Last week we had the absolute pleasure of staying at a beautifully luxurious hotel in the heart of London over looking Buckingham Palace….an opulent and gloriously elegant home away from home with comfort & decadents exuding from all directions & in all manners…
A quintessentially traditional and exuberant welcome awaited us as we arrived to an idyllic but highly polished and warm reception at The Rubens at the Palace

And boy were we in for a treat on the highest of levels. 

The pavement welcome alone gave us a strong hint as to how our stay would far exceed our expectations…. 

 So let me take you inside and give you just a whisper of the lavishness of our stay… 

 We’re not familiar with the city, we arrived from the country with an outward etiquette that would probably denote that but from the second we adorned the pavement we seemly fell into the lap of luxury and were made to feel that our presence was of the upmost importance, each face we encountered was with an eagerness to help, a genuine interest & an ease to communicate, a homely air was given from the moment we checked in along with a firm knowledge that help & information to ease our stay was only a question away & our comfort was their aim.  
 Having arrived around 8am our bags were taken to be stored until our room was ready, we were given complimentary coffee and offered breakfast to start our day, after a long journey we decided on breakfast to gather our thoughts and plan our day ahead….a fabulous choice and a luxuriously pleasing yummy start to our stay… 
 Food is most certainly the way to my heart and The Rubens most certainly had my heart in their hands before 9am with an overwhelming feast… really was as good as it looked…  

 There was something for all tastes.. 

   It really was the best possible start to the day.. 
After breakfast we took a little time to explore the hotel…there was a room for everyone…each caked in beauty and elegance..

 The Library room… 

We sat and watched the world go by with Buckingham Palace Mews right outside the lounge window.. 


After a stroll through the virtually adjoining world famous St James’ park we were phoned by The Rubens to notify us that our room was ready… 

Our room was beautiful… 

   With a complete Royal view 👑

  and the attention to detail made it all the more comfortable… Homemade biscuits! 
 a paper delivered… 

 Fabulous room service…we had afternoon tea and it was exquisite… 

 and even the delivery of a promise of sleep with a turn down service.. 


We explored the hotel a little more lapping up the feel of relaxation bought to us from every direction.. 



Even the toilets were shrouded in elegance.. 


Our visit was a child free treat but it soon became evident to us that  The Rubens really was a haven of treats for children too and a very family friendly hotel with an importance of making the smallest guests feel at home…

The children can get involved in the Little Princes and Princesses Afternoon Tea, with plenty of tasty treats to tuck into! They can even try their hands at a Masterchef Pastry Experience – including the chance to decorate cupcakes with the Rubens chef! 

I couldn’t resist enquiring about a visit with kids and was impressed by the most simplistic of touches..

Children’s evening turndown including a glass of milk and kid’s treat 

Bathrobes and slippers 

Sticker / colouring books  

An interactive child’s map of London where they can tick off all the places they have seen   

Kids movies as well as a Nintendo Wii console and games. But we will never put them in your room without getting your parental permission first 

Children’s books and games available upon request

Check out these cute robes & slippers! 

 and these adorable complimentaries for the smallest guests.. 


We couldn’t resist taking one of the children’s maps on our day out 😊 

 Our stay at The Rubens at the Palace was a fabulous time away, luxurious, sumptuous, rejuvenating and a gorgeous treat without the children in tow but also certainly proved to be somewhere that we’d return to with the children. 

As winners and finalists of a family fun award we can firmly say that The Rubens has gone above and beyond for its younger guests….and we didn’t even take the children!!
Our trip was made special by not only the hotel but ultimately the evident heart, care and thought that exuded from all the staff within it, attention to detail was beautiful, cleanliness unquestionable & comfort exceeding our expectations…

The Rubens at the Palace was truly a beautiful and memorable place to stay at. 

For more details please visit their website


  Last week we were lucky enough to be invited by the lovely people over at First Encounters to pop by for one of their amazing 3/4d scans for a beautiful & intimate experience that the whole family could enjoy….we were all going to take a peek at little Ms A, all snuggled up & cosy and baking nicely at 26/27 gestation.
How could we refuse? 

To say we were excited was an understatement, but, having had the confirmation of our scan time we decided to not tell the children until we got there….

