Writing to Father Christmas plus free Pip Ahoy! downloads!

It was the most important letter you wrote each year. You might have written several different version of it, all with similar content but perhaps with an extra item or two.

I used to leaf through the Index (remember that?!) and Argos catalogues and list 30 or 40 things I needed in my life, then once I’d had a think about it I’d perhaps cross out the 13th Sindy doll on the list because 12 was probably going to be enough.

I sat with the boys this week while they wrote their own letters to Father Christmas. Louis’ list was simple, if not a bit lengthy:

Letters to Father Christmas - Louis 1

Letters to Father Christmas - Louis 2

I love how in part two he attempts to bribe Santa with food. He’s a boy after my own heart! (Also, guess who’s had a talking to about respecting their parents). Louis’ list consists mainly of football related items, which is no great surprise. He has also asked for an iPad so I was surprised to see that omitted from his list. Perhaps he just ran out of space!

Rowan was slightly more random with his list, which in fact started with a blatant fib:

Letters to Father Christmas - Rowan

Even I can’t make out exactly what’ on this list, so Father Christmas has got no chance, but I note that this boy who cannot yet tell the time has requested not one, but two watches.

He used the Argos wishlist app and so I eventually received no less than 13 emails detailing the things he would like this year, with 20 items in each message. Good luck with that, kiddo!

Since the boys were getting into the Christmas spirit, I thought I may as well write my own letter to the big man. You know how the saying goes… if you don’t ask, you don’t get!

Letters to Father Christmas - Karen

I think I’ll just put mine in my husband’s pocket though, and save a stamp.

What have your children asked for this year? I have some free Pip Ahoy! printables for you to download and use to help you get into the swing of Christmas. The downloads include the template we have used to write to Father Christmas, colouring sheets, a placemat, games, craft ideas and more! We’re going to decorate our placemats and laminate them ready for Christmas dinner.

Access the full set here: Pip Ahoy! printables

I’d love to know what’s on your child’s Christmas list this year – come and share your Pip Ahoy! letters to Santa on the Facebook page – you never know who’s reading… it could be Santa himself!

Review & Competition: Pip Ahoy!

Ahoy there, Mateys!

Pip is a a much loved little sea pup in our house. From Channel 5’s Milkshake!, Pip and his friend, a kitten named Alba, enjoy some wonderful adventures in their home town of Salty Cove in a beautifully animated show called Pip Ahoy!.

Aimed at children aged 3-6, viewers follow Pip and his friends through the trials and tribulations of life, promoting kindness and friendship throughout each episode. Characters are voiced by some great celebrities including David Jason and Stacey Solomon, (though don’t try explaining to your five year old that Skipper’s voice is the same as Del Boy’s – it will be a conversation resulting in the confusion of a small person).

We tried out one of the toys from the Pip Ahoy! range last week, the Pip Ahoy! Lighthouse Playset, which is available to buy from all good toy retailers including Amazon and Argos. The best price I found for the lighthouse we reviewed was from Smyths Toy Superstore at £21.99.


The lighthouse is the largest piece in the current Pip Ahoy! toy collection and a great one to buy for any little fan. Rowan wasn’t happy playing on the carpet with his though because Pip lives by the sea, so naturally we had to play by the ‘sea’ too. Luckily he was willing to negotiate so we played by the kitchen sink!

Playing with lighthouseThe lighthouse is a great toy for encouraging imaginative play, and we spent a lot of time re-enacting the stories from the Pip Ahoy! cartoon as well as making up our own little stories too, including some extra characters, such as our bath shark, making cameo appearances.

The playset is sturdy and well made as you’d expect from John Adams, and has a little boat too, which can be launched from the side of the lighthouse. It doesn’t float independently all that well, but if you position Pip strategically enough you can get a little bit of buoyancy. The whole set is ergonomically designed for little hands, and the working lift is really easy for small children to operate independently. Rowan and I played for a good three quarters of an hour with this, then he played with the set by himself for longer still.

I would recommend buying this with the set of Pip Ahoy! characters which are available separately, so that little Pip does have someone to talk to and play with, though friends from your toy box would be welcome too I’m sure.

Would you like to WIN a Pip Ahoy! Lighthouse Playset? Of course you would – it’d make a great Christmas gift and will be delivered just in time for the big day – it’ll certainly save Santa one job!

Simply complete the gleam widget here – good luck!

Pip Ahoy! Lighthouse Playset

Did you know?

