It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…

069A0820With the arrival of December the 1st hundreds of children will have been eagerly tearing open little cardboard doors anticipating the treat behind them whether sweet or otherwise.

Not so our mini ones however as they’re having to wait until Daddy Malpi comes back from watching the snooker in York with their Advent calendars in hand as a surprise gift on his return.

069A0834Our countdown to Christmas actually started very early this year however as the minis had the honour of being models for England’s Finest Photography and being the first to try out their seasonal set for 2018.

It was our first visit to the Grantham studio but I have a feeling it won’t be our last.

Chris and Michelle were lovely and patient with all three of our minis – and quick thinking when the need arose! – making sure the experience was enjoyable for them.

Based in The Old Malthouse, the photographers benefit from a number of rooms meaning that not only is there a seasonal studio, there’s also a permanent magical fairyland scene (which is given a layer of frost for fairies visiting during the winter) and a permanent newborn studio that even has a playroom nearby to keep older siblings entertained.

069A0816On December 7th and 8th, children visiting the Lincolnshire Santa set will not only have the opportunity to have their photos taken but they’ll also have the chance to meet the man in red himself at the same time.  If you can’t make those two days or your minis are already handing over their wish lists to Father Christmas elsewhere, then Christmas mini sessions are also available on other dates.  Winter fairy shoots are available to book until February.

For further information visit www.efpics.co.uk, call 01476 577798 or email studio@efpics.co.uk

069A0871

How do you celebrate Advent?  Is your calendar full of chocolates or toys?  Do you treat your minis to 24 new books?  Or are you taking part in a reverse Advent calendar?  Let us know in the comments below.

Me Becoming Mum

 

Santa’s Workshop open to new little elves

LFandGFor those of us who won’t have managed to have our entire Christmas list completed, wrapped and delivered, hidden or stored in the larder by the end of November there’s still plenty of opportunity to catch up with our seasonally smug friends.

And what better way to do it than to visit a Christmas fair with lots of opportunity to support scores of local small businesses, all with their own unique offering, all assembled in one place?

Lincolnshire Food & Gift is returning to the Lincolnshire Showground on December 1st and 2nd and will host 150 exhibitor stands.  Entry is £5 in advance or £6 on the gate and, not only is entry free for accompanied under 16s, but there’s also a lot of activities on offer designed to keep the shopping experience festive for them too.

Craft making at the Lincolnshire Food and Gift FairYounger visitors will be able to “get hands on with Christmas craft making, exciting storytelling and seasonal baking”.

Lincolnshire Showground CEO Jayne Southall says, “Entertaining the little ones over the festive period can often leave families feeling light on cash which is why the Lincolnshire Food & Gift Fair is offering a fun free day out for children under 16, when attending with a full paying adult.

“The popular Santa’s Workshop area, which returns to the Fair for the third year running, will provide hours of free entertainment for little ones, whilst adult visitors can sample the county’s finest foods, explore the unique handmade gifts on offer and relax with a drink or two!”

Lincs Food and Gift Fair 2The Little Pottery Studio is joining in the fun this year, giving children “the chance to get artistic and have a go at painting their own festive ceramic shapes”.

Studio owner Jemma Stimpson says, “We are really excited to be exhibiting at the Lincolnshire Food & Gift Fair for the first time and even more excited to watch children try their hands at pottery painting, get stuck in and have some fun!  Children will be able to paint and glaze Christmas themed ceramics in our Elf Workshop, decorate their handmade creations with glitter and jewels and then take them home on the same day, ready to hang on the Christmas tree!”

“We’re really looking forward to showing off what we do, whilst helping children with their designs and also explain the process to parents – hopefully people will come back and have another go at our new studio at The Lawns.”

Mini event-goers will also have the chance to get creative with gingerbread decorating with Ticklebelly Lane Bakery, make willow star wands with Lincolnshire Willow and enjoy an extract of the New Theatre Royal’s Christmas pantomime from the stars of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.

