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The top toys set to sell like hotcakes this Christmas 2020

Child with PAW Patrol Dino Rescue Dino Patroller

We are all aware of needing to do things differently this year and Christmas preparations are no exception. The message coming from toy retailers is not to leave our Christmas shopping too late. Due to COVID-19 restrictions across the country with non-essential shops closed and couriers already overloaded, it will pay to plan ahead and secure those sought after gifts before they're sold out.

We want to see happy faces this Christmas and an exciting or loveable toy can make all the difference to our children who have endured hardships as much as the rest of us.

There are many familiar names on the DreamToys list this year, including big classic toy brands such as Monopoly, Harry Potter, Lego and Star Wars as well as the massively popular Peppa Pig, Paw Patrol, Pokémon and L.O.L Surprise.

So without further ado, here is the list, with RRPs, but remember to shop around because you may find a better deal.

Surprise Mini Brands Mystery Capsule from Zuru (RRP £6.99)

Unwrap, peel, and reveal REAL miniature collectibles with 5 Surprise Mini Brands! Each capsule is a surprise unboxing with dozens of miniatures and surprise shopping accessories to find. What 5 surprises will you unbox? There are over 100 miniatures of your favorite brands to collect, including rare Metallic and Glow in the Dark minis, and Super Rare Golden Minis too!Can you find your favourite brands like Skippy Peanut Butter, Aunt Bessies Yorkshire Puddings or Mentos Gum? Collect them all to create your own mini shopping world! Buy toy.

Barbie 3-in-1 DreamCamper from Mattel Toys (RRP £79.99) 

The Barbie 3-in-1 DreamCamper comes with lots of hidden surprises for camping fun.

Open the side panels to transform the Barbie 3-in-1 DreamCamper into a camping playset with room for 4 Barbie dolls to eat, sleep and play. Unlatch the front of the camper to reveal a pickup truck, and peek under the backseat of the truck to find a boat that's perfect for fishing trips.

Keep exploring to uncover a pool and an open-air kitchen for cooking fun. Open the back of the Barbie DreamCamper to reveal a bathroom with a pop up shower, toilet and vanity, then help your Barbie dolls climb to the rooftop bedroom where they can sleep under the stars. With 50 camping, cooking and fishing play pieces, the opportunities for storytelling are endless. Buy toy.

Harry Potter Hedwig from LEGO (RRP £34.99) 

Bring the magical personality and elegant movement of Hedwig, the celebrated snowy owl from the Harry Potter movies, to life. The collectible LEGO Harry Potter Hedwig (75979) display toy offers a rewarding building experience and looks magnificent on show.

With a wingspan of over 13" (34cm), this 630-piece brick-build model shows Hedwig in flight, delivering an important letter. Once the build is complete, a turn of a handle causes the jointed wings to move gracefully up and down. The collectible model stands on a sturdy base with a detachable LEGO Harry Potter minifigure and another, smaller, Hedwig the owl toy with wings spread open.

If you’re looking for a cool gift or popular buildable model for kids or Harry Potter fans of any age, the range of LEGO Harry Potter toys are sure to provide endless magical pleasure. Buy toy.

L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Remix Fashion Doll Assortment from MGA Entertainment (RRP £39.99) 

O.M.G. we sisters are ready to take the stage, but everything on our So Extra Tour got remixed – from our music to our fashions. We’re calling all B.B.s to join with our crew, and together, we’ll put on a concert that will bring down the house. We’ll take our fresh sound, outrageous fashion and show stopping moves and do what we do best – play that fierce music and remix this vibe.

Each L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Remix includes a fashion doll, 2 fashion looks, 1 pair of shoes, a shoebox, accessories, a hat box, a hair brush, a doll stand, a full-size record, a lyric magazine and a package that really plays music. Collect all 4 L.O.L. Surprise! O.M.G. Remix fashion dolls. Collect the whole L.O.L. Surprise! Remix line to collect all the song lyrics and complete the surprise song. Buy toy.

Laser Battle Hunters Vehicle from Character Options (RRP £59.99)

Get ready for radio-controlled combat with Laser Battle Hunter vehicles. Take control of Shadow or Reaper and hunt down your opponent with laser cannon action. Each vehicle races with multi-directional 4- wheel drive, super-fast speeds and crazy drifts.

\for Multi-Player combat use the built-in infrared cannon to out blast your opponent. Hunt your enemy, take aim at the rear of their vehicle and fire with impressive cannon recoil. Blast your opposition 3 times to win. Each hit triggers explosion sounds and sends your vehicle shaking.