There’s a Pip Ahoy! Twitter party coming soon!

twitter party badge

Review & Competition: Bratz #SelfieSnaps Doll

Bratz are back and they’re better than ever. They’re sassy and cool, they’re travelling the world and they’re instagramming it all.

We received a Bratz #SelfieSnaps Jade doll and enlisted the help of our very own diva friend Ava for the purpose of this review.

Bratz SelfieSnaps

In addition to the actual figure, there are several accessories within the set. A few keys points are:

  • Each doll comes with glasses and a soft plush hat – perfect for taking a selfie!
  • Complete with tech inspired earrings, their own smart phone and two smart phone cases that can actually hold the phone
  • Comes with additional cool hats and glasses for photo-styling fun, extra jewellery and accessories , plus the lip gloss really opens!

Ava Doll 2

Ava tried out the #SelfieSnaps Jade doll for herself, and came up with this feedback:

  • The dolls are sturdy and durable
  • Having accessories to swap and change is a definite plus – Ava really enjoyed changing around the doll’s style and played longer than usual because of the added accessories
  • Ava particularly liked that she could brush Jade’s hair

Ava doll 1

I’d say the only two areas I would improve would be to provide somewhere to store all of the accessories since they’re so small and can easily get lost. Secondly, the packaging could be reduced  – there is quite a lot of it and it’s a bit difficult to get into. Two small points there though and only things that parents would be concerned with – Ava had nothing negative to say at all about her Bratz #SelfieSnaps Jade doll.

Bratz are definitely on the must-have list of children across the country this Christmas and even the X-Factor judges have been immortalised as Bratz dolls!

x factor Bratz

You don’t need to miss out on the Bratz action either, because I am fortuate enough to have one Bratz #SelfieSnaps doll to give away to one lucky reader. Just enter using the gleam widget below. Good luck!

Bratz #SelfieSnaps Doll

Christmas Gift Guide: Stocking fillers for under £10

It’s just six weeks to Christmas 2015 and so it’s time for the Grumpyishmum gift guides!

I’m easing you in gently with stocking fillers: everything within this post is under a tenner. After scouting around both online and off, these are my suggestions…



My husband is a bit of a tea fanatic. Earl Grey, Lady Grey, Chai, Lapsang Souchong… you name it he’s tried it. Teapigs spiced winter red tea will be perfect for him. It’s like Christmas in a cup! It’s a caffeine-free rooibos tea with orange cloves and cinnamon. Think mulled wine, mistletoe, winter coats and rosy cheeks… You can drink it as a caffeine-free chai latte or add a drop of brandy to make a hot toddy. Perfect stocking filler.

From £4.49 at www.teapigs.co.uk Waitrose, Harvey Nichols, Selfridges and key retailers across the UK.


Who doesn’t love cool socks? I have to have these superhero socks for the boys – I’m sure they will make running even more fun!

cape socks

These SockShop Batman Cape Socks are cotton rich, so they’re very wearable and comfortable, despite their novel looks. OK, they’re not exactly school wear, but he’ll love the jokey style and kitsch looks – if you’re lucky, you might even catch him bounding around the house with his twin capes flowing in the wind! A red, yellow and blue Superman design is also available as well as plenty of options for women.


Christmas morning wouldn’t be complete in our house without a lot of chocolate. I’m not the type to turn down any kind of chocolate, but the ‘Endless Wispa really caught my eye – a string of 4 Cadbury Wispa bars sticking out of the top of my stocking? Yes please.

endless wispa

Selection box

Not everyone loves chocolate as much as I do, but most selection boxes contain nothing but chocolate. If you’re looking for an alternative, try a Chewits selection box instead. It might even last a little bit longer (though I couldn’t guarantee it!).


The Chewits Selection Box is one of the only sweet selection boxes available to buy. It’s a real treat with eight full-size chewy stickpacks, including favourites Strawberry, Fruit Salad and Xtreme Sour Apple. The Selection Box is the perfect stocking filler and is ideal for those who love a sweet treat.

Augmented reality book

You can’t really go wrong with a fun book when it comes to kids. Something I’ve never seen before is this interactive book from Zapper.

Interactive book

Available now at Amazon and priced at £4.99, The Adventure Suit is a rip-roaring adventure for girls and boys, brought to life with augmented reality technology and the free to download Zappar app.

