Lapland – my once in a lifetime!

Around the Apukka Resort – Rovaniemi

Anyone that knows me, knows that taking the boys to Lapland was literally my ultimate lifetime goal! I’m obsessed with anything Christmas and the magic of Lapland was something I dreamt about us experiencing together.

Last year I sat down and wrote out my life goals, Lapland of course was on there as a once in a lifetime trip (lets face it, it’s not cheap). I became consumed with research, research, research, determined to find a way to afford the trip of our dreams! I mean as I have already said, this was a once in a lifetime trip for us and I wanted everything to be exactly as I wanted, even if it made the experience even more expensive. I knew I wanted to take the boys whilst they were young enough that they still fully believed in the the man in red, so I decided that 2020 was the best year so not to interrupt with schooling too much.

I started looking at packages to go for December 2020, with the intention of putting a deposit down in December 2019. I knew I wanted to meet Santa, to stay in a glass roof cabin near a lake (with the best chances of seeing the Northern Lights), to go snowmobiling, Husky sledding and on a Reindeer sleigh ride. The quotes I received were in the region of £6000+. There was no way I could afford that and I wasn’t prepared to let go of anything on my list, if I was spending thousands it had to be perfect. I had joined a Lapland holidays Facebook group and had seen a few people talking about going DIY (removing the travel agencies and building the package yourself, albeit stressful but definitely doable).

With my attentions turned to DIY I spent weeks scrolling the internet, looking at different sites to book flights, accommodation, transfers and excursions. I managed to get the price down to around £4500 for December 2020. I sat down to work out money and affordability, as I still had to think of clothing and spending money. I then returned to the Facebook group for other money saving tips to see if there was anyway I could reduce the cost further, it was then I saw some conversations about last minute bookings for January 2020 . This got me thinking, I returned to google to search last minute, DIY deals. This was it, I managed to reduce my entire trip to half the price I was originally quoted:

  • I booked flights with easyJet leaving 12th January, returning 15th January 2020 for £668.90 (this included £7.50 bistro vouchers each on both flights, selected seats and 2 x 15kg hold luggage).
  • Our flight going left at 6:30 am, so with living approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes away from the airport I decided it made sense to stay at Gatwick the night before. For parking at the airport and a nights stay at the Airport Inn Gatwick, it cost £76.50 (+ £7 payable at the hotel for their overnight parking).
  • I used Expedia (think Nectar points and Expedia points) to book the accommodation. We got three nights at the Apukka Resort in one of their glass roof Aurora Cabins for £900.97 including breakfast. I also paid the hotel 60 Euros directly for transfers to and from the Airport.
  • I bought all of our thermal tops, leggings and socks and snowsuits, gloves and boots from Mountain Warehouse during a massive Black Friday sale. With everything half price or more I got everything we needed for £289.11!

I booked all of our excursions through TripAdvisor (I’ll tell you more about them below and obviously prices change regularly):

I had heard that Finland is expensive (which it is. 5.50 Euros for a 500ml bottle of Pepsi!), so for the four days I took 600 Euros. But because our excursions all included food and drinks, and our hotel included breakfast, I actually came home with 330 Euros! So including Diesel and the Dartford tunnel crossing the trip all in cost less than £3000.

Aurora Hunt, Barbeque and Photos

Photo taken by Alex at Record Travel

This was our first excursion, as we landed in Rovaniemi around lunchtime, I booked this for our first night. From start to finish the guide Alex was amazing! He made such an effort with my boys to make it really fun for them and to ensure they enjoyed it too, which they really did! Alex and his team picked us up from our hotel and took us out to a lake with other tourists. They had a fire in a wooden Kota going to keep us warm, which is also where they barbequed our sausages and served us the famous hot berry drink! They explained the phenomenon that is the Northern Lights and went around taking photos of us throughout the evening. Unfortunately we didn’t see the lights, not that night or for the rest of our trip, but hey that’s just an excuse to go back. We did get some lovely photos of us, and I loved watching the boys speak to and learn about different cultures. Lapland is unlike any other place I have visited in terms of mixed nationalities of tourists. On every excursion we met so many different people from different places all around the world, it was fantastic!