With loads of drinks on board to get the best scan views possible and a bag full of sweeties for a sugary fix to get the baby active we set out.

It didn’t take long for the kids to click on to the surprise we had in store 😊

We were greeted at the reception by two ladies who straight away welcomed us and got us settled in….even with 4 children in tow they managed to cater for us all making everyone feel involved, they left mum and dad to fill in a few simple forms whilst talking us through what to expect and the facilities available… 

 all the kids had a cup of tea 😊

and the receptionists took some time to show the kids some scale models of babies.. 

 after completing our forms we were shown into the scanning room which was really comfortable and accommodating for all of us, with ample room and numerous large screens to ensure everyone had a fab view of the baby when scanned.  

 The next twenty minutes were truly amazing as the sonography talked us through everything that she could see to make sure we, and the children, new what we were looking at.. 

 she took the time to stop the live view of baby A to point out her arms, legs, hands, feet, the cord….even the sign that she will have hair when born! 

It was pretty crazy… 

 Everyone was silenced for a few seconds as the sonography made a recording of Baby A’s heartbeat which would later be inserted into a precious keepsake bear to take home and listen to over and over.. 

   At the end of the scan a reassurance report was completed detailing heart beat, weight, length, gender (if required) & movements.

With the scan complete we returned to the waiting room.

In the waiting room we were given a portable DVD player with a DVD of our scan playing, and a bundle of small photographs so we could choose a few of our favourite to place in keepsake key rings.. 
 our package came with the unique Photocloud, you’re provided with your own personal password that enables you to access all your scan photos via the website for a period of one month from your scan date….There are no copyright restrictions to the images within your photocloud™ album, so you may download, print and distribute as you desire.  

 It really was a special experience, our goodies, photos , momentoes/keepsakes were given to us in a pretty gift bag.  

 We were invited to First Encounters for our scan but have been before in previous pregnancies, the Pricing & packages have something to offer for everyone & we would highly recommend a visit for a unique experience to bond with your baby before birth or to introduce your unborn child to siblings… It certainly melts your heart. 

We can’t wait to meet our new bundle in person and we would like to thank First Encounters for being part of such a special introduction to the smallest member of the Family Days clan...

You can find more info on the extremely competitive packages that First Encounters have to offer here

You can also follow them on their Facebook page here for their latest news, offers and competitions. 
Everyone should experience a 4d scan ❤️


IMG_0027.JPGwe headed to the woods for a festive picnic, some cracker hunting, a spot of sprout potting & some whipping up of some reindeer food..
Here’s how we got on…

IMG_0023.JPGwe took with us a few boxes of crackers…

IMG_0024.JPGand a festive tipple! It is Christmas after all..

IMG_0026.JPGwe took with us a cake which we covered with carrots that were to be left for the woodland reindeer to feast on…

IMG_0028.JPGthe kids enjoyed milk and cookies whilst I disappeared to hide the crackers..


IMG_0022.PNGand then they were off!!

IMG_0032.JPGthey had to find four crackers each before returning to the table so everybody got a chance..

IMG_0033.JPGthey all gathered in a pulling frenzy!

IMG_0034.JPGand we read the jokes..

IMG_0035.JPGsome of us wore hats…and others didn’t 🙂

IMG_0037.JPGwe then gathered up our sprouts for a game of sprout potting



IMG_0040.JPGwhich eventually turned into a game of muddy sprout paintball type human target got messy

IMG_0041.JPGand there were casualties 🙂
After our game we calmed down with some sedate reindeer food making..we mixed porridge oats with glitter


IMG_0043.JPGand we popped it all into an air tight container ready to sprinkle Christmas Eve




Our adventure started off with a Gingerbread house kit that we found after halloween in Tesco for £1.50 & a large box we had from the delivery of a new kitchen appliance…
We decorated our gingerbread house during the week and used our box to make a giant gingerbread house..





IMG_4840-0.JPGwith our gingerbread houses, some hot chocolate, sprinkles and cream, we headed to the woods..

IMG_4837.JPGwe whipped up our cream with a splash of green food colouring..

IMG_4838.JPGwe added our sprinkle decorations to our hot chocolate Christmas trees…we used whipped cream that didn’t stand up very well, you could use normal squirty cream for snow covered trees and use sprinkles and strawberry laces for the decorations..