As a single player make one Laser Battle Hunter a moving target for 60 seconds. Use your Laser Battle Hunter to blast the target vehicle as many times as possible as it races around and returns fire. Buy toy.

Monopoly For Sore Losers Hasbro from (RRP £22.99) 

Don't get sad…get even! Say goodbye to the frustration of losing while playing Monopoly, and say hello to the Monopoly For Sore Losers board game. This hilarious twist on the Monopoly game turns losing on its head and celebrates it instead. Players earn cash by doing the typically frustrating things in the game such as going to Jail, paying rent on a property, or going bankrupt. And those who really start sinking can make a comeback using the large Mr. Monopoly token that gives players advantages over everyone else. So get playing, get the revenge you've been craving, and feel good about losing! Family Game Night might never be the same again with this game for ages 8 and up. Buy toy.

PAW Patrol Dino Rescue Dino Patroller from Spin Master Toys (RRP £64.99) 

Jump into action with PAW Patrol! Saving the day is more adventurous than ever with the Dino Patroller, the first-ever motorised PAW Patrol team vehicle! Featuring room for all six pups, oversized wheels, a projectile launcher and an exclusive Chase and T-Rex dinosaur action figure, the Dino Patroller is ready to roll! When the dinosaurs yelp for help, place Chase and another pup (sold separately) in the cab and a Dino Rescue Deluxe Vehicle (sold separately) into the back bay.

Load the projectiles into the launcher and get ready for epic rescue missions. Press the vehicle’s badge button all the way down and watch it move! With its oversized wheels, the Dino Patroller is able to conquer any terrain! As you play out your dino rescue adventures, push the tail to make the large-scale dino’s mouth open and help the PAW Patrol spot your T-Rex in trouble! Deploy your Deluxe Vehicle from the bay and launch the rescue nets to help save the day! Create your own prehistoric missions just like in the hit show again and again. Go on action-packed dino rescues with the PAW Patrol and the Dino Rescue Dino Patroller! Buy toy.

Peppa Pig Peppa’s Shopping Centre from Character Options (RRP £39.99)

Take Peppa on an exciting trip out to the shops, with The Peppa Pig Shopping Centre Playset! Your little Piggies will discover lots of fun filled features to make an exciting day out with their friends.

Make New shops! The Peppa Pig Shopping Centre has 2 floors of fun, and four shopping areas. Swap around the backgrounds and swivel the signs to create 6 different shops in total! There’s an Ice Cream Parlour, which changes to a Pizzeria, and a fancy Cake Shop, which can transform into a Toy Store. There’s also a Fruit and Veg Shop, and even a Bakery, where Peppa can choose a biscuit or iced bun for a lovely treat, simply rotate the table to change the food. Buy toy.

Pokémon Carry Case Playset from Character Options (RRP £39.99) 

The awesome Pokémon Carry Case Playset brings the world of Pokémon to life! Kids can discover the world of Pokémon and take it with them wherever they go. Re-enact your very own Pokémon Battles and explore the Pokémon world with this exciting feature filled Carry Case Playset! Where will your adventures take you? With tons of features including a bounding boulder trap, treetop trap door, battle arena complete with launch pads, secret caves perfect spots for hiding in, spinning whirlpool, tree-top platform look-out spots, sneak attack launch pads, shaking bridge and so much more the adventures are endless! Never has the Pokémon World been brought to life quite like this! The Pokémon Carry Case Playset is scaled for any 2-inch Pokémon figure and when your adventures are complete it all folds up easily into Ash’s iconic Kanto Region backpack making it not just perfect for safely storing all your Pokémon figures in one place but also addsto the Pokémon role play and means you can take your Carry Case Playset wherever you go! The Pokémon Carry Case Playset is sure to be top of every budding Pokémon fan’s wish list! Gotta Catch ‘Em All! ™ Buy toy.

Present Pets (Assortment) from Spin Master Toys (RRP £54.99) 

Discover Present Pets, the only gifts that unbox themselves! Waiting inside each Fancy Pup themed box is an adorable interactive puppy just for you. She is so excited to meet you, she paws her way out of her own gift box! With one of two possible Fancy Pups available in every box, you won’t know which puppy you’re getting until she unboxes herself. To start the big reveal, unwrap the box’s outer layer and pull the gift tag. The box will instantly start to shake as your sweet pup eagerly paws her way out! The front panel pops open, revealing which Present Pets Pup is inside. 