Happy Trail morning Husky Safari

I booked this in for our first full day there as I thought the boys would still be tired from the day before travelling and the late night Aurora hunt. We got picked up from our hotel along with other tourists around Rovaniemi and taken to the Bearhill Husky farm. Like on the Aurora hunt the staff were amazing with the boys, so patient with us taking our time getting changed into their suits, and Tommy being a pickle of wearing something that wasn’t his. Once suited up we got onto a sleigh and enjoyed roughly 45 minutes on a sled pulled by a beautiful team of their dogs. As the dogs started pulling Tommy looked round at me with pure joy, love and wonder mixed into one, and all I could hear was Noah repeatedly saying ‘I love it’. They stopped half way to allow for photos and the views were literally incredible. After the Husky ride, we were taken into another Kota to warm up around a fire, given gingerbread biscuits, sausages and more hot berry juice! Finally we were taken back to our hotel to rest.

Arctic Delight – Visit to Santa’s Village and Snowmobiling to Reindeer farm

I booked this excursion for our last full day as this was the excursion with the most going on. It started by us being picked up from our hotel in the morning and taken to the Safartica office in the city centre, there we met others on our excursion and were taken to The Santa Claus Village. We had a few hours there to look around, we started off by seeing Santa and having our picture and video taken with him. After that we took a stroll around, played in a park and picked up some souvenirs. We met back up with our guide Rachel and the rest of our group for lunch and was taken to a hotel in the village for a buffet (included in the tour price). After lunch we were picked up and driven to another office where they keep their snowmobiles. From there we were suited up, the boys then got on a sleigh pulled by a guide and I got on the back of a snowmobile with another tourist driving. Half way we stopped (the scenery was breathtaking) and we took photos and then switched drivers, driving that snowmobile was definitely the highlight of my trip and a memory that I will cherish, it was AMAZING! The boys clearly loved it too as I was told by another in the group that they could hear both boys in the back of the sleigh shouting ‘Go faster!’. We then continued onto the Reindeer farm where we were taken into a Kota for a traditional arctic crossing ceremony. After, we were taken on a sleigh pulled by a Reindeer and had the opportunity to take pictures before being taken inside for a fire, cinnamon rolls and (you guessed it) more hot berry juice. We received our Reindeer driving licenses (which apparently expire after five years) and were told more about Lapland and Reindeers. Finally we drove the snowmobiles back to the office (I drove all the way as the woman I was with said I was the better driver) and we got changed, to then be taken back to their main office to receive our arctic crossing certificates and be taken back to our hotel. Rachel was also fantastic and Tommy fell in love with her! Such friendly people out there.

This trip taught me a number of things:

  1. My children obviously only get on my nerves, everyone kept telling me how amazing they were and well behaved, so I must be doing something right.
  2. I’m seriously lucky to have such awesome little dudes, they literally loved every second of it and didn’t complain once. I did worry they might find it a bit much being so young still, but they were fantastic and would have stayed outside in the snow all day if I’d have let them. I realise taking a 3 and 4 year old might not work for every family, a lot of children would have moaned, but my little troopers made the most of it and didn’t waste a second of fun.
  3. I worried about the flight for no reason, again they were as good as gold.
  4. I’ve realised how important it is and how much I want to travel with the boys so they can experience different cultures.
  5. It was worth every single penny! We have come home with the most amazing memories and photos that we will cherish forever.

The only thing I got wrong was thinking this was ever going to be a once in a lifetime trip, TAKE ME BACK! I literally have fallen in love this year, and it was with that magical place. We can’t wait to go back, obviously we need to renew our Reindeer driving licences as well!

2020 ‘Exploring world celebrations’ challenge

2020 ‘Exploring world celebrations’ challenge

Last year me and my two done #adayoutamonth challenge and made some amazing memories. This year I want the boys to learn more about the world, to encourage them to be understanding and opening minded towards other cultures, religions and events around the globe. We look forward to making decorations and food relating to each festivity and we really hope many of you join us, don’t forget to hashtag #exploringworldcelebrations on your Facebook and Instagram uploads!

Copyright © 2020 All rights reserved Stephanie Brady

Christmas tuff tray

Make use of all the extra packaging we’re all receiving this time of year and set up a lovely Christmas themed tuff tray. The bubble wrap provides lots of fun being popped and can act as ‘ice’. The polystyrene foam shapes are excellent to squish and act as ‘snow’. The tissue paper is also another ‘snow/ice’ substitute and can be scrunched and crunched. The straw can also have multiple purposes, eg. a bed if you chose a nativity scene, Reindeer food, or even a Robin’s nest maybe? I chucked in some other christmas bits including an old wreath, baubles, fake snow balls, an old star tree topper and the boys felt gingerbread house for that extra festive fun. Noah was actually super proud of himself for using the wreath, straw and baubles to make a nest! The possibilities are endless with this one! MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Copyright © 2018-2019 All rights reserved Stephanie Brady

New year, new you?

We all say it every year don’t we Haha!

