reading!

Smiggle- Gift Voucher Giveaway

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I was invited recently to the Smiggle branch in Bluewater to open the next window on their Christmas advent calendar and see what treat could be waiting for me.

Anyone that has been to a Smiggle store will know it’s an explosion of colour and a total must for all stationary lovers. The store there is not huge but is very well stocked with both lots on the shelves and underneath the display tables ( so I cannot see you having any trouble getting a particular item you may be after).

At the moment they have lots of their fabulous Christmas Advent Stockings, that retail at £28. That may sound a little extravagant but is in line with Lego or even Yankee candle (if you buy yourself one!). However, the goodies that are in the advent would cost around £40 if they were bought individually, so a bargain when you consider that and also a great alternative to just more chocolate.

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There are the typical colour assumptions, pink for girls and blue for boys, but there are also lots of alternatives that can be gender neutral. Some of the bits can work out quite expensive but there are also some fabulous gifts that would be perfect for Christmas presents that work out at just £10-15 which is very budget friendly.

I particularl
I particularly liked this design on a black background and perfect for little monster lovers!

There is also a wonderful little colouring area set up in this store which was in use most of the time I was in the store and it was constantly busy in there. I was given the chance to peel off the next advent sticker from the window outside to get the next prize ( which I will include with the gift voucher giveaway as a little extra, it’s a Goo Glopper………………!

The store manager there, Linda, has a great manner about her and she will find out if it’s your birthday and get the whole store to sing Happy Birthday to you, I heard the singing even before I reached the store as I came down the escalator towards it. You will recognise her as she has a huge whistle hanging around her neck and she’s not afraid to use it- so be warned.

So I have a lovely £25 gift card and my Goo Glopper from behind the advent to giveaway to all you lovely stationary loving peeps. All you have to do is comment below with what you would use the voucher for and fill in the normal Rafflecopter below.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Festive Afternoon Tea at the Marriott Hotel Bexleyheath

This week I had the chance to go and review the Festive Afternoon Tea ahead of it’s launch at the Marriott Hotel in Bexleyheath, it will be available from Wednesday 23rd November and will cost £23.50 per person.

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Christmas on a plate as far as I am concerned!
Christmas on a plate as far as I am concerned!

 

 

We were treated to a little festive starter of a cup of gorgeous mulled wine and a mini mince pie ( my first this season for both) and instantly I was feeling festive regardless of the fact it is only mid November.  I will say though this is not mentioned on the menu card and makes me think this was for my benefit rather than what is included, but it was delicious non the less…………

As you van see no mention of mulled wine or mince pie, however, there is an option to add a glass of champagne if you feel like celebrating!
As you van see no mention of mulled wine or mince pie, however, there is an option to add a glass of champagne if you feel like celebrating!

When the food arrived we were advised that there was a recommended order to eat both the sandwiches and the cakes! Being good law abiding citizens my friend and I followed the rules and to be fair with regard to the fillings of the sandwiches the order really worked. They were nice thought about flavours with assorted breads and they seemed to work well together as a whole. The festive theme worked here with the inclusion of cranberry bread, turkey, brie and a delicious spiced apple chutney to name a few ( and no not all in the same sandwich!!).

The scones were wrapped in a napkin to keep some heat in and were as expected beautifully fresh and crumbly. The cream and strawberry compote were presented in gorgeous little individual jars which gave a uniqueness to the presentation itself.

A gorgeous individual look
A gorgeous individual look

The cakes also had a recommended order in which to eat them…………..who are we to argue! They consisted of a strawberry tart, a bite sized stollen, a raspberry mousse ( which was my absolute favourite), and a chocolate yule log. Now I don’t know about you but a strawberry tart instantly makes me think of summer so I was a little surprised to see one on there. Do not get me wrong all of the food on the afternoon tea was absolutely delicious, there was nothing I didn’t like ( apart from the stollen, but that’s my individual taste buds- I dislike marzipan), all the flavours worked wonderfully, however, if it is advertised as a ‘festive’ afternoon tea I would generally expect the cakes to be Christmas/ Festive themed. So perhaps if a mince pie is not included, then it should be, there is also scope for maybe something gingerbread or Christmas cake styled instead of the summer flavours of strawberry and raspberry.