Lincolnshire Food & Gift 2018 is open from 9am to 4pm on the Saturday and Sunday.  Visit www.lincolnshireshowground.co.uk or call 01522 522900 for further information and, if you’re sharing your mini ones’ crafty creations on social media, don’t forget to include #FoodandGift18.

Fantasy titles make fantastic festive gifts

Are you splashing out on a book advent calendar and need some suggestions to make up your 24 titles?  Are you following the more frugal four gift rule of want, need, wear and read and would like to make sure each gift is extra special?  Or are you just looking for something easy to wrap?  Here Gill Hart of Lindum Books picks out a few of her fantastical and seasonal favourites that might prove the perfect present if you’re buying for mini ones this year…

OUaWWOnce Upon a Wild Wood – Chris Riddell (Pan Macmillan, HB, £12.99)
Little Green Raincape is on her way to Rapunzel’s party, deep in the wild woods. The way is long and dark, but Green is a smart girl. Smart enough to turn down apples offered by kindly old ladies, smart enough to turn down travel advice from helpful wolves, and above all, smart enough to solve a wealth of classic fairy tale problems – not least mend a lovelorn beast’s broken heart.  Once Upon a Wild Wood is a richly imagined story packed full of familiar fairy tale characters as you’ve never seen them before.  Including Red Riding Hood, Thumbelina, Rapunzel, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, the three bears, the seven dwarfs and many more!  A visual feast on every page, illustrated with warmth and humour and full of witty details to discover – this is ex Children’s Laureate Chris Riddell at his picture book best!

TTPThe Truth Pixie – Matt Haig (Cannongate, HB, £9.99)
Matt Haig has become known as an ambassador for the importance of talking about mental health and this heartwarming story, brilliantly illustrated throughout by Chris Mould, is being called the Reason’s to Stay Alive for seven-year olds.  “Wherever she is, whatever the day, She only has one kind of thing to say. Just as cats go miaow and cows go moo, The Truth Pixie can only say things that are true.”  A very funny and lovable tale of how one special pixie learned to love herself.  The Truth Pixie is an enchanting, rhyming story that will delight younger readers.

TSMMThe Snowman – Michael Morpurgo (Penguin, HB, £12.99)
Michael Morpurgo has re-imagined Raymond Briggs’ classic The Snowman for a new generation of readers.  One December morning, James is thrilled to wake up to see snow falling. He spends the whole day making his perfect snowman; he has coal eyes, an old green hat and scarf and a tangerine nose, just like the snowman from his favourite story.  That night, something magical happens – the Snowman comes to life!  He and James take to the skies on a magical adventure where they meet someone very special.  Inspired by the timeless tale, Michael Morpurgo and illustrator Robin Shaw have created the perfect Christmas story for the whole family.

NSCSNoel Streatfeild’s Christmas Stories – Noel Streatfeild (Little Brown, HB, £12.99)
A captivating collection of festive stories from the author of Ballet Shoes.  There are auditions on stage and antics on ice, trips to the pantomime, holiday adventures, and laughter shared with family and friends.  Originally written for annuals, magazines and the radio from the 1940s-60s, these stories by this much-loved author have never been collected before and are sure to be a hit with readers of all ages.

SWCThe Spiderwick Chronicles: The Completely Fantastical Edition – Tony Diterlizzi & Holly Black (Simon & Schuster, HB, £14.99)
When the Grace children moved into the old, abandoned Spiderwick Mansion, little did they realise that their lives would never be the same again. Having uncovered a fantastical world of sprites, faeries and goblins there’s no turning back. The Ultimate Spiderwick Chronicles features all five of the original books plus great new bonus content!  Discover the three “lost” chapters that were included in the Nestle Cereal Partners cereal boxes, and the special “development” section showing sketches and early drafts. Readers both old and new, young and old will be completely immersed in the world of Spiderwick with this ultimate collection.