So there are a few ideas here for something a little bit different to put into this year’s stockings. I don’t know about you, but our stockings seem to get better and better every year. One thing you should never forget though are the chocolate coins – a Christmas stocking institution!

*Disclosure: Cadbury sent me an Endless Wispa – and I ate it all.

Our adoption story


I’ve written previously about our beautiful family dog, Betsy. We had Betsy come to live with us when she was just 10 weeks old and we celebrated her third birthday last month. She is as much a part of our family as one of the kids and she’s spoiled rotten. She has more haircuts and pedicures than I do and we plan each day around her. That’s just how a dog’s life should be.

Life wasn’t always that way for Betsy. She was kept in terrible conditions with hundreds of other dogs until she was rescued and her ‘breeder’ was prosecuted. She was lucky that she was still so young. Many of the older dogs wouldn’t have been as lucky as her, as will have been left scarred by their unhappy lives.

Having a dog (or any pet) in the family should never be a decision that is made quickly. You need to think deeply about how much time you can give to your new family member, how much having a dog will cost, what you will do with your dog when you go on holiday and how much exercise your dog will get.

You also need to consider which type of dog would be best suited to your family. There are so many breeds, all with different personality traits. Betsy is a border collie and so she requires a lot of exercise, so my working from home is perfect for us. She wouldn’t be happy if I took a 9-5!

betsy hi5

Once you’ve decided on the pet you’d like, what’s your next step? Pet shop? May I please, please recommend looking to rescue instead? I can understand your concerns. What have they been through? How has their bad experience affected their temperament? Whatever questions you have, go to a rescue centre and ask them. You’ll get sound advice from someone who just wants the best for the animals and not the sales pitch of a breeder trying to shift the runt of the litter.

Not all rescue dogs have been through a terrible ordeal. Some, like Betsy, are just babies themselves. Give them a chance.

Read up a little on the process of adoption, on how to choose the right pet and get some advice on rehomed animals. If you end up with a dog half as perfect as Betsy, it’ll be the best thing you ever did.

Thanks to RSPCA for providing links to some great advice.

Game Review: Don’t Rock the Boat

The boys have reviewed a few games from University Games in the past, and this time we’ve got Don’t Rock the Boat.


It’s a game of balance, skill and a dash of luck, and is suitable for between 2 and 4 players aged 5 and over.

Game experts University Games say:

Ahoy, mateys! Arrrrr ye ready to set sail on a rockin’ adventure with a crew of 16 pirate penguins? Take turns balancing the pirate penguins on the ship without making it tip! Be ever so careful, if you rock the boat and send the penguins overboard, ye might have to walk the plank! A fun balancing game for all buccaneers!

We were really looking forward to trying this game out as I’d seen other reviewers raving about it and I had a great feeling that the boys, particularly my 5 year old, would love it.

I wasn’t wrong! Rowan really enjoyed playing this game, even though it actually took him quite a few games to get the hang of balancing the penguins on the ship.

Don't rock the boat 1

You can see the concentration here on his face, and I was surprised that he stuck with it after the first couple of failed attempts to add penguin to the boat. Once he’d grasped it though he returned to the game two or three times that first day, then took it to his friend’s house when he went for tea. A positive sign if ever there was one!

Don’t Rock the Boat is really simple to set up, which is typical of games by University Games. The rules are simple; balance your penguins on the boat but don’t make it tip!

The game is sturdy and well made, and the penguins are the perfect size for small hands. They’re not overly heavy, meaning the game isn’t over in a flash, but just weighty enough to mean that players need to really think about balance and the consequences of their next move.

Don’t Rock the Boat is available at Toymaster, Argos, Toys R Us, Amazon, and Smyths and has an SRP of £14.99 – the best price I found was £11.81 with free delivery on Amazon.co.uk (affiliate link).

To read our reviews of other University Games products, click here.

Top picks for Halloween board games

It’s Halloween night.

It’s pouring down, one of the kids has a constantly snotty nose and quite frankly you just can’t face traipsing the streets with them for trick or treat this year. So you’ve sacked the idea of asking strangers for sweets and need an alternative way to mark the occasion.

There are more board games than you might think with a link (no matter how tenuous) to spooks, ghouls, monsters and mischief, and there’s something suitable for kids of all ages.

Here are my top 4…

Spooky Steps by Orchard Toys

One, two, three, four. Dare you take one step more?

Take a chance as you creep through the spooky house to reach the cauldron and break the witch’s spell.

