Santa at Ruxley Manor

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Yeah, yeah I know it’s only September BUT if you want to take your child to see Santa and you want it to be worth it, then you gotta get in quick…seriously all the December weekends at Ruxley Manor are already gone!

Anyway, last Christmas, Small Monkey was two and a half and showing an interest in Santa. Wooo…exciting!! The two years before that I just took him up to Winter Wonderland. It’s free, and he wasn’t getting the whole “Santa” thing anyway, but unless you get in early there can be a lot of queuing and it’s fairly rushed, I still have some cute pics though. So yeah, he was finally interested so I thought, now lads, now the fun begins and true effort is required. I tried booking Selfridges and Hamleys, granted it was October I think, so my efforts were futile. So in the end I was saved by another Mother (anuvva Muvva..hee hee) on a Netmums chat…mmm…could’ve been good old Facebook either though and heard about Ruxley Manor Garden Centre.

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From Waterloo, it’s about 55mins by car, or 1hr 20mins by public transport, which is a pain but it really didn’t seem that long. You will need to sign up online to book an allocated slot, adults are £4 each, Small Monkey’s age is £10, and the visit lasts about 45mins. Obviously, with it being a garden centre, there are fabulous Christmas grottos and displays everywhere. The miniature railway set up is just beautiful to look at, so do go and have a nose around. Oooh and they have their own resident reindeer!

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Now the fun stuff! I really wasn’t sure what I was expecting for £10, I thought “ah he’ll get a nice picture with Santa and some little knick knack at least” but both myself and hubby thought the time to get there and the £20 (for all of us) was well spent. At the entrance to the grotto we were greeted by an Elf and given the first stamp in our  “grotto passports”. After a short wait our group (it wasn’t a big group, just the right amount of people) was led through the magical doors to Santa’s grotto by……MRS CLAUS!!! Yep straight into her cosy, log cabin kitchen, where, accompanied by elves, all the children were sat down to make their very own magical reindeer feed. There was also a Jingle Bell sing-a-long where instruments were handed out, annd of course, you got your passport stamped. Well I dunno about anyone else, but I was delighted and my Monkey looked like he was enjoying himself too. Now there is a little bit of time at the end, if people get their acts together, where you can get a cheeky pic with Mrs Claus. They are quite happy to take pics but you are on a tour and you don’t want to get left behind.160911124446_wm

Through the next door, we are met by another group of extremely happy elves and we’re all asked to take a seat at the wooden tables. We were then told the story of “the Night before Christmas”. Like I said, I hadn’t a clue really what I paid for but the elves then started handing out little pouches and boxes of markers and crayons. The Monkey would be making his very own Christmas bauble. The also handed out some extra pictures for the kids to colour in too. Ah shur it was great, the elves bopped about here and there spreading Christmas cheer and stamping passports. I mean just look at his bauble…my child is an artiste! He coloured that in himself, we never touched it….yep…I am extremely proud of that bauble lads! We then gathered by the doors to meet the Big Man himself.

We were led into a room with a bench all around the edge and lots of cushions on the floor for the kiddies to sit on. Aaah, you’d want to hear the oohs and aaahs when the kids discovered who was asleep by the fireplace. Their little faces were something else lads seriously. You can’t put a price on that. Santa had a little chat with the crowd, answering questions, asking questions, you know the usual “have you been good and make sure you be good, don’t forget to put the reindeer food out and a bikkie for him” kinda thing. Of course as the kids had been so good he decided to give them all a present and OMG, the presents only came down the chimney!!! Delira!! Each child was called up individually and given their present. The kids under 3, as Monkey was, got quite a nice Christmas Elf
each but you could tell from the boxes coming down that the older kids got something more exciting, say. (On booking online, you’re asked your child’s sex and age, so the present given is suitable, which is lovely). It was so lovely seeing my little man go up to get his pressie from Santa…I think my eyes were wet. As the present giving was wrapped up…heh heh…do ya see what I did there?..the elves came back to help each child or family have their picture with Santa, stamp passports….annnd all the parents were given a BABY CHRISTMAS TREE EACH!!! We got a lovely picture in the end even though our original take got mislaid…on leaving Santa to collect our photo it gets a bit crazy. We actually got to meet Santa again as our picture had to be re-taken.

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Once the tour was done, we had a wander back to the reindeer, took in the fabulous light displays and thanked God we don’t live in an actual house with free reign outside. Have ye seen “Deck the Halls”?? I was really good too and only bought a snowman to go on my fireplace. We also spent ages looking at the miniature railway and Christmas town display…I dunno what happened to my pics of that but it was beautiful.

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So there ye go guys, if you’re in the southeast London area, I’d highly recommend Ruxley Manor to visit Santa. We really enjoyed it and look forward to going again this year.

Love Donna x

 

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A Caring Crimbo!

151216012232Every year I try to do a little something for a charity, it helps them and yes, it makes me feel good too. I don’t just do it to feel good, I do it because everybody needs help sometimes, and I could be one of those “sometimes” sometime (hopefully not but you never know what’s around the corner). It has become a little bit harder asking people for sponsorship though, as everybody is finding it a little bit harder now and with Small Monkey it’s a little harder to take part in hikes and races and such. So to combat this I’ve started a new Christmas tradition (there’ll be a post to follow on this too) for us as a family….The Christmas Shoebox…or Gift Bags in our case.