But honestly if you are persuing the ‘New year, new me’ attitude, then I can’t recommend this diary enough!

To be honest it almost feels insulting calling it a diary, it is so much more than that, it really is a life planner.

I bought this back in August when I was sat round my friends house beginning the application for my divorce. She has one and also couldn’t recommend this little book of motivation enough.

Well it arrived and I started filling it out, the first few pages are about life goals, how you see your future, motivation, distractions etc. Then there’s also plans on how to achieve and by when.

It was also during that visit that she encouraged me to go on a date that I had been putting off and wasn’t sure about. I finally went for it and he turned out to be a great guy. We clicked and got really well, I even messaged her thanking her for encouraging me to go.

It was a little bit ‘head over heels’ and we spoke about futures and meeting each others kids. Well during these talks it became apparent that we wanted different things, for example he wanted to get married one day and I wasn’t so keen due to how the first time worked out for me. There was also other things like dogs, location of future living etc.

Now I’m about to discuss something I NEVER talk about… my mental health. I do struggle, I have for a long time. In fact during and after my marriage breakdown it got really bad. I like to pretend I’m alot stronger than I am, and try to push through, but this time I couldn’t, my anxiety was the worst it had ever been and I was having physical symptoms, really scary physical symptoms. Eventually, after failing to self medicate and meditate, I admitted defeat and went to my doctors. I was put on tablets to help my anxiety, and gradually they were increased until I reached the maximum dose, and I started to feel better.

Now let’s fast forward to where I met this great guy, I was feeling great, the best I had in a really, really (years in fact) long time. So me being me (maybe a tiny bit stubborn) decided I could come off my tablets. I gradually started reducing my tablets. BIG MISTAKE!

I relapsed, and it was awful! I generally like to think I’m quite a chill person, I was far from chill. The doctor said each relapse is worse, he wasn’t lying!

During all this my handy little life planner (which I will never be without again) got a little bit neglected, a little bit forgotten. I turned in to someone who was far from chill, and apparently who goals, aspirations and dreams changed as well!

Now you’re probably questioning the relvance to this story, and I myself have even whilst writing it, but I promise there is a point to it.

After my not so chill self had finished scaring this guy away completely, I picked up my life planner in despair and delved into completing my next goals. Whilst looking back over my goals, I found a statement I’d written where it asked me to write what I envisioned my future to look like…

Turns out I originally envisioned my future pretty much identical to how this guy had described his own dream, and apparently completely forgot all about it.

Moral of the story is this life planner has so much potential, dont just put it down and forget about it. Fill it out and do what it says, reread it to yourself everyday to motivate you, to make the dreams a reality. No matter how bad things get or how off course, don’t forget your goals, don’t forget your dreams. Use this book to keep you on track, to remind you and drive you toward what you really want, even when things get too much and you forget.

I’ve had a very testing year and the last few months have been extremely difficult, but I’m plowing through and super proud to say I have now completed 5, nearly 6 (Lapland in January) of my life goals that I jotted down in August.

Don’t ever give up, and seriously get this book and let it be your life partner!

Mark making

The boys love to draw and colour, and I honestly believe encouraging art helps to nurture the imagination.

I ordered a large paper poster roll off of Amazon and cut off pieces to cover the dining table. The boys can then come to the table as and when they feel like it throughout the day and create their designs.


Copyright © 2018-2019 All rights reserved Stephanie Brady

Word Jenga

Noah is doing amazingly well at recognising letters and has begun to blend sounds (super proud mamma). So to help him along with his blending, writing and spelling, I bought a cheap Jenga set off of Amazon (it was around £3/£4 with free delivery), and I wrote a selection of two and three letter words on around half of the blocks. We play the game like normal, except every time we pull out one with a word on, he practises sounding the word out and then writes it. It has fast become his favourite game! Simple, cheap and educational. The best thing is, because it’s so cheap I can buy another set once he has moved onto bigger words and just update to suit!

Copyright © 2018-2019 All rights reserved Stephanie Brady

Easter crafts

Decorate eggs 

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You will need:

  • Eggs (however many you intend to eat)
  • Paint
  • Paint brushes
  • Something to stand the eggs in whilst you work

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Firstly we boiled our eggs and put them aside to cool. Once cool, we stood them up in an egg holder and began painting them. 

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Once we were happy with our designs, we left them to dry. When fully dried, we peeled our eggs and ate them for lunch. It was that simple and no waste!

Make your own Easter nest

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You will need:

  • A4 card (yellow or white would work best)
  • 2 x coloured A4 card (we opted for green and blue)
  • Straw
  • Glue
  • Scissors

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To begin we folded the yellow card in half long ways and cut. Only one half is needed, so the other half can be kept for another project. Taking one half we used the scissors to round the corners of one side to make a bowl shape.

