10 years ago my life was very different to the way it is now.
10 years ago I had a failed engagement behind me and no clue what I wanted to do with my life after deciding a career in TV wasn’t for me after all.
10 years ago my father had recently committed suicide.
10 years ago I didn’t really know who I was or what lay in store.
10 years ago I packed my life up and headed off on a worldwide adventure.
When I say worldwide, I do mean worldwide. Over the next 12 months I visited 19 different countries and slept in goodness knows how many different places. I did a skydive, a bungee jump and a canyon swing. I got over my fear of snorkelling and even went diving. I climbed mountains and glaciers, took helicopter rides over waterfalls and the Grand Canyon. I slept in the bush in Australia and the freezing cold mountains of Canada. I walked the Great Wall and saw the sun rise over Angkor Wat in Cambodia and at Machu Piccu in Peru.
I started my adventure with my Mum in New York then I continued solo from then on. There were wobbles along the way. My mum was diagnosed with breast cancer while I was away and I so very nearly came home. But thankfully they caught it early and she insisted I stay while she was treated. I still carry guilt about that but have to be glad that all ended so well.
I had my wallet stolen and my back up credit card cloned in South America leaving me with only the kindness of friends I met until I could have a replacement card sent to Australia . And boy did I meet some wonderful people. Some of us met up again for New Year’s eve in Sydney that year and I have met up with so many of them time and again over the last 10 years and I hope that our friendships will last a lifetime.
It’s hard to reconcile that year with the life I have now. Now I’m a mum and am responsible for 2 tiny humans. I wouldn’t change that for the world, but my travels and experiences are things that I am incredibly proud of. I can’t wait to return to some of these places with the kids when they are older to share it with them and the hubs.
With the Easter holidays, and our cheeky term time holiday to the Lakes, my little pair of siblings have spent a lot of time in each other’s company recently, and it has been incredibly lovely to watch. I’ve read quite a lot of things recently extolling the virtues of only children, and having never experienced it I can’t really comment. All I can say though, is that my two currently embody some of the reasons why we wanted to have more than one child. They adore each other and entertain each other and quite simply have so much fun together. They do bicker and wind each other up, but on the whole I think we are very lucky with their relationship, and I hope it continues to be like this for a long time.
They love to play together.
They love to snuggle together, LM expecially will often snuggle up to her brother.
I adore those pictures of them together on the bench actually, how gorgeous is this?
They make even mundane outings together fun, I loved watching them play on a recent trip to a DIY shop.
They boss each other around and fight and they did have a few squabbles as a result of sharing the attention of family members on our holiday, but it was all very minor! He is so proud of her when her speech develops or she does well with something, and she idolises her big brother. She really looks up to him and anything he can do she has to do too.
I think the pictures speak for themselves and they really do have an incredibly lovely relationship.
Anyone who reads my blog regularly will probably know that we love a good visit to a National Trust property and make the most of our membership. On our trip to the Lake District we visited a number of National Trust properties, and one in particular was unlike any I’ve been to. Wray Castle.
It’s a really unusual place as it was never anyone’s home. The original owner inherited a ridiculous amount of money and built this purely as a showpiece. So it is mock gothic. It was used as a sort of holiday home I guess, Beatrix Potter and her family even summered here when she was a teenager. So people brought their furniture with them, and then took it away again. It was eventually inherited by a teenage boy in Lincolnshire and being wealthy already he didn’t want it (can you imagine that? Bonkers) and it was very much unloved. It has been used as offices (there are sockets all over the walls, imagine working in castle?) and all sorts.
So unlike most other National Trust properties it came to them empty, with no family furniture