I chose the following charities as they are more local to me and I think the charities at home are often slightly overlooked. Don’t get me wrong, I know their are people suffering all over the world but sometimes charity does begin at home. (You can click on the headers and highlights for links to the charity’s page or site. The * beside each will bring you to an Irish equivalent if possible. Please also make sure that if you donate, it is to a legitimate charity.)

Project Shoebox. *

This brilliant charity takes your unused toiletries & cosmetics and distributes them to women and families in domestic violence refuges across the UK. I liked this because the charity is happy to take what you have lurking about in your bathroom cupboard, in fact they suggest you have a clear out, so you don’t have to spend loads buying stuff to put in, ‘cos that can really add up. I had loads of nail varnishes and lotions and potions I haven’t seen since four Christmas’ ago that now have a happy new home. I also included some light hearted books I’d finished reading and some tops I no longer wear but that are in good condition. I did buy a few bits & pieces and a couple of Christmassy bits to pop in the boxes too though. To finish it off I covered the shoeboxes in Christmas paper and included a little Christmas card. Small Monkey enjoyed helping me put the little bits in the boxes, even if we did fall out a few times over whether or not the sweets were his.

The charity has finished its collections now for this year but keep them in mind for next year, and as they point out…refuges are open all year round, crying out for extra supplies.

Waterloo Foodbank. * *

I contacted the Foodbank after they replied to my post on a local FB page regarding local charities that would accept USED kids toys. Unfortunately, it seems most places will only take brand new boxed toys, which a) I couldn’t afford to buy new toys and b) it wasn’t solving my problem of Small Monkey’s excess of toys and books he doesn’t touch any more. The Foodbank, as the name suggests, deals mainly in supplying 3 day food parcels for local people in crisis. I watched a program earlier in the year that showed a lot of parents skip meals every day to feed their kids as everything else had to go on the rent and bills. For me, what made it hit home more was that a lot of the people shown were people just like hubby and me, working every day. I’m not knocking people on benefits and such, I just think it’s a little sadder to know that people in employment aren’t even earning enough to eat! Anywho…after drifting a little there, Waterloo Foodbank was happy to accept our donation of Christmas bags of toys and books for kids. After going through all of Small Monkey’s books and toys we had enough to do four bags for 1.5-2yr olds. Again, I did buy a couple of Christmassy extras to put in the bags; the chocolate Santas, malteaser drinks, chocolate coins, tooth paste, tooth brushes and the Christmas activity packs, which came to about £10 in total. 151216012859A couple of friends also contributed, S with the pjs and Big E with some extra lovely Ella’s Kitchen nibbles you don’t see in the pics. Everything else you see there is from our kitchen or Monkey’s toy box. Again Small Monkey wasn’t overly impressed when he noticed the toys were his, but he’s kinda learning to share so it was educational for him. 😀 151216013021 If you do happen to notice a toy you have gifted my little man, please know it was appreciated and he did play with once but not any longer. These toys are going to good homes and will make another child smile. So before you throw out the old toys ask your local foodbank or refuge if they would accept them. There’s a list of local shelters here.

Big House. *

I learned about Big House through them being customers in my day job…by night I’m a superhero…obviously! Big House is a charity which specialises in providing sheltered accommodation for ex-servicemen from the BAF. It is funded by the Royal British Legion. I got chatting to the house manager, asking if they had families, what they did for Christmas, etc. He told me last year our local M&S supplied the food for their Christmas dinner but they don’t really have family so don’t have a celebration like us or presents and such. I told him about my Christmas “giving” idea and asked what I could do personally to help, he told me they can never have enough socks and pants! 😀 There’s 11 guys in the house at present, I just couldn’t leave anybody out so along with Big E, we made up a Christmas Gift bag each. 151216013707They included a thermal hat or gloves each, a Christmas themed (of course) pair of socks and boxers, some Christmas themed sweeties and a hot choc each. I don’t know if I ever seen anybody so delighted as the house manager when I dropped them off and they weren’t even for him.151216013126

So there you go, a few local charities that you could help out if you wish. It doesn’t have to be just for Christmas, these charities will accept help all year round. Sometimes it doesn’t even have to be a material or monetary donation, it could just be your time. Alot of charities look for volunteers, such as Homeless UK, some charities just ask for your ears like Age UK with its telephone befriending service. Bisto, yes the gravy people are running Spare Chair Sunday, where you offer up a spare chair for your Sunday roast to an elderly person who would normally eat alone. Maybe all you can do is check in on your elderly neighbour next door, go and sit with them for an hour, or maybe the single parent down the street needs an ear….Charity can be so much more than a donation of money and material things, it can be a donation of you, your human touch.

So off ya go now…take leaf from Wizzard‘s book…go check on that grumpy auld lad next door, maybe he’s just lonely…”why don’t you give your love for Christmas?”

Merry Christmas

Love

Donna xx