Present Pets are a great gift for kids aged 5 and up and make any gifting occasion extra special. Unwrap all of the Present Pets, including Fancy Pups Princess and Kweenie (each sold separately) and bring home an unforgettable unboxing experience the whole family will enjoy! Which puppy will you get? Buy toy.

Star Wars The Mandalorian – The Child “Baby Yoda” from Mattel Toys (RRP £29.99) 

Fully embrace the cuteness of the 50-year-old Yoda species with this adorable Talking Plush Toy. He may look like a baby Yoda, but this lovable creature is referred to as the Child. Inspired by the Disney+ live-action series The Mandalorian, this sweet Star Wars Talking Plush Toy makes a Force-sensitive addition to your collection.

The adorable figure with green skin, big ears and large eyes resembles a baby Yoda but is referred to as the Child. The toy plush has a soft body, plus a sturdy base filled with beans, perfect for cuddling or to display as a collectible. Star Wars fans will love taking on the role of The Mandalorian Bounty Hunter and caring for the Child on their own!

Nothing in the galaxy is as cute, has taken as many naps, sipped more soup, or learned to control the Force as The Child from the hit streaming series The Mandalorian on Disney Plus!

Now you can become his protector with this cuddly plush toy from Star Wars, dressed in the cutest little robe ever seen this side of Mos Eisley. Posable arms let kids pretend the Force is within their reach, while a squeeze of the toy’s soft plush body activates character sounds! Buy toy.

Super Mario Adventures With Mario Starter Course from LEGO £49.99

Collect virtual coins with Mario on the LEGO Super Mario Starter Course Set. The LEGO Mario figure reacts to action bricks and enemies with instant LCD animations and sounds. Jump from the ? Block, spinning and cloud platforms, battling the Goomba and Bowser Jr. LEGO figures as you go. 

Rearrange the bricks to create new levels, or combine with LEGO Super Mario Expansion Sets for more ways to play (each sold separately). 

The LEGO Super Mario app offers fun share features and zoom and rotate viewing tools make building easier. App and smart device not included. Buy toy.

Where is staying open in Surrey during Lockdown 2.0?

Enjoying the parkland at Painshill

So here we are again, facing another lockdown as COVID-19 tightens its grip. The government announced on October 31 2020 that England will be placed in a lockdown again from Thursday 5 November. This time, however, there will be some differences, which is great news. Stemming from the fact that we will be encouraged to undertake plenty of exercise, many venues with gardens and parkland have been declared exempt from the lockdown.

Below we have listed out those venues that are able to stay open, as well as some of the finer details such as pre-booking requirements and other information. As announcements are made we will endeavour to update and add to this list.

Staying open in Surrey

National Trust: Outdoor spaces are staying open in the following venues; Box Hill, Claremont Landscape Gardens, Dapdune Wharf, Hatchlands Park, Devil's Punchbowl, Leith Hill, Polesden Lacey & Winkworth Arboretum. This will include gardens, parklands and car parks. Pre-booking essential and the booking cycle begins each Friday for the following week. Find out more.

Painshill Park: Open, pre-booking required for non-members. Find out more.

RHS Wisley: Pre-book a time slot before your visit. All shows cancelled. Find out more.

The Sculpture Park, Churt: Tickets must be pre-booked online. Find out more.

Garden centres: Most are staying open, including Secretts of Milford, Notcutts & all Squire's Garden Centres. Find out more.

Also remaining open are Parks & Playgrounds. You can also get some fresh air and exercise ideas by having a look at our Duck feeding & paddling (pack your wellies!) and our Family walks & cycles sections.

WIN a 'Dine in for Two' package from Mandira's Kitchen

Mandira's Kitchen Dine in for Two

THIS COMPETITION IS NOW CLOSED.

We may now be over the worst of the lockdown (for now at least) but going out for dinner is still beset with issues for many. We now need to comply with the 'rule of six' as well as having the stress of remembering your mask, having your temperature taken, leaving contact details as well as making sure you're done and dusted by 10pm. And for those of us with young children going 'out out' to a restaurant without the kids can involve the expense of babysitters on top of everything else.