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Next we covered one side in glue and stuck down the straw to cover. We realised after that it would have probably been easier to do the following steps first, and this last, but it still worked out just fine.

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Next we moved on to making the eggs. We folded both sheets of coloured card in half, and then in half again, cutting into four equal parts. Taking three of each colour we cut them into the shape of eggs. With the last section of each colour, we cut them into strips, zigzags and circles.

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Taking the three green eggs, we decorated them with the blue strips, zigzags and circles, then we done the same with the blue eggs and green decorations.

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Finally we stuck our eggs into the nest, and our Easter inspired craft was complete.

Design your own Easter egg

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To make two, you will need:

  • A4 sheet of card (we opted for green)
  • Scissors
  • Glue
  • Crayons or felts
  • Pompoms
  • Lolly sticks
  • Sequins

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We began by folding the coloured card in half and cutting, then we cut each section into an egg shape.

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The boys then used their crayons to draw patterns onto their eggs. Next they used the glue to add the pompoms, lolly sticks and sequins on.

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Very simple, but lots of fun!

Copyright © 2018-2019 All rights reserved Stephanie Brady

Easter/Spring tuff tray

This tuff tray set up is perfect for spring and got us talking about Easter. We used flowers to represent all the new growth at this time of year, play eggs which are always prominent at Easter, and toy farm animals to represent all the new baby animals that are born in spring time. The blue and green tissue paper they are laying on represents the water and growing greens that make this new life thrive. The straw is essential at this time of year, used for nests, bedding and food for the growing animal families.

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The boys went straight in for the farm animals first , I knew they would. They love playing with animals and mimicking the sounds they make.

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They then began exploring the rest of the tray with the animals, burying them in the straw and they even placed the chickens with ‘their eggs’.

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Finally they played with the flowers, smelling them and enjoying feeling the petals.

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This tray is a lovely way to explore key features of spring and as a talking point to learn more about Easter.

 

Copyright © 2018-2019 All rights reserved Stephanie Brady

Mother’s day craft ideas

As promised, me and the boys have been busy making some mother’s day crafts to give you ideas to try.

A Heart Bouquet 

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You will need:

  • a toilet roll insert
  • coloured card
  • scissors
  • a stapler
  • green paint
  • paint brush
  • self adhesive diamante strips

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The boys made one each, so to begin we painted the toilet roll inserts green, whilst these dried I cut the coloured card into strips and we began making our hearts. To make the hearts, we folded the strips in half and then bent each end into the crease like shown below. Once each strip was bent into the desired heart shape, I stapled to secure (with the help of Noah and Tommy).

Once the toilet roll inserts were dry we took some green strips and stapled them to the bottom like shown below, these are to be the leaves.

After the leaves were in place it was time to staple the hearts we made earlier to the insert as well, we took our time here and some of the hearts had to be stapled to each other for extra support. Once we had a full bouquet we added a diamante strip to each insert. Finally we used the scissors to cut the leaves into a point.

Hand print bouquet card

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This on really is simple, all you need is:

  • A4 white card
  • paint
  • decorative bows
  • glue (we used glue dots)

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To begin we folded our card in half and picked out the colour paints we wanted to use, the boys chose red and yellow for the flowers, and of course we picked green for the stems.

I painted the boys hands in each colour and they pressed down onto the card, creating the flowers. Afterwards they used a paint brush to add the stems.

Once dry the boys stuck a purple bow onto each bouquet using glue dots.

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Tissue paper bouquet 

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Another super simple one, all you need is:

  • A4 white card
  • coloured tissue paper
  • glue (we used a Pritt Stick and glue dots)
  • decorative bows
  • felt tips

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For this one Tommy chose blue tissue paper for the flowers and Noah chose red. We started by folding the card in half, then I helped the boys to make a bouquet shape with the Pritt Stick, the boys then used their selected coloured tissue paper to create their flowers. The boys then drew a bee buzzing around their bunches (with a little help from mummy). Lastly they stuck a bow on each using glue dots.

3D flower card

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This one is still simple, it’s just a little more time-consuming, like the first. You will need:

  • A4 white card
  • coloured card
  • scissors
  • a stapler
  • glue

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For this one we made the hearts the same way as for the Heart Bouquet. Then we stapled 12 of them together to create a wreath shape. Once complete we folded the white card in half and then used glue to stick the 3D flower on. See, simple.

Copyright © 2018-2019 All right reserved Stephanie Brady