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The staff in there are lovely and we were offered refills on our teas and our cream and jam if you needed any. We were not rushed in any way and the bar area we sat in had a wonderful relaxed feel to it with music playing in the backround and we felt we could sit there most of the afternoon.

I did check with the manager there if this afternoon tea was the same throughout all Marriott hotels but we were told that each hotel chef had free reign to interpret the festive flavours in their own way. So you may see pictures of other Marriott hotels serving theirs in a very different way, for now I can only comment on the Bexleyheath branch. This will be what you will get for your money at this particular hotel.

I would say although I thoroughly enjoyed the food and couldn’t fault any of the sandwiches, scones or cakes individually ( they were each delicious in their own right), I would however, feel that the afternoon tea itself would be much more festive if mulled wine was offered as an extra instead of champagne, and that all the cakes were Christmas themed/ flavoured. I would have been slightly disappointed myself to have paid the full price and not had, what I consider to be festive essentials, included.

This afternoon tea will be available from Wednesday 23rd November through to Thursday 12th January and will cost you £23.50, with the option of adding a glass of celebratory champagne for a further £6.50. Afternoon teas are perfect for friends to get together for a good catch up, or for treating yourself to a relaxing afternoon for a special occasion or family to get together. It’s a total indulgence…………………………….so go on……………………..indulge yourself!

Well it would be rude not to!
Well it would be rude not to!

For more information check out their website here

Preparing your Home for Christmas Entertaining

 

 

Christmas_tree_bauble for Ida article

The festive season is always a very exciting one and many people look forward to being able to spend quality time with friends and family over this period. This is a time of year when we tend to go out more than usual with everything from office parties through to family meals out, nights out with friends, and other festive activities to enjoy.

 

This is also a time of year when we often tend to have guests over far more than usual, whether it is for a fabulous and fun-filled Christmas dinner or simply tor a few drinks and to exchange gifts and cards. With this in mind, it is important to ensure that you are fully prepared by getting your home ready for the Christmas period and for entertaining your guests.

Some of the important preparations

There are a number of key preparations that you should make in order to have your home Christmas-ready for your family as well as any guests that you will be entertaining over the festive period. One of the things you should do is to ensure that your home is always clean and tidy at all times. While we all have periods where we may become a little lax with the cleaning, this is not the time of year to do that! You never know when guests may drop in over Christmas, so keep on top of the cleaning as much as possible.

 

You also need to ensure that your home is warm and comfortable, as the last thing you want is your family or any guests having to wrap themselves in layers because of the cold. Make sure that the heating you use is not only effective but also reliable, as trying to get a professional out to fix faulty heating over Christmas can be both extremely difficult and very expensive. Opting for something along the lines of the stand alone electric radiators from Verismart is an excellent option, as these provide superior heating, are modern and attractive in design, are extremely reliable, and very cost effective to run. Your family and guests can then enjoy warmth and cosiness in any room in your home over Christmas.

 

Of course, Christmas wouldn’t seem like Christmas without turning your home into Santa’s grotto, so one of the most important preparations is getting your decor sorted. You can really go to town with tinsel, paper decorations, and fairy lights, all of which will add that final magical festive touch to your home. You can even look at making your own Christmas decorations if you are on a budget – something you can get the kids involved in for some festive fun.

Once you’ve got your home ready for Christmas, you can look forward to a magical and vibrant atmosphere, warmth and cosiness, and a home that both your family and friends will be delighted to spend time in over the festive season.

However you choose to spend your Christmas and new Year I wish you a very happy one- have fun!

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

This year I vowed I would be super organised and to be honest I have been ‘more’ organised but still find myself sitting now a week away from the big day with a huge ‘to do’ list and the panic is starting to set in.

I know this year a lot of people seemed to be putting their Christmas trees and decorations up towards the end of November and although it was nice to see the pictures I am a true December girl and mine always go up in the first weekend or week in December. However, I did start present buying mid November in an attempt to get ahead.

At the end of November I was lucky enough to attend the Ideal Home Show at Christmas which was a first for me. My friend and I had a fab time, bought lots of Chrismassy bits and pieces and had our first mulled wine of the season. It really did get me into the Christmas spirit and gave me lots of ideas for pressies along the way. The place was beautifully decorated and we had groups of carol singers and performers helping with the Christmas spirit.