So we've teamed up with Mandira's Kitchen for a fabulous competition with the lucky winner enjoying a 'Dine in for Two' package from Mandira's authentic Indian kitchen based at Silent Pool, near Guildford. The local catering company have recently received six Great Taste Award stars which are the equivalent of the Oscars in the food world! Read our recent review Spice up your life...or at least your weekend dinner to whet your appetite and get a flavour of what's on offer.

For the competition the prize menu will include Chicken Xacuti (Goan style curry with roasted coconut and red chilli), lemon rice and lehsuni dal (lentils with caramelised garlic and fresh coriander), with two naan breads, two vegetable samosas and a mini jar of orange and gin chutney.

The vegetarian option is Palak Paneer (Indian cottage cheese cooked in a creamy sauce with baby spinach) and the vegan version is Enchorer Dalna (green jackfruit cooked with tomatoes, ginger and garam masala), vegetable pulao and palak dal (lentils with baby spinach and tomatoes), with the samosas and chutney, and spiced crackers instead of the naan bread.

Those not lucky enough to win this time will be sent a voucher to use at Mandira's Kitchen shop or online. For more info on Mandira's Kitchen and their full range visit the Mandira's Kitchen website.

To enter simply answer the following question using the entry form at the bottom of the page:

Where in Surrey is Mandira's Kitchen based?

a) Priory Pond b) Silent Pool c) Frensham Pond

Terms & conditions
One entry per person.
Contact details required in order to notify the winner.
Email address required to receive a voucher.
Contact details will be passed to Mandira's Kitchen but strictly no other third parties.
Competition closes on Wednesday 30 September 2020 at 4pm.

“Creativity is as important as literacy” as Story Art trials free online art lesson

Story Art's aim is to make online art tuition fully engaging with the exciting stories of The Iliad and The Odyssey to cater to the perspective of children.

We use famous paintings and short animations with which the children can interact, learn the stories in fun ways and get to know many Greek gods and heroes through the lesson.

Greek mythology is a basic subject matter in many fields, including all literary arts. Knowing the story of the gods and man will help children learn and understand other fields as well.

Our art tutor shows the process alongside your child for the whole duration in the following ways:

  • Tell the story of The Iliad and show a painting about the story 
  • Discuss Greek gods and goddesses
  • Express the scene in the child’s own way
  • Includes some supportive materials
  • After finishing the story, the sketch book will be children’s own Iliad pop-up book.

We're pleased to let you know that Story Art Class is open with NEW online classes for children including a FREE Trial lesson for first week. The promotion end by 18th September.

WED ~ FRI    4:30 - 5:30 

  • Class 1. 14th Sep : The Golden Apple ( Free trial lesson )
  • Class 2. 21st Sep : The Judgement of Paris
  • Class 3 28th Sep  : Menelaus becomes king of Sparta
  • Class 4 5th Oct  : Paris wins Helen’s Heart
  • Class 5 12th Oct  : Odysseus feigns madness
  • Class 6 19th Oct  : Achilles throws off his disguise

Parents don’t need to prepare anything. We supply all the materials needed for the lesson.

This online course was designed for children to enjoy art and express their creativity.

For more info and to sign up for the Free trial class click here or contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Our Guide to creating the perfect family-friendly garden space

By making the perfect garden space, it is important to make the most out of the perfect family-friendly garden space. With the use of furniture and garden games as well as family-friendly garden furniture, this can help to create the perfect garden space for your family regardless of the amount of space that you have. To help you get started, we have created a list of some tips and tricks to make the perfect garden space. 

Make An Allotment For Your Kids 

When making the perfect family-friendly garden it is important to get creative. When you are out planting in your garden, why not make a space for your children to grow their own flowers and plants. By providing them with their own personalised space you are encouraging them to be as green-fingered as possible all whilst encouraging them to be healthy in their eating habits. By encouraging them to grow their own items of food such as vegetables, you can then get them to eat healthily and spend time in the garden. 

Make Use Of Play Houses 

In addition to adding their own space to grow food and their own flowers, your garden space must be a great place for your children to play. By adding playhouses, climbing frames and several other outdoor play items, you can make the perfect family-friendly garden space for your family. This is important and can help you to make the perfect garden space for your family and ensure that it is the perfect space for the whole family to enjoy. 

Secure Your Fences 

When making the garden space, it is important to secure your fences. By ensuring that you line the perimeter with a fence with concrete posts this can prevent the boundary from falling over with the wind. This will ensure that your garden is as safe as possible for your young ones regardless of what part of the garden they are playing in. This will keep your fences looking great all year round and will ensure that your garden is family friendly at all times not only for safety but also for privacy. 