BoDPPLa Belle Sauvage: The Book of Dust Volume One – Philip Pullman (Penguin, PB, £7.99)
Philip Pullman’s prequel to his Dark Materials series is both for fans and those new to Lyra’s world.  Malcolm Polstead’s Oxford life has been one of routine, ordinary even.  He is happiest playing with his daemon, Asta, in their canoe, La Belle Sauvage.  But now as the rain builds, the world around Malcolm and Asta it seems is set to become increasingly far from ordinary.  Finding himself linked to a baby by the name of Lyra Belacqua, Malcolm is forced to undertake the challenge of his life and to make a dangerous journey that will change him and Lyra forever.

For more recommendations from the Lincoln bookseller call 01522 262374 or pop into their store in Bailgate, Lincoln.

For more Christmas gift guides visit www.arepops.com 

An unwrappable gift

Down Syndrome Bloggers Network: Intangible Gift

The Down Syndrome Bloggers Network group monthly prompt for December is “What is one intangible gift you want to give to your child?”

When my three year old is asked to choose just one thing she really struggles.  If she picks up wrist bells from a group’s music box she has to have at least four, one for each wrist and ankle and preferably a few more in her hands as well.  One item from the songbag becomes a pile in front of my feet.  One toy from the shop usually translates as a minimum of one for each hand.

It turns out she might get it from me.  When I first thought about the Down Syndrome Bloggers Network group’s December prompt what one intangible gift I would give to my children a whole list quickly formed in my mind.

IMG_5841[1]It’s quite normal to have lots of hopes and dreams for your children’s future and, whilst you bemoan how quickly the time goes, you also want to fast forward to see the adult they’ll become and the results of the paths they will choose and whether or not they take any notice of any of the signposts you indicate along the way.

I guess when you have a disabled child those aspirations become slightly coloured, assumptions underlying them unsettled.

I know that Faith may require an extra dose of all the strengths you wish for any child.

Determination is key and fortunately Faith is currently displaying no shortage of this.  If the road to success is trying hard then, even if she takes a little longer than typical, she’s sure to reach her goal.

But, as we head towards the time of year that celebrates peace, perhaps we should focus on the present rather than projecting ourselves into crystal ball imaginings.

So I will choose patience as the gift I would procure for her if I could.  Patience with herself, patience with a society that seems obsessed with pushing forward when we could be enjoying the moment, patience with people who don’t always show the kindness they should to those of differing abilities they lack the understanding of and patience with her mother as she learns to navigate this new world alongside her.

And maybe if I manage to get enough patience for her, a little bit could rub off on me too.

Read more from the Down Syndrome Bloggers Network on the theme of one intangible gift:
Bean Post Farmstead – A Priceless Gift: Instilling a sense of purpose in our children
Cedar’s Story – Intangible Gifts: The Gift of Opportunity 

Trista Park – Joy to the World

Festive fun in the fairytale forest

Robin-Hood-BannerIn the midst of Lincoln’s seasonal theatrical offerings, the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre has carved out its niche by offering a winter show rather than a traditional pantomime.

Robin Hood and Maid Marian – Winter in Sherwood is 2017’s production by The Lincoln Company made up of Lincoln School of Performing Arts students.  It’s a perfect pick for the year of the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest and we were delighted to be guests of the arts centre for its opening night on Tuesday.

Littered with eclectic cultural references, it earns its age 6+ recommendation with its use of heightened language but there was still plenty for my younger minis to enjoy too.

Strong heroes, tomfoolery and hijinks with a pair of gormless guards and the dubious allegiances of some wandering minstrels, rousing songs to clap along to, a repetitive strain to join in with that saw my three year old drawing back her bow, a few flash bangs, a pretty smattering of snow, a boo-able baddie and alternative staging with the audience sitting on three sides of the action proved very engaging to all who had come to watch.

Luke says his favourite bit was when Robin Hood was locked up in the castle with the sheriff’s two hapless knights, a comic scene that included all his three favourite characters and an impressive show of archery skill, and Willow was absolutely mesmerised by meeting the characters after the show who were very lovely with a couple of star struck mini theatre goers.

