Creating a Santa’s Grotto playhouse

My kids love playhouses, and we have almost always had the plastic versions – they are fairly cheap, they last pretty well and they are easy to pout together. But let’s be honest here, they don’t really compare to the gorgeous wooden versions that you see, and that I have lusted over for years. A couple of weeks ago we were sent a rather gorgeous Bunny Playhouse from Garden Buildings Direct, and with Christmas now less than a month away (how is that even possible?!) we set about creating our very own Santa’s Grotto in the garden.

First things first – you might be like me, and terrified that building one of these wooden playhouses requires a degree in carpentry and a shed full of power tools. Thankfully, you would be wrong. I won’t pretend it’s the easiest thing in the world, but if you have ever managed a piece of flat pack furniture then you should be able to build one of these without too much stress. It’s worth roping in a couple of helpers to hold pieces in position and pass you screws and nails as you go along.

Redshed playhouse

Redshed playhouse

Probably the trickiest part of the build is securing the roof felt – it’s not really hard, but is a little fiddly. It’s well worth the effort though, as you end up with this:

Redshed playhouse

Redshed playhouse

The kids wasted no time in filling the playhouse with cushions, mats and toys to make it a bit more homely, while Kevin and I stood back and admired the beautiful finish, the cute stable door and the picket fence which just finished it all off. 

But with Christmas looming, we knew the children were desperate to transform their already lovely playhouse into a special Santa’s Grotto ready for all the festive fun and play to come. To do this, we used Christmas decorations, gift boxes, a Santa door cover and a spot of tinsel – things most of us already have at home, so you don’t need to go out and spend a fortune!

Redshed playhouse

Redshed playhouse

It was really super simple, and took about half an hour to complete, but I think it’s really effective – do you?

We have felt icicles and the Christmas tree star on the roof, the wreath on the door, snowflake tree decorations on the windows and fence and the Santa door cover pinned to the back wall. Inside became a cosy grotto, with a green felt carpet, plenty of cushions and some tinsel wrapped gift boxes all ready for those on the good list!

Redshed playhouse

Redshed playhouse


I think the kids faces say it all. Santa’s Grotto is a hit, and I have barely seen the children since we made it – they are always in it! Max comes home from nursery, fetches his wellies and stands by the door saying ‘side mummy, side’ (outside to you and me), and Gemma and Jacob are out there as soon as they get back from school. 

It’s a gorgeous playhouse, and we had heaps of fun creating a Santa’s Grotto. Think we might decorate it for a few other seasons too – Easter hideaway or summer beach hut anyone?

10 annoying things toddlers do

If you have a toddler, then you probably find a lot of the things they do hugely frustrating. Don’t get me wrong, I love my toddler dearly, but there are some things he does, day in day out, that drive me up the wall. Can you relate to any of these?

  1. Pulls all the wipes out of the packet and leaves them lying around on the floor, so that when anyone walks across the carpet they get wet socks.
  2. Puts everything in the bin – rubbish, remote controls, toys, books, socks. If you can’t find something, you then have to dig through the bin just to check that Max hasn’t thrown it away.
  3. Takes all the phone chargers out of the drawer and drags them around the house. When we want to charge a phone, we can never find the charger and always end up checking the bin….
  4. Takes all the apples and oranges out of the fruit bowl, takes a bite out of each one and then puts them back – and yes, he does bite through the orange skin. When anyone wants a piece of fruit, you can’t find one without teeth marks in, and the older children then won’t eat them.
  5. Has an obsession with the toilet roll holder. Takes all the toilet rolls off, unravels them and leaves them all over the bathroom and bedroom floors, and then runs off with the holder. 
  6. Throws all the food out of the trolley when we go shopping. It doesn’t matter what it is, it goes. Eggs, glass jars, fizzy drinks – he doesn’t discriminate. We usually come home with half the things we need, and those we do have are battered, broken or fit to explode.
  7. Sneaks off with my mobile and changes all the settings. My apps get moved around, he texts strings of random numbers and letters to anyone in my address book, ans he changes my ring tone, so when someone rings me I don’t realise it’s my phone until it’s too late. Oh, and he puts it in the bin too.
  8. Turns the answer phone off on the landline, so no one can leave a message, and no one can ever ring me on my mobile because I don’t recognise the ring tone, or it’s in the bin. With the house phone.
  9. Says ‘bye’ to anyone who comes to the door, and tries to shut the door on them. This is great when it’s a cold caller, but not so great when it’s my mum or the postman trying to deliver a parcel.
  10. Points at everything and says ‘what’s that?’. A hundred times a day. Even when you have told him what it is and he has repeated you – 2 minutes later he asks what it is. 

Annoying toddler habits

Yes, he drives me potty but I wouldn’t have him any other way. He makes every day that little bit more interesting – you never know what you will find in the bin, or where to find a toilet roll when you need one.

Does your toddler have any annoying habits?

Tried & Tested Tuesday

Welcome to Tried & Tested Tuesday! It means such a lot to us to have so many lovely people who join us almost every single week and, alongside those, new faces linking up.  One of the things we love most is how many different people with such very different blogs link up, meaning we are introduced to a fabulous variety of different products, days out and anything else that pops up!  We do our best to visit you all each week, but of course we can’t promise to get round everyone especially as the linky gets more and more popular! – Apologies to those of you we didn’t get to last week – one of us has still been poorly and the other has been desperately trying to maintain some semblance of normality through the building work!

 If you’re new to this linky then welcome along! You can find out more about it and how to join in here. If you’re a regular then welcome to you too! Crack on, link up and share some commenty love – lets face it, that’s what makes linkys work.

Each week, as you know, we like to feature two of our favourite reviews from the previous week.