Make The Most Of Garden Furniture 

The final way that you can make your garden family friendly is to incorporate the perfect garden furniture. Whether you opt for a fire pit and outside table and chairs or you have a climbing frame, this is the perfect way to make your garden the perfect one for your home. Though this can take time, this will benefit you in the long term as you can make the home and garden space as comfortable as possible for your family. This furniture can b made to match the colour theme of your home and make it look as stylish as possible.

With this in mind, there are several ways that you can make your garden enjoyable for the whole family with climbing frame, furniture and other additions to make your garden space as family-friendly as possible.  

2020, lest we forget? I hope not

At the stroke after midnight, 1 January 2020, sitting in front of my TV with a fizzy glass in hand, I leapt with joy. 2019 was over. It hadn’t been a great year for me; a two-month illness that came upon me like a bolt from the blue, the death of my father-in-law, my husband made redundant and to cap it off a further two months of ‘bed-ridden’ illness. It was my annus horribilis, something that seems to afflict most of us once or twice in our lifetimes, if we are lucky.

As I punched the air with great abandon that 2019 was over, little did I realise that 2020 would bring to the macro what I had experienced at a micro level the year before. But this time was different; we were all in it. There is comfort in solidarity. The affliction was affecting everyone and it wasn’t just my normal life that stopped, it was everyone’s.

But much like when we are ill, we have lived in a vacuum. And indeed, similarly to childbirth, on the whole we forget and move on. Are you, like me, forgetting what going into lockdown felt like? Are you not remembering the anxiety, disbelief and discomfort you experienced when going into a complete unknown in our lifetime? Did you, like me, start to wind-down your thoughts and fears, and relax into a routine which felt very much like an extended holiday for a good while – indulging in sundowners, zooming friends, clapping with neighbours, celebrating VE Day in a different way, spending time with the children, all helped by the wonderful weather we had this spring?

I’m not saying it was all rosy. There was family bickering, concerns about finances, the dread of running out of food, boredom, dealing with the rebellious (grand) parents; the list is fairly extensive and will be different for everyone. But I’d hazard a guess that this was balanced by the quietness of life, the connection with nature, having the time to exercise in the garden and walk or cycle if you wanted to, not popping to the shops every five minutes, the feeling of not having to be anywhere or answer to anyone, the freedom to be yourself.

But the nature of illness is that we forget - how we felt, what inconveniences it brought, how we wondered if we’d ever recover. Are you, like me, already forgetting? There is something special about human psychology that allows us to only remember the last thing that happened to us. We remember the end and by consequence the new beginning. This is a good thing, no? We’ve already forgotten how worried we all were that Boris Johnson would die. He lived, so we move on and resume our positions.

There are already many exceptions; people who have lost loved ones who will never forget. But as a human race we will move on from this coronavirus pandemic. We will forget. Such is the nature of illness on a macro as well as a micro level. The question remains, we forget the bad times, but will we also forget the good? As an optimist, I hope not.

This is an opinion piece written by Penny.

Spice up your life...or at least your weekend dinner

What shall we eat this evening? If you, like me, find it difficult to get inspired by the contents of your fridge or freezer and are trying not to visit the shops too often at the moment, we may have a way to spice things up for you (no pun intended!) Lockdown hasn’t helped, with queues at supermarkets, less range and with a house full of hungry children who have higher expectations in terms of variety.

Coming to our rescue last weekend was Mandira and the Mandira-ettes of the eponymous Mandira’s Kitchen as we were lucky enough to try one of their Indian weekend dining options, the celebratory 3-course Thali.

How Mandira's Kitchen began

Mandira’s Indian catering business began from her home kitchen and is now located at Silent Pool, near Albury, also home to Silent Pool gin. Mandira offers event catering, cookery lessons, spice tours and supper clubs, all of which ground to a halt during the coronavirus lockdown. Not one to be deterred, she set about promoting her freezer meals and takeaway options from a small shop at their premises.

Creating an ambience

It was quick and easy to order the food from Mandira. We selected the menu we required and completed the order and payment online, then made a quick drive over to pick it up on the day. Once back home we dug into the bag and pulled out the serving/heating instructions, all of which seemed very straightforward and helpful, heated up the oven and got cracking. 

