Remember those lucky stars I was thanking? They came through. Just over two weeks ago, an email came to tell me we had won the Mumsnet competition prize of a holiday at Chatsworth in Derbyshire.
Can you believe it? I couldn't. Even as we drove up to the cottage, I expected the real winner to be opening the curtains and peering out angrily at me. Apparently two Mumsnetters had been offered the prize before us, but couldn't make it. That's how lucky we were. (Thanks to them too. Without wanting to rub it in too much). So we unpacked all our things and spent four nights staying in the lovely Heathy Lea Barn.
I'm not sure whether or not this was meant to be part of the prize, but we woke the first morning to see giant flakes of snow falling. It was the Littlest Latte's first real snowfall - living near the coast usually guarantees a pretty useless show of snow - which was very exciting indeed.
For the tedious old adults, the exciting bit was when it cleared away in time for us to get outside and go see stuff.
Chatsworth House, promised the lady from the PR company, looked lovely this Christmas. She couldn't have been more right. The sheer scale of the decorations so awed the Little Lattes that they managed to make their way around the stately home without once attempting to touch something or knock it over. Everything twinkled. At the special Christmas evening openings, complete with wine and Christmas songs sung by a choir arranged on a huge staircase, the Lattes sat under the lights of the enormous tree eating their mince pies, barely spilling a crumb and staring in wonder.
So many excitements to be had! The gardens were frosty, and there was quite a bit of whining about the cold, but they soon shut up when they saw the maze...
and experienced the show-stopping beauty of the Cascade (you can just see the Eldest Latte and Mr Coffee on the shot, but I can see how you might be distracted).
It's not easy for the Eldest Latte to do proper days outdoors. But the number of disabled accessible paths meant we spent a good couple of days in the grounds. We even walked through the estate to the barn easily in less than half an hour. We saw farm animals. We stroked guinea pigs. We did Christmas crafts. We saw the rock garden and the grotto and the deer and the sheep. We ate an awful lot of chocolate cake.
Mr Coffee spent his evenings devouring the guidebooks of Chatsworth family history, as well as getting incredibly excited about the presence of a working Archimedes' Screw in the play area.
We had, in short, one of the best weeks ever.
And we got a good headstart on the magic of Christmas.