This week we have loved:

Tried & Tested featured blogger - Ghostwriter Mummy

Frugi Explorer coat from Ghostwriter Mummy – We are both big fans of Frugi already and this coat is packed with features, we’re especially impressed with the reflective stars now that the nights are darker!


The Christmas Boutique from Rambling Through Parenthood – who doesn’t love a good selection of Christmas decorations? We loved that these were a bit different too.

 If you link up please do make sure you visit your hosts Family Fever and We’re going on an adventure to leave a comment as well as a couple of others if you can – we know that people really, really appreciate the feedback! We do ask that you link a maximum of 2 posts each week to keep things fair for everyone – if you choose to link up an extra post please make sure you visit extra posts in the linky to balance it out.  (Additional posts will be deleted out of fairness). We do our best to visit each post and leave a comment, as well as tweeting from @FamilyFever and @Lollinski but as we’ve mentioned we can’t promise to get round everyone every week. We would love it if you grabbed our badge and popped it on your post too!

Family Fever


Penguins of Madagascar giveaway

Penguins of Madagascar

Anyone who enjoyed the Madagascar films will know all about the famous Penguins of Madagascar. These cunning little critters now have their very own film, set immediately after the events of Madagascar 3 – and I have to say, it looks fantastic!

‘’Discover the secrets of the greatest and most hilarious covert birds in the global espionage biz: Skipper, Kowalski, Rico and Private. These elitists of the elite are joining forces with a chic undercover organisation, The North Wind, led by handsome and husky Agent Classified (we could tell you his name, but then…you know). Together they must stop the villainous Dr. Octavius Brine from destroying the world as we know it.

Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, John Malkovich, Ken Jeong, Chris Miller, John DiMaggio, Christopher Knights and Tom McGrath’’

To celebrate the release of Penguins of Madagascar, released on December 5th, I have a great giveaway for you. 3 lucky winners will get their hands on one of these bundles of Penguins merchandise. To enter, simply follow the instructions on the rafflecopter form below.

Penguins of Madagascar

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Terms and conditions. Open to UK residents, competition closes 8/12/14. Winners will be randomly selected from all correctly completed entires and contacted by email. Winners must claim their prize within 10 days or it may be redrawn. Win competitions at 

Christmas gift guide: his and hers

Buying Christmas presents for children is usually fairly easy – they write a list, you pick some stuff from it, and away you go. If you’re stuck for ideas, you can simply watch some adverts, read some blog reviews or check out Christmas gift guides.

But buying for adults is a whole different ball game. I find it really hard to know what to buy for my husband, my mum and dad, and my sisters – to be honest they already have most things that they want, and when asked for ideas come out with the usual ‘I don’t mind’, or ‘Nothing really’. Not very helpful! So I have put together a few ideas for the grown ups in your life, a few things that you might not have considered but that might just be perfect for Christmas gifts this year.


Check out Shade Station for watches, sunglasses and jewellery. I particularly love this purple Superdry watch that I have been trying out. The soft leather strap is flexible, gentle and very easy to adjust. I often struggle to get watches with leather straps that will fit me, as I have very small wrists, but this one fits beautifully, and still has one more hold left to tighten if needed. The large face makes it easy to glance at the time, and the colour is something a bit different – I really love it and would be over the moon to unwrap something like this come Christmas morning.

I also love their mens watch range. This Calvin Klein design caught my eye when I was browsing – I think Kevin would really like this one!



If you have a jewellery lover to buy for, then I love the look of these personalised pastel stretch bracelets from Not on the High Street. You can choose the colour, the shape of the bead and what is engraved on it, and I think it is a beautiful alternative to traditional metal jewellery – soft, delicate and ever so pretty.


For those cold winter mornings, a scarf from would make a fantastic gift. They have a huge range of tartan scarves, as well as other accessories for all the family. I especially like this Heritage of Tartan scarf, and with a price tag of just £12 it’s a Christmas bargain! 


They also have a great range of products for the man in your life – I am loving these tartan cufflinks – a nice, subtle touch of tartan to brighten up any suit!


I cannot get enough of fruity scented products, and so I would love to receive something like this Glazed Apple tin of treasures from The Body Shop. It comes presented in a gorgeous gift box, and includes body butter, body polish, shower gel, body lotion and a bath lily – perfect for a bit of pampering on those dark winter nights!

For the men in your life, you can also find some great products in the pampering aisles.  I love, love, love the Dolce & Gabbana ‘the one’ scent, and actually bought this for Kevin last year. This gift set might well find its way into his Christmas stocking again this year!

dandgIf you have a man who likes to look good as well as smell good, then how about this Braun Cruzer Body shaver? Ideal for body hair removal, and with wet and dry technology that means it can be used in the shower too, this is a perfect present for any image conscious men out there.





Project 365, days 320 – 326

Another weekend has rolled around, and that means it’s time for another Project 365 round up. This week has been a fairly quiet, everyday one but we have still captured some nice memories.



365 nov 22



Day 320 – We haven been busy building our new wooden playhouse today. It’s fantastic, and we love it. Review coming shortly.

Day 321 – Trying out the new Ella’s Kitchen snacks – think he approved!

Day 322 – I went to a Hotter event tonight at a local store. It was a great evening, and I came away with a fantastic new pair of winter boots.

Day 323 – Jacob loves football, but he hasn’t been to the after school football club for a while, for one reason or another. It was really nice to see him back playing tonight, and he scored 10 goals!

Day 324 – My kids were a bit loopy tonight, and spent ages giving each other ‘horse rides’ around the living room.

Day 325 – Max has just discovered how to mark make on paper, and has been enjoying the chunky, stackable crayons.

Day 326 – This one is a cheeky monkey this morning! 

TheBoyandMe's 365 Linky