IMG_4832.JPGthey went down a treat..

Noah decided to have his in the gingerbread house..

IMG_4855.JPGat this point the 9 & 10 year old were arguing and bickering and finding fault with each other so much that they were pointed in the direction of the car to watch from afar so that the little ones could enjoy the trip without having focus constantly taken away :-/
So, as the smaller ones enjoyed their drinks I set about hiding hanging chocolate Santas in the trees…

IMG_4835.JPGand they set about finding them..



IMG_4851.JPGwith their Santas found we left them to play and explore whilst us olds drank our hot chocolates 🙂


IMG_4849.JPGthen it was time to dig into our gingerbread house!



IMG_4845.JPGa quick last minute search for any last Santas and once we were happy we’d discovered them all we headed back to the car…

But we missed one which I took just for me 😉



✨Last year we discovered an elf.
We’d headed to the woods to decorate some Christmas hanging biscuits to hang in the trees for the woodland animal to nibble on.
We heard about how Christmas sleigh pulling reindeer practice their flight skills in the woodland in the run up to their big job for Santa on Christmas Eve….they are very elusive but we thought we’d go and see if we could catch a glimpse…
We decorated our biscuitsIMG_4684.JPGand hung them in the trees for the elusive reindeers..

IMG_4685.JPGand although we didn’t catch a glimpse of the Christmas reindeer we did find some sparkly poo which we were convinced was evidence that the reindeer had been there! (I mixed plasterscine with glitter and dropped it whilst the kids weren’t looking..shhhh)

IMG_4680.JPGand then we found her!


IMG_4683.JPGwe reached her down and took her home….we knew nothing about her, where she had come from and what she was doing in the woods…..but we were soon to find out…


IMG_4679.JPGThe next day we visited Santa at Clearwell caves and as we were leaving his grotto we noticed a present under his tree addressed to ‘Mila’ (left there secretly by me!)

IMG_4674.JPGwe took the present home with us and opened it..

IMG_4676.JPGit contained a wishes jar to fill with festive wishes..and a letter from the North Pole explaining that the elf was a Christmas woodland elf and had been in the woods helping the sleigh reindeers practise for Christmas Eve when they got disturbed….The elf had got left behind!


IMG_4673.JPGthe elf would be staying with us until the reindeers returned on Christmas Eve.
We soon found out that the elf was called ELFINA after we awoke one morning to discover she was crafty elf..




IMG_4614.JPGWe arrived home one day to find she had transformed the bathroom into a Christmas grotto!



IMG_4647.JPGshe even turned the breakfast milk into a yummy hot chocolate treat..

IMG_4623-0.JPGwe think they must have been missing her at the North Pole because we stumbled upon a ‘LOST’ poster whilst we were out walking..

IMG_4625.JPGand then one night a very interesting thing appeared under the Christmas tree! It was a North Portal…

IMG_4627.JPGit turned out that the portal was a direct link of communication between the North Pole & Elfina..

IMG_4643.JPGwe awoke one morning to find the beacon of light inside…a light to guide Santa to Elfina on Christmas Eve and take her home..

IMG_4628.JPGElfina made herself at home in the meantime..


IMG_4629.JPGshe even issued he kids with a behavioural notice one morning

IMG_4621.JPGand gave them a warning that they may get coal…..which they did

IMG_4622.JPGwe found her at the beach one day with a thinking bottle for us..(This was on the anniversary of the death of a sibling)


IMG_4672.JPGand we found her on Milas coat peg at school!

IMG_4633.JPGshe had lots of festive fun with us and was quite pesky but lovable



IMG_4632.JPGshe even got others involved in her peskiness…

IMG_4620.JPGwe woke up Christmas Day to discover Elfina and had gone and only the Portal remained…but she had left us a very special package


But it wasn’t the last we saw of Elfina, she regularly pops back during the year, appearing and disappearing in the blink of an eye…she came at Easter..