From the minute you step off the tube you are in a Christmas world
From the minute you step off the tube you are in a Christmas world

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There were some gorgeous food stalls, a wide range of companies were represented there and there was even a Greg Wallace restaurant that you could book into.

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In fact there was so much to get around I probably could have done with another afternoon there to get around them all. However, I have to say my friend and I certainly gave it a good go, so much so that we felt the need to pop into the bar there for our first mulled wine at the end of the day before our journey home.

I loved the idea of this- an afternoon tea along with a London landmark tour!
I loved the idea of this- an afternoon tea along with a London landmark tour!I

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is the top deck
This is the top deck
The food looks amazing!
The food looks amazing!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I did buy a few new Christmas decorations and signs for this year from a fab stall that I could have spent a fortune at! Now I have to find just the right places for them. We weren’t lucky enough to see any of the celebrities as we attended on the Wednesday but there were different people there each day doing demonstrations throughout the few days.

I will definitely try and get back next year, but when I do I will start from upstairs in all the food stalls and work my way back down so I really do not miss anything……………………..mind you that may mean I spent a lot more. Although the bar is on the top floor so I may not see anything after a few mulled wine’s in there. Roll on next year.

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The Ideal Home Show at Christmas in London

This I am very excited about and thankfully only have a week to wait. This years Ideal Home Show at Christmas will be taking place at Olympia London for the first time ever. The UK’s biggest Christmas exhibition will be open from the 25th – 29th of November to provide everything you could possibly need in the run up to the festive season, from over 600 exhibitors showcasing top Christmas shopping inspiration, a plethora of celebrity appearances and a Christmas bandstand hosting live entertainment……………c’mon you Christmas lovers what more could you need?
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I’m feeling festive already and cannot wait to see the venue transformed into a winter wonderland. There will be exhibitors across 7 sectors, as well as a host of festive favourite celebrities including Gino D’Acampo, Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, Olly Smith and Katie Piper who will be making her Christmas show debut and  experts will be on hand at the show offering their own festive hints and tips to make your Christmas Ideal.

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There will be live entertainment for visitors to enjoy as they shop, a wide range of expert talks and advice,  a food & drink theatre featuring top tips from celebrity chefs, and even a champagne bar as well ( so that’s me sorted then!).

The Ideal Home Show at Christmas sponsored by Gocompare.com has everything you could possibly need to create the perfect Christmas all under one roof! So, for a chance to be part of history and experience Christmas for the first time at Olympia London, get yourself a ticket!

Tickets

To book tickets log on to www.idealhomeshowchristmas.co.uk or call 0844 209 7330.  For Group bookings call: 0844 412 4650

Weekday Adult £12.00
Weekend Adult £14.00
Weekday Concession (Over 60’s) £10.00
Weekend Concession (Over 60’s)     £12.00
Children (Under 15) go free when accompanied by an adult      

Timings for Ideal Home Show at Christmas:

Wednesday 25th November 2015 10am – 6pm

Thursday 26th November 2015 10am – 9pm

Friday 27th November 2015 10am – 6pm

Saturday 28th November 2015 10am – 6pm

Sunday 29th November 2015 10am – 5pm

I am looking forward to spotting some lovely new Christmassy bits to add to my ever growing collection that I manage to add to each year. Our decorations go up at the start of December and I love the festive run up to the big day itself. However, I do think my OH may disown me if I buy any more fairy lights for him to put up…………………………………… so watch this space.

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Some Easy Craft Ideas For Kids This Christmas

christmas bunting picture

As my boys are now 17 and 15 years old this is something I am starting to miss. We used to do quite a lot on the run up to the festive season and even made lots of sweet treat pressies like the hot chocolate cones, decorated biscuits and cakes. Once they hit mid teens the enthusiasm for crafting waned and it is definitely something that I miss these days ( I expect I have to wait until I become a granny- although I am in no rush for that just yet!). My 15 year old however, will still decorate his own bedroom and will happily make Christmas paper chains if he is in the right mood……..and he won’t thank me for telling you that! I always think doing Christmas crafts starts all the build up and excitement, any time from Oct/ Nov all parents are already talking ‘Father Christmas’ to the kids and the crafts become an extension of that, I still have their school home made decorations too.