Spooky steps


  • Suitable for ages 4 and over
  • Develops Personal and Social Skills
  • Encourages Number and Counting Skills
  • Encourages Observational Skills

Amazon price £13.11 (affiliate link)

Og on the Bog by Drumond Park

Stand by for disgusting farts and gruesome grunts! The ogre has retired to his outhouse loo and you must collect three of his loo rolls to win! Trigger a noise and if he farts you lift a loo roll from the gnarled stick outside. If he shouts out, your turn is over. But if the bog explodes you lose all your loo rolls and have to start again!

Og on the Bog DP

  • Includes: Og in his bog,12 loo rolls,Loo roll pole,Loo roll pole base, tree stump and spinner with card
  • Lift a loo roll before Og blows his bog to bits!
  • For 2-4 players
  • Suitability 5+
  • Batteries required: 3 x AA ( not included)

Amazon price £17.24 (affiliate link)

UFO Alarm by University Games

UFO Alarm is a fast paced and exhilarating game for children. Players face a head on Battle with a selection of evil aliens! Dare to leave the farm and face an alien attack? Be careful, throw a wrong roll on the dice and you could find yourself paralyzed with fear, teleported by the electronic spaceship and abducted by aliens! Be sure to look out for secret passages and trap doors!



  • Suitable for ages 6 and over
  • Game for all the family to enjoy

Amazon price £20.00 (affiliate link)

Not a games fan? Why not spend the evening setting up your new…

Spider World by Interplay

Love them or hate them, spiders are truly amazing creatures. Now you can keep them as pets for a week or two and discover what really makes them tick! Developed by TV naturalist, Nick Baker, this kit will entertain and enthral children for hours. Learn how to keep spiders safely, observe how they make their nests, how they feed and breed.  Contents include quality equipment and Nick Baker’s fascinating guide to spiders. This is an ideal kit for young and inquisitive minds or anyone with a passion for the natural world.

Spider WorldSuitable for ages 5 and over (adult assistance required)

Amazon price £6.81 (affiliate link)

The boys will be dressing up this weekend and taking ourselves off to the local village hall, but since they love Halloween so much I can definitely see us making a weekend of it and celebrating with a ghoulish games night too.



Halloween at the Blackpool Tower Dungeons

I’ve written before about some of the great things Blackpool has to offer, and this year there aren’t many spookier places to spend Halloween than The Blackpool Tower Dungeon.

We visited the Blackpool Tower earlier this year but only had time to do either the dungeon or the tower, and since we had very small children with us we opted for the tower. My eldest son was quite disappointed that we couldn’t visit, so The Dungeon is definitely next on our list.

Dungeon 1

With over 800 pumpkins, a host of characters, electrifying special effects and ghoulish stories, it’s a perfect way to celebrate this increasingly popular holiday. Meet the Witch Finder General and mysterious witches before being accused of a terrible ‘witchy’ crime, plus take a ride on the ‘for those who dare’ drop ride for a real thrill.

What’s more is that The Blackpool Tower Dungeon is offering free entry to anyone who turns up to its Home of Halloween experience on Saturday 31st October in full Halloween costume.

In true Halloween spirit, they’ve even installed a broomstick parking area outside the attraction, and broom parking is free! The tour is suitable for those aged 8 and over, and the walking tour takes around an hour to complete.

For those not dressing up, ticket prices start from just £13.00 per adult when booked in advance online. Tickets are also available for “Where’s Jack” After Dark special on Saturday 31st October. An adults only night, a unique over 18’s experience definitely not for the faint hearted.

If you think you can brave the witches or are bold enough to find Jack, tickets for Home of Halloween and ‘Where’s Jack’ After Dark Special are available now online at http://www.thedungeons.com/blackpool/en/.

To find out if you’re brave enough for The Blackpool Tower Dungeon tour, just take their quiz!

A Day at Manchester City

Today’s post was written by my mum!

We were invited to go along to Manchester City’s Ethiad stadium for a tour and to learn more about them, but since we are devout ‘reds’ here it wasn’t for us. My mum, however, is a City fan through and through so it was a brilliant opportunity for her to take my nephew Kieran along. So I’ll hand you over to my dear mum who can tell you all about her day there…

I was recently invited to a stadium tour at Manchester City football club and to be honest I couldn’t wait to sample the delights of what for me is the best stadium in the premier league. As a City fan I thought I knew what was coming as I’d been to the ground many times before. Just the walk over the ‘Blue bridge’ from the car park towards the Ethiad stadium gives me goosebumps and a feeling of belonging to this community based club.