IMG_4687-0.JPGshe visited whilst I was in hospital


IMG_4613.JPGand she pops back leaving presents every now and them…she left ballet shoes

IMG_4688.JPGone night she even appeared with a pack of cards from the North Pole with Milas design on it! (I photocopied a drawing she had made after she went to bed)

IMG_4604.JPGshe fleets in and out of our home..
✨We woke up today and she was perched on a tree in the garden which was full of Ferrero Rocher!

IMG_4669.JPG✨💖🎄❄️It’s lovely having Elfina around…
✨You can follow more of her adventures & antics with us along with bucket loads of childhood magic on facebook…please come and see us!


So we made a list and we checked it twice! Here’s our list of 101 frugal or free, magical memory making Christmas ideas as put together by our followers!! Well done to everyone who contributed with ideas…










We hope you like our list! Please share it if you have found it helpful…

You can find more magical ideas to keep the kids entertained & ensure their childhoods are full of magical memories that don’t cost the world and last a lifetime at FAMILY DAYS TRIED & TESTED


IMG_4458.JPG We headed to the beautiful Castell Coch in South Wales. An enchanting Cadw fairytale castle nestled in ancient hillside woodland, this was the perfect setting for us to do some dragon hunting.
When we arrived we were greeted by the most magical castle ever, beautifully exuding under a blue dappled sky…

We checked out the castle, walking around it and exploring the moat before heading in..

Inside was magical..




IMG_4448.JPGWe came across a magical wand and witch hat! We’d heard about the dragons that roam in the woodland surrounding the castle and the magic cast to turn the fire breathing ones to wood…we thought we could use the wand and hat to head out into the wood to cast protecting spells within the autumnal trees…

IMG_4446.JPGso we finished exploring the castle..




<img src="https://familydaystriedandted we caste a spell within the castle walls to keep it safe in our absence

IMG_4472.JPGand cast a spell over the castle as we left.

IMG_4473.JPGthe woodland was beautiful and basked in Autumn sun as we headed in search of dragons…

IMG_4462-0.JPGwe came across a sign on a tree as we went further into the trees..

IMG_4502.JPGand we found a magical leaf floating in the air….it was caught in a spiders web thread but was high enough for the kids not to see….. It floated on the enchantment that filled the air…

IMG_4464.JPGwe thought we may be getting closer to the dragons lair as we caught lots of dragons breath prickles on our clothes as we walked through the trees…if a dragon breathes fire within an enchanted wood it turns to prickle balls that fall to the ground and prevent the dragon from landing….this deters fire breathing dragons.

IMG_4463.JPGbut it did not deter us..

IMG_4466.JPGwe explored some more and were brave..there was plenty of evidence of dragon battles with trees pushed from the ground.


IMG_4468.JPGand then right there on the woodland floor we discovered a dragons egg!! Right at our feet..

IMG_4501.JPGwe decided to take it with us as we didn’t want a baby dragon roaming in the woodland! Imagine what could happen should it hatch and it be an inexperienced fire breathing dragon?! ….we took it for the safety of the castle.
It was glistening and rather beautiful.

IMG_4506.JPGwe abandoned our search for the wooden dragon after deciding our best option was to head back to the castle as the sun started to descend as we didn’t want to get caught in the woodland under the cover of darkness.
We arrived back to find the castle covered in shadow..

IMG_4441.JPGwe cast one last spell over the castle to restore light and left our wand and the dragons egg at the castle door before we left…

IMG_4460-0.JPGour visit to Castell Coch was truly magical…

There is a wooden dragon sculpture on the trail at Castell Coch but we arrived late in the day and never made it to the Dragon once we’d stumbled on the eggs and the day started to disappear…we will return another day bid to find it. But here’s proof that it’s there..


We are very lucky to be Family Faces for CADW which enable us free entrance to their sites. Please check their webpage for more detailed information regarding opening times and admission fees.
The woods surrounding Castell Coch are free to roam with only a small car parking charge required.


IMG_3897.JPGone of our favourite things to do on a frosty morning is freeze bubbles!! Blowing them on cold mornings onto frosty grass results in them freezing into beautiful and delicate icy bubbles which shatter at a touch..

But we didn’t want to wait until the arrival of the cold mornings so we did it in the warmth of the house in the freezer!!
We’d tried before and failed & then found a way of doing it…a simple secret to frozen bubbles without leaving the kitchen…

Here’s how our bubbles turned out..