Take a look below for some fabulous and EASY craft ideas to get you started:

Some Easy Craft Ideas For Kids This Christmas

Christmas is the time for kids to enjoy and rejoice. This is the time when they get time off from school and are able to spend quality time with parents. So most of the time parents try to bring in new craft ideas that they can enjoy with their kids while preparing for Christmas. You can even find many craft products for your kids at Baker Ross.

Christmas stocking

  • Take a felt cloth and cut two pieces out of it in the form of socks.
  • Now sew or staple them together in such a way that top remains open.
  • Stick the sides with lace to hide the staple and use felt pieces and buttons to decorate the socks.

Reindeer’s

  • Use patterned paper to cover cardboard tubes.
  • Now cut a triangle for reindeer head and two small and big oval shapes for ears from paper.
  • Now paste the small one inside the big one and fold them in half. Now paste these oval ears on the two sides of the triangle.
  • Now paste the triangle on the cardboard.
  • You can have antlers prepared for your deer using pipes and straws.

Christmas tree with cones

  • Take cone water cup and paint it with green colour.
  • Now use ribbon or rick rack to wrap around it.
  • Now decorate it with pom-poms.

Snowmen

  • Cut the shape of some snowmen out of felt cloth.
  • Now prepare some hats for snowmen from some coloured felt.
  • Now glue the hats on the snowmen.
  • Put holes inside the snowmen and pass a string through it.
  • So you will have a series of snowmen together.

Cookies

  • Get sugar cookie dough for your kid.
  • Roll them and ask your kids to cut different shapes out of it.
  • Bake the cookie and now decorate them with cream cheese or peanut butter.

Kids with strong motor skills grow up to become active and intelligent. Different art lessons and craft activities helps kids to improve their motor skills as well as strengthens the muscles of wrist and hands. Some of the ways to improve the motor skills are:

  • Playing with play dough helps kid to use its hands to stretch and squeeze, thus strengthen their hand muscles. They also develop their sensory experience.
  • Painting helps in improving eye and hand coordination. So why not give your child a paper and paint brush to start working on it.
  • Drawing and using colour pencils also helps to improve the motor skills in kids. Moreover, they learn to hold the pencil using the forefinger and thumb.
  • Making craft items helps the child to widen their imagination and bring in creative ideas.

Kids should be encouraged to get involved in more of such craft and art lessons. Click here to get these products for less from your favourite stores.

What are your favourite crafts to do with your kids at Christmas?

Oh my little blog how I have missed you……

I took a break, not a pre planned determined break but an impromptu, had no time or inclination to write sort of break all over the festive holidays. I was about on Twitter and Instagram and very occasionally on Facebook, but my little spot on the world wide web I completely stayed away from.

There was just so much going on to be honest and I applaud all of you who managed to cope with and enjoy the festivities and find the time to show your blog’s a little love! Anyway I did keep up with all your goings on via the other more instant platforms and loved seeing how you all enjoy the festive season with all your own little traditions and quirks.

For me though I just didn’t ‘feel’ like writing on here and so managed to occupy myself doing other things and at the time was very glad to take the break.

The decs went up!
  The decs went up!
Christmas goodies were made ( and all eaten!)
Christmas goodies were made ( and all eaten!)
pressies wrapped and unwrapped
pressies wrapped and unwrapped
food prepared, cooked, devoured and enjoyed!
food prepared, cooked, devoured and enjoyed!
get together's arranged , enjoyed and photos taken
get together’s arranged , enjoyed and photos taken
Parade's seen and days out enjoyed
Parade’s seen and days out enjoyed

In amongst that lot were pj’s were worn, boardgames were played, Prosecco was drunk and lots and lots of chocolates were eaten. Although it passed very quickly the holidays were fun.

Now the teens are back to school, the OH is back at work and normality has started to resume in this house. That’s when I started to miss my little corner of the web, after reading up on all the new 2015 posts of new starts and changes being made, my fingers started to itch to ‘get back to it’.

So, I’m now back, with ideas of what I want to add here, things I want to sort at home and stuff I hope to achieve this year…………… so Happy New Year to you all and I look forward to catching up with all your posts soon.