We met on the first floor in the shop area where all the shirt printing takes place, and after a quick health and safety talk we were on our way back out into the square where we were shown the outside stage which hosts live bands, past players, commentators and competitions on match days. A short walk round to the main entrance and through the Colin Bell stand we were ready to start the tour.

City Collage 1

First stop was The Chairman’s Club where the owner Sheik Mansour and the Chairman Khaldoon Al Mubarak, who has attended every home game! This is probably the most impressive room for any neutral as its ceiling to floor luxury from classy seating and layout to state of the art TV’s in every nook and cranny. Any invitation into this room and you could be sat with the owner himself. Of course the seating area outside is a little more plush than anywhere else in the stadium with leather clad chairs which are all heated for those winter games.

Into the press room where many a player and manager has felt the heat from the awkward questions from the baying reporters looking for that exclusive news snippet or throw away comment which will sell the papers or hold the attention of people in one form or another, then straight through to the players ‘after match’ room where they can meet up with their family and friends to enjoy a drink or meal. The room next door is a special one dedicated to winning the premier league in the 2011/12 season. The walls are lined with pictures of every game and result, with the TV on loop play of all the goals during the season, and the premier league trophy having pride of place in a glass cabinet near the exit.

City Collage 2

The warm-up room leads onto the players area where you can experience the feel of the dressing room with the opportunity to sit in the seat of your favourite player with their shirt hanging behind ready for match day. Onwards then to the players tunnel to hear the recording of what the players can hear just before they embark onto the pitch. The main focus here is on the digital time display which tells the players what time they need to go out onto the pitch. An error of being late out of the tunnel will cost the club £3,000 for every minute behind schedule. Going back a couple of seasons when playing Sporting Lisbon the players were 1 minute late which cost them £25,000. The old saying of time is money really comes into its own here.

City collage 3

Sitting in Pellegrini’s seat shouldn’t be too uncomfortable in the winter with his & every seat on the home side being heated and even the substitutes floor area benefits from underfloor heating. The same can’t be said for the away side with standard seating and certainly no home comforts being extended to that side! The tour finishes in room which carries the history of the clubs kits and past players with mascots in attendance ready for any photo shots and of course the trophy cabinet which I’m sure will be added to in the not to distant future.

All in all a great attraction and a pleasure to feel the community spirit within this club.

*We were invited to the tour without charge for the purpose of this review

Wagamama arrives at the Trafford Centre

The newest restaurant to open within the Trafford Centre’s The Orient is Japanese noodle expert Wagamama.

Opening their doors to the public on Monday 12th October, Wagamama are excited about the launch of their biggest restaurant to date and I was fortunate enough to be invited to a special preview event.

I’ve never been to Wagamama before (I know, shocking) and it was a taste sensation! Executive Chef Steve and his team demonstrated both a short rib and a seafood Ramen dish which are new to the Wagamama menu. Don’t worry though, the much-loved Katsu Curry and the spicy Firecracker are still firmly on the menu.

The slow cooked rib is brought in and then added to a deeply flavoured soup with noodles and garnished with fresh and flavoursome ingredients, creating a truly melt-in-the-mouth experience. The seafood is freshly cooked to order and is garnished with a handful of Samphire to really bring the taste of the sea to the middle of the Trafford Centre.

Seafood Ramen

Seafood Ramen is new to the Wagamama menu


The rapport in the kitchen seems great at Wagamama, and with up to 16 members of the team in there during a busy period it’s a good job! There’s a great team spirit and the staff look happy and are helpful.

The children’s menu looks great too, offering a good selection of meals for younger visitors. It’s always refreshing for me to see something more than a choice between burgers or fish fingers when dining out with the kids, and Wagamama have got their kids menu spot on.

In true Wagamama style, the layout of the restaurant is designed around the central open kitchen allowing diners to see their food being freshly prepared. There is a choice of seating too, as Wagamama have added breakout areas and booths to their traditional setting of long tables and canteen style stools.

The drinks aren’t exactly standard either with some brilliant fresh juices available. I recommend the Clean Green – very refreshing and it tastes great too.

The new restaurant has created 115 jobs for local people and boasts 295 covers. Bookings can be taken for larger groups on 0161 641 1971 or you can find your nearest branch on the Wagamama website.