We laid our table, incorporating the suggested bright table cloth, fresh flowers and candles to create an ambience deserving of our ‘Calcultta Connections‘ themed menu. Although we were experiencing a balmy evening by UK standards, the heavens opened as we sat down for our poppadums, chutneys and raitas – monsoon season had arrived!

We set the Sonos to start the suggested playlist that had been curated by Mandira to accompany our dining experience, shaking our hips to the Bollywood beats.

The main event

Once we’d cracked open the beers we began with a divine Fish Paturi starter, steamed to retain moisture and perfectly cooked with a translucent finish that I never seem to manage when cooking fish at home. Now I know the secret, steam your fish in banana leaves!

Next followed Ghee Bhaat (fragrant basmati rice with cashews and raisins), Mum’s Musur Dal (yellow lentils with onions and fenugreek leaves) and Misti Kumro Chocchori (butternut squash) all perfectly complementing the main affair, Murgir Jhol (a light chicken curry with potatoes). This came in trays for each person, all neatly portioned into sections and easily microwaveble as a whole dinner. 

Whilst eating our main course we played the fun quiz which had accompanied our meal, an Indian themed guessing game and a bit of an educational angle for the children (and us).

Meetha (dessert) followed with the most sumptuous Thandai ice cream which went down a storm alongside a warming cup of Indian Masala Chai, pre-mixed for us. We were certainly satiated and had the most delicious flavours bouncing around our mouths long after we’d finished.

A winning formula

We didn’t quite get round to watching the Bollywood film suggested with the tasting notes but if this floats your boat it would certainly round off a fun evening of escapism, vibrance, laughter and most importantly, fantastic food.

For more information about Weekend Dining and other options visit Mandira's Kitchen website. We are currently running a competition to win a Dine for Two dining package from Mandira's Kitchen. WIN a 'Dine in for Two' package from Mandira's Kitchen.

A guide to how to give gifts at the office

Presents are a big part of a lot of celebrations. Birthdays, anniversaries, and even Christmas celebrations all come with the expectation of a gift attached. However, there are also occasions that might demand gifts in your professional life too. 

For instance, if someone that you work with gets a promotion or leaves to pursue their dream job, you might want to buy them something to wish them well on their next step. If your boss or a close team member achieves a milestone in the number of years they’ve spent with the company, that’s an occasion for gift giving too. 

So, how do you make sure that you’re giving a gift that’s still “suitable” for work. 

Show Caution in Your Gift Choices

Just because you have a lot of fun and banter with a friend at work, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate to give them a rude gift in the office. Remember, even if you know that the person who is going to be getting the gift will be fine with a little bit of dark humor, the rest of your team won’t always feel the same way. If you’re having a celebration that other colleagues are going to attend, you don’t want to give them the wrong impression. 

You can give any gifts you like in private if you know that your colleague isn’t going to share them with the rest of your team and cause problems. However, it’s best to keep things simple and suitable when you’re choosing something for a work celebration. 

Stick the Basics

Figuring out how to provide the best business gift is harder than it seems. On the one hand, you want to wow your boss or colleague with something that they’re going to love. On the other hand, if you choose something too expensive or personal, you could cause distrust among other coworkers. The last thing you want is for your team members to think that you’re sucking up or trying to bribe the boss. 

Try to avoid anything that might come across as too expensive or personal. Simple gifts, like a new tie or a set of cufflinks, are generally good options. You can also stick to edible gifts, like a box of candy or a fruit basket. These presents rarely make the wrong impression, as long as you take taste preferences and allergies into account. 

Decide if the Gift Should Come with a Party

Sometimes, gifts are a smaller part of a bigger party or celebrations. Other times, your present won’t demand a celebration too. For instance, if someone is leaving your business to start a career, then a leaving party is a great way to let them know how much you’re all going to miss them. On the other hand, if a team member is getting a promotion, they might prefer to keep things quiet around the office. 

Start by thinking about the personality of the person you want to celebrate. Are they the kind of person who enjoys any opportunity for a party, or do they prefer not to be the centre of attention? It’s also worth thinking about how big of a deal the occasion is. If someone has been with the company for 6 months now, that probably doesn’t mean much to them. However, if your colleague has been with the business for 25 years, that’s a big deal. 

Keep Parties Above Board

If you do decide that a party is the right way to go, be careful. 

Stick to a minimal amount of booze if you can. Alcohol tends to lead to people saying the wrong things. In a professional environment, this can lead to poor relationships between coworkers in the future. It’s also worth remembering that you might be hosting the celebration in your office. That means that you can’t go too over-the-top with decorations.