XX

Gift Ideas for Older Teenage Boys

xmas gift pic for blog

When your children are young it’s easy to get ideas for Christmas, lets face it their lists normally have absolutely everything except the kitchen sink on them. Every time they see an advert for something they want it.

However, when they get older it gets a little more difficult. My boys are now 16 an 14, they have all their gadgets either bought as gifts or saved for and bought by themselves. That makes finding something to get them for Christmas that not only do they want or need but that doesn’t cost an absolute arm and a leg. I have definitely found that as they have grown up their pressies have got smaller and smaller in size yet the value has increased tenfold!

My youngest is in need of a new portable TV for his room ( something they have both been allowed from the age of 13 as we live in a small house and I do not want xbox and 2 smelly teens constantly fighting over who’s turn it is in my front room!  so shoot me now for being a bad mother, but that’s how it is here.) So I have a main present for him and that can be easily filled out with DVD’s, CD’s, a boardgame or two, some clothes and treats.

My eldest though is much more difficult as h has his game station, tv, Ipod and docking station, phone and all the usual trappings. When I have talked to him about some ideas he has just asked for a few DVD’s and that’s it!! NOT Helpful, and I do not agree with giving my children money on these occasions as I tend to ask family to give them money so they can save for the bigger items when they want them. So I have had really had to dig deep for ideas and trawl the internet and shops looking. I was looking mainly for what would be a ‘main’ pressie for him.

I thought I would share a few here……..

1. Some Young Driver lessons. These are available Nationwide at a different locations and we have one near us so this is a definite for my 16 yr old this year. They are normally around about £30 for a half hour lesson. My youngest has tried these already as he is a total petrol head and says 30 mins is long enough at a time as there is so much to concentrate on that he came out exhausted LOL. So I will be getting my eldest a few lessons in preparation for his 17th b’day in April when he will be starting lessons properly.

2. Experience Day Vouchers. These are more expensive but for a teenage boy of around 16 some of these are amazing as a main present at Christmas. Virgin Experience offer allsorts from indoor skydiving, Go-Ape, snowboarding to the more adventurous Zombie Survival!! So for an older teenage boy who has all the gadgets etc and doesn’t know what he wants, one of these would be perfect I think.

3.Unlimited Cinema Card. If your teen is a real cinema lover ( my youngest is like me and adores going to the cinema) and tends to go with his friends a lot the cost could add up very quickly! Therefore, why not treat them with an unlimited Cineworld card. These cost around £16.40 per month on a direct debit ( which is less that most of their mobile phone contracts these days) and that way you can spread the cost throughout the year as well. This will allow them unlimited visits andmoney off on food and drink and also no booking fees if they book online for a film. A yearly one will set you back £196.80 which is a huge outlay in one go, but equally you could get family to pitch in with an amount that they were going to spend anyway and make it a main present.

 4. Merlin annual pass. This will allow your teens unlimited entry to a wide range of attractions. For us we are near London so this would include Thorpe Park, Chessington, The Dungeons, Sealife and the London Eye and Madame Tousauds. My 16 yr old already has days were all his friends meet up and spend a day in London and my youngest loves Thorpe Park so again as a main present this would suit loads of teens. It isn’t cheap at £169 for a year pass but lets face it against a game console/ mobile phone it probably works out cheaper and they get a years worth of visits that you then don’t have to fork out for when money is tight throughout the year.

5. Magazine subscription. These can be easily found online and can either be for 6 months, 1 year or even a 2 year subscription. They cover everything, and I mean everything a teen could possibly be interested in, from photography, cars, fishing, computers, film  to all the different games consoles you can think of! Really there is something for everyone and it means that they receive their favourite magazine through the post every month without any effort by them or even you ( once it has been ordered obviously). These vary in price depending on what magazine you actually order but an example would be the Xbox magazine which comes in at £48.99 for 13 issues!!! Brilliant value as each magazine is then only £3.77each.

Now obviously I have looked at things that would be suitable for boys as I’m a mum of boys but to be honest the above 5 ideas are great for teenage girls as well. I always like to get them a ‘main’ present and then fill it out around that so I understand that some of these are a little expensive, but I’m sure you will agree some of them last them all year round and so are definitely worth the extra money, in comparison to a new PlayStation or Xbox game that costs around the £40 mark.

I would love to hear some of your ideas too.