Winter in Sherwood is showing at the Lincoln Performing Arts Centre until Sunday, December 24th and includes a relaxed performance on Friday, December 22nd.  Click here for further information. 

Independent Lincoln makes buying small easy

Lincoln has developed in recent years to become a shopping destination with a wide range of retailers including many that welcome younger visitors through their doors.

Start in the St Mark’s Shopping Centre and you’ll find big brand names such as Mothercare, Mamas and Papas, Toys R Us, The Entertainer and Debenhams.  Move into the centre of the city and you’ll find an area starting to show the benefits of its ongoing rejuvenation.

But it’s when you take steps towards and up Steep Hill to the top end of Lincoln that you’ll be rewarded with a selection of independent shop frontages that are unique to the city.

As today is Small Business Saturday – “a grassroots, non-commercial campaign, which highlights small business success and encourages consumers to ‘shop local’ and support small business in their communities” – The Mini Malpi asked a couple of those stores what they’d pick from their ranges as Christmas presents for little ones this year…

 

Bo Peep Boutique (Bailgate, Lincoln) 

A family run business, Bo Peep Boutique stocks children’s clothing, lifestyle products and traditional toys that describes its ranges as “one of a kind, quirky, different, funky and fun”. Here are just some of Emma’s favourites.LottieDoll

“We love Lottie Dolls (recommended age 3+) because they are aspirational and based on a child’s proportions rather than a grownup. £18.99.

Janod“Janod Storyboxes are one of our favourite new products. These boxes are designed for imaginative play including knights, firefighters and fairytales. £9.99

Tigger“The Orange Tree Winnie The Pooh range is suitable from 12 months plus. The new range of wooden toys just launched includes pull-alongs, trains and pushups.  Lovely and traditional, starting from £4.99.

JellyCatAquaBunny“Jellycat, designed in the UK, are the softest soft toy range on the market.  We stock a wide range including books, comforters and toys from £8 upwards.”

 

With Love From Lincolnshire (Burton Road, Lincoln)

With Love From Lincolnshire is definitely the perfect place to visit on Small Business Saturday as where “every item has been lovingly handmade by local craftspeople” “you will find over 70 small local business under one roof”.  Like most small independent stores, Pirjo Holtta doesn’t stock anything she doesn’t love herself but here she picks out some highlights for us.

Cardigans“The most beautiful cardigans are crocheted by Justine.  These cardigans come in all the colours of the rainbow and in sizes: 0-3m £6, 3-6m £6, 6-12m £7, 1-2yrs £8, 3-4yrs £10, 5-6yrs £12, 7-8 £14.  By buying one of these cardigans you don’t only support one small local business but three!  The Stylecraft Special DK yarn is from Number Four (also Burton Road, Lincoln), Justine (Just Handmade) has crocheted the cardigans and you can buy them from With Love From Lincolnshire.

“Nothing keeps a little one warm like a lovingly handmade blanket or a quilt and we stock a range, including some with matching bunting, by crafters Val, Nicole (Little Sew It All) and Justine.  And we’ve also got lots of hats and mittens for little ones full of character!

Octocape“Jacqui’s octocapes are her best selling items!  With no fiddly buttons you just put it over your child’s head and it will keep their neck and chest warm without bulkiness. Great to wear in a car seat too! £5.50.

“Reversible dresses for little ones must be one of the best inventions ever!  Accidents happen and no-one needs to know if you’re wearing one of these – just quickly turn it round!  These are easy to put on and take off with snappers on the back or on the shoulders.  This is also a great time to buy a pinafore dress. Add layers underneath and cardi on top, start reducing layers towards spring and wear on its own in the summer!  £9 each or 2 for £15 by Rachel Pugh and from £7 in sizes 0-4 by Pauline.