We blew the bubbles in until we got some that settled

IMG_3900.JPGand slowly they froze..

IMG_3898.JPGas we left the freezer door open some of them slowly melted making the spheres mishape and collapse..



IMG_3902.JPGand when we shut the door for a few minutes the bubbles froze solid and shattered when disturbed..



But what was the secret?…….small bubbles!! We used little packs of small party favour bubbles and it worked perfectly…


You can follow more of our daily magical memory making activities and adventures during a childhood that’s fleeting on Facebook..join the fun…


You gotta love Frozen! Full of magic & enchantment & a lovely film, the kids would watch it on a loop if they could.. But what if you could recreate that magic in the real world?
That’s exactly what we did!!
We found the ideal place in Snowdonia national park for an enchanting walk to the valley of the living rocks on an adventure in search of rock trolls….

Our walk took place at a place called ‘Torrent walk’ in a fantastic valley carved out by the ice age, with rock trolls galore…
Our walk was approx 2.5 miles / 4km
and took us a leisurely 1.5 hours, the path was unsuitable for pushchairs/wheelchairs and quite steep in places and could get quite muddy in wet weather.
Start / Finish: A lay-by near the village of Brithdir on the B4416 (SH 761 182)
Relevant Map: Ordnance Survey Explorer OL 23 (Cadair Idris and Llyn Tegid)
From Dolgellau, follow the A470 southbound. After around two miles, turn left towards Brithdir (B4416) and over a small bridge (Pont ar Ddibyn). In around 200m you will come to a lay-by on the left with a waymarker marking the path, this is where we started and finished our walk.

Here’s how our magical real life Frozen adventure went…

IMG_8530.JPGwe started in the lay by heading down into the trees following the arrows towards the valley…

IMG_8528.JPGit wasn’t long before we started spotting signs of rock trolls..

IMG_8529.JPGwe took time to explore in the trees and sat quietly to watch for any rock movements..



IMG_8526.JPGthe trees got taller as we headed down into the valley and the abundance of rocks grew…we sang Frozen songs along the way…




IMG_8521.JPGthere was lots of evidence of fairies too..



IMG_8519.JPGwe walked following the path stopping to inspect rocks as we went until we came to an old mill at the bottom of the valley, here we walked over a small bridge to cross the river before heading back up the valley along the other side of the river….here our adventure really started to come to life…


IMG_8516.JPGwe headed through the gateway entrance to the valley of the living rocks…

IMG_8515.JPGwe were greeted by a magical world of rock trolls nestled along the banks of the river..

IMG_8514.JPGand we made ourselves at home dancing and singing and stopping as we walked along to quickly look back for movements…



We stayed a while before saying goodbye to our new friends 😉

We followed the magical path of our make believe Frozen set back to the car with a promise to return on a proper frozen & snowy winters day 🙂




We headed to the beach for a magical adventure searching for lost mermaid jewels..
Before we went I had been given some decorative plastic diamonds which can be bought in home ware stores or eBay. I placed them secretively in rock pools & wrote a message on a rock for the kids to find…

I wrote a message on a rock when the kids weren’t looking to install a magical element of mermaids…

IMG_8457.JPGThe kids then scoured through rock pools..

IMG_8461.JPGand then the first jewel was found..


IMG_8460.JPGfollowed by the discovery of a mermaid sponge made out of rock..

IMG_8456.JPGthey looked to the sea in the hope of a glimpse of mermaids playing in the waves and we’re sure we saw the tail of one disappearing beneath the rolling waves!

IMG_8454.JPGNoah even spent some time calling out to them..

IMG_8453.JPGthen we found some more! 5 altogether!!

IMG_8459.JPGour loot bag was full of shells, pebbles, driftwood & diamonds!

And then the most amazing and unbelievable thing happened which threw me….one of the children came to me with a jewel they had found but this time it was not a jewel I had secretly dropped!! On the vast stretch of beach whilst searching for mermaid jewels the children had ironically and crazily stumbled upon a diamond amongst the rocks that I definitely had not placed!! A million to one chance finding of a truly magical gem 🙂
(Not sure if it’s real but the magic most certainly is & maybe it’s just a case of believing!)