Avoid taking the occasion too far by allowing everyone to blow off too much steam. If you’re concerned that people will feel nervous, consider whether you should avoid the party altogether, or just have a few friends get together after work instead. 

Acknowledging Gifts

One last tip for professional gift giving: if you’re the person getting the gift, make sure you say thank you. A hand-written note is always a nice touch, and it’s a great chance to show your colleagues that you appreciate them. Remember, they’re going out of their way to show you that they care about you. 

A complete guide to MOT's including a handy checklist

If you want to learn about MOT, give this post a read and get all the answers to your MOT related questions!

MOT- What is it & why is it important?

MOT is an annual test that is made mandatory by the UK govt. to be taken by all vehicles on road to ensure a vehicle’s safety and roadworthiness. This is the govt.’s way of ensuring safety for the drivers plus other passengers and to lessen accident chances. During the MOT Test, all the essential parts of a vehicle are thoroughly examined to ensure that they’re meeting all the required legal standards.

Can a car/vehicle be driven without an MOT test?

In simple words, the answer is NO! Making sure that your car is MOT tested is a legal requirement as mentioned earlier. The only time you can drive without an MOT test is when you’re driving to get it done!  Otherwise you can face heavy penalty for it.

How often do you need to get the MOT test done?

As per law, you need to get your first MOT test done 3 years after the date of your car’s registration given if it is a brand new car. Please note, for a car with an age of 3 years and above, the car needs to be retested every year on the anniversary of its last MOT.

How does one check when their car’s MOT test is due?

Your MOT date is mentioned on your MOT certificate, you can always check from there. Another easy way is to log on to the Govt.uk site to know about your MOT status. Even local garage websites offer this service. You just have to enter your car’s registration number along with your vehicle make on their website and they will show you when your MOT is due.

A lot of local garages offer MOT services. One such car garage is KAP. With KAP Motors Brighton, you can book MOT Online at a date and time of your convenience. You don’t even have to pay anything upfront.

How long is the MOT test?

The MOT test is not that long. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour at max. The test covers all the electrical equipment and basic car checks. If your vehicle clears the MOT test checklist, you will be issued an MOT certificate instantly.

Can the MOT test be performed at home?

A complete and thorough MOT cannot be performed at home. You need to visit an expert who is authorized to issue the MOT certificate. 

An interview with Surrey-based author Nikki Smith discussing her debut book 'All In Her Head'

All In The Head book cover and author photo

We caught up with debut author and Surrey parent, Nikki Smith, about her newly-published psychological thriller, 'All In Her Head'. Nikki has lived in Surrey for 13 years and wrote her debut novel from her house in Guildford, where she lives with her husband, two daughters, ages 14 and 12 and a cat who thinks she's a dog!

Here at Surrey Mummy we rocketed through our copies of 'All In Her Head' when we discovered it at the beginning of lockdown and felt it was very much in the same vein or 'Gone Girl' and 'Girl on a Train' as it twists and turns and leaves you guessing right until the end. This timely psychological thriller is about the darkest corners of a mother's mind.

Alison is more alone than she's ever been. She is convinced that her ex-husband Jack is following her. She is certain she recognises the strange woman who keeps approaching her at work. She knows she has a good reason to be afraid. She just can't remember why. Then the mention of one name turns her life upside down. Alison feels like she's losing her mind...but it could just lead her to the truth.

1. Nikki, what inspired you to write a book on the topic of post-natal depression/post-partum psychosis that runs through ‘All In Her Head’? Was it difficult to write about such a tough subject-matter?

I had a very traumatic birth with my youngest child – I had undiagnosed placenta accreta; ended up haemorrhaging, lost three litres of blood and ended up in ICU. It made me realise how risky childbirth still is, even in the developed world. I started thinking about illnesses that aren’t visible after childbirth and are in some ways even harder to deal with, and this inspired me to write 'All In Her Head'. It was difficult to write about such a sensitive topic as I wanted to make sure I didn’t sensationalise it in any way so I did a lot of research before I started writing. Since the book was published, I’ve had several comments from readers who have suffered from similar issues who have said that they thought I dealt with the topic very realistically which means a great deal to me.

2. Did the main characters Alison and Jack evolve as you wrote the story or did you pre-plan all aspects before you started writing?

I had a strong idea of Alison before I started writing, and her character didn’t change significantly, but Jack developed more as I was writing the story and through the different drafts in the editing stages of the novel.