GrowMePants“These Grow-With-Me-Pants have been designed and made by Karen Booth Designs with folded hems and waistband for your little one and are made with a pre-washed cotton and lycra jersey fabric for minimal shrinkage and added bounce back comfort.  No digging in elastic!  They are £7.99 a pair in sizes from newborn to toddler.”

 

Lindum Books (Bailgate, Lincoln)

Looking for a book?  Independent book store Lindum Books gave us their recommendations here: Seasonal stories make perfect presents.

 

If you are challenging yourself to the sheer walk up the hill (or taking the bus and walking down) then you might also want to pop in to Annual (Grantham Street, Lincoln), that has a passion for unique design and an exploration into making the world for children stimulating and fun, and Object and Line (Bailgate, Lincoln) that searches out small to medium companies worldwide that have high design values.

Are you buying small this year?  Recommend a local business from near you in the comments below and make someone’s day!

Escape into literary winter wonderlands

Whether as part of an advent calendar, included in a Christmas Eve box, a stocking filler or a main present, there’s no doubt that books make great Christmas presents – they even make the cut in the “four gift rule” of want, need, wear and read – so no wonder there are so many great titles to choose from.  Here Deborah Holland of Waterstones, Lincoln picks out a few of her favourites with a wintery theme to look out for if you’re buying for mini ones this year.

polarbearexplorersThe Polar Bear Explorers’ Club – Alex Bell (Faber & Faber, PB, £6.99)
This book is a brilliant fantastical adventure story with a stunning cover and illustrations by Tomislav Tomic.  On this expedition to the Icelands join Stella, Beanie, Ethan and Shay for a thrilling tale with snow pirates, carnivorous cabbages, unicorns, wolves and pygmy T-Rex to name a few!  This is Alex Bell’s first book for younger readers as she usually writes for young adults.  I’m very excited about what will come next.  If you were looking for that extra stocking filler for your own bookworm then this is a must.  Perfect for any child aged 9 years old onwards.  Chosen as November’s Book of the Month at Waterstones it’s not hard to see why.

invisiblechildThe Invisible Child & The Fir Tree – Tove Jansson (Sort of Books, HB, £4.99)
This book is available exclusively through Waterstones, Oxfam and the Moomin shop.  Two short stories in a beautiful hardback with gorgeous illustrations.  The Invisible Child is about someone finding their voice with the help of a simple Moomin recipe.  The Fir Tree is perfect for this time of year showing the Moomins unselfish take on Christmas.  My children love these stories and I love their message of respect and tolerance.  Perfect for ages 6 to 106 years old.  Aside from being a huge Moomin fan – 100% of the sale of this book will go to Oxfam’s projects empowering women and girls around the world.  A perfect gift.

WalkingWinterWonderlandWalking in a Winter Wonderland – Tim Hopgood (Oxford University Press, PB with CD, £8.99)
Tim Hopgood’s illustrations are amazing in this stylish picture book of Felix Bernard and Richard B. Smith’s song Winter Wonderland.  Stunning pictures of wildlife to spot on each page and everything blanketed in snow.  A brilliant book to read to your young one over the festive season and an added bonus CD of Peggy Lee singing the song!  Festive spirit, nostalgia and a sing song too.  I dare it not to get you and your little one in the mood for Christmas.

ADotintheSnowA Dot in the Snow – Corrinne Averiss (Oxford University Press, PB, £6.99)
I read this out at a story time recently and though very simply told it really engage the young ones of 3 years onwards and is beautifully illustrated by a new talent – Fiona Woodcock.  Her sparkly snow is a particular winner in our household!  This is a tale of a polar bear cub, Miki and a girl who get separated from their mothers.  Miki sees a red dot in the snow and slowly gets bigger until Dot reveal herself a human girl.  This is a lovely story of friendship, a changing polar landscape and a heart-warming story to end a wintery day.

Need more suggestions?  See what Gill Hart from Lindum Books recommends here: Seasonal stories make perfect presents.

For more recommendations from the Lincoln bookseller pop into their store in High Street, Lincoln.