3. ‘All In Her Head’ was published at the very beginning of lockdown in the UK. How did you adapt the launch of your debut due to coronavirus and do you think it has affected promotion so far? 

Yes, it hasn’t been ideal timing!! My book launch and all physical events had to be cancelled which, as you can imagine after having spent years getting to the point of having a book published, was devastating. All the shops have been shut so I haven’t even seen my hardback in a bookstore yet! However, I’m fully aware there are people who have suffered far more than I have - I’m just grateful my family and friends are safe and well. As another author told me, ‘Books last forever.’ There have been positives to come out of the situation as well – the publishing industry has reacted quickly, moving many events online, so I had a virtual book launch on twitter and I’ve been involved in panel discussions with other authors like Sarah Vaughan that might never have happened otherwise. I’m also part of a debut group of authors on Facebook who all support each other, and other much more well-known authors like David Nicholls and Clare Mackintosh have been so generous with their support for debut writers. People are also reading more eBooks as a result of lockdown which has helped 'All In Her Head' to become a bestseller on Amazon, and it’s had some great reviews in the Press.

4. How did you begin your journey to become a published author?

I always wanted to be an author – I did an English degree & wrote a novel after leaving University, but it wasn’t very good & unsurprisingly wasn’t picked up by an agent. So, I gave up and went on to have a career in finance. Then a few years ago, someone I was at school with contacted me on Facebook to ask if I’d ever done anything with my writing as she still remembered the stories I used to read out in class. It was a now or never moment, and I signed up for a Curtis Brown creative writing course, which I absolutely loved, and started writing All In Her Head. I subsequently won a competition that another author, Amanda Reynolds, was running and she became my mentor. After I’d worked on the first few chapters of my novel with her for a while, I sent it off to the literary agent Sophie Lambert who had read my cover letter on the Curtis Brown course, and who I really, really hoped would like it. She agreed to represent me, and a few months later we submitted the manuscript to publishers where Orion offered me a two-book deal.

5. Can you tell us about your writing set-up and routine?

Before lockdown, I used to drop my children at school and then come home and write until they needed picking up, and I’d also write in the evenings and weekends if I was on a deadline. In lockdown, routines have become much more difficult to maintain as we have everyone at home, so I squeeze writing in as and when I can – I find getting up very early to write helps as when the house is quiet, I have much needed head space!

6. What gave you the drive to actually finish writing the book and get it published?

I think many authors would tell you that finishing the book isn’t the biggest issue – it’s the re-writing and editing it to make it the best that it can be that causes most problems! I can finish a first draft of a book in about three months if I write a thousand words a day, every day. But that’s just the start of the process – in subsequent drafts and editing many of those words I’ve written will change. For me, when I got my mentor, I felt that it was independent feedback that someone else whose work I valued liked the story I wanted to tell and this gave me the encouragement to keep going through several rewrites to get the book to a point where I could submit it to agents.

7. Are you working on any other books? Can we expect a sequel to ‘All In Her Head’ or a change of direction next?

I have a two-book deal with Orion, so my next one will be published in 2021. It’s not a sequel to 'All In Her Head', but is the same psychological suspense genre – I can’t give too much away at the moment but it’s about a family with dark secrets.

8. What is your favourite place to visit as a family in Surrey? Or activity you like to do as a family?

We love to visit Polesden Lacey and Wisley, but living in Surrey we’re lucky enough to have open countryside close by which we can walk in and have been so grateful for during lockdown. 

9. What advice would you give to aspiring authors, especially those trying to write whilst bringing up young children?

I would say set yourself a wordcount every day and try to stick with it. I was working full time when I started writing 'All In Her Head', so I know how difficult this can be, especially with children, but if it means getting up an hour earlier, or going to bed an hour later to get 500 words down, it is possible.

10. What book are you currently reading? Can you recommend any books that have inspired you during lockdown?

I am currently reading 'The Other People' by CJ Tudor and loving it. Other books I've recently read during lockdown and have really enjoyed have included 'The Man on The Street' by Trevor Wood, 'I am Dust' by Louise Beech and 'Our Dark Secret' by Jenny Quintana.

We are very grateful to Nikki for giving us her time and urge our readers to pick up a copy of 'All In Her Head' this summer. Follow Nikki on twitter @mrssmithmunday or visit her website https://nikkismithauthor.com/ to find out more. Buy a copy of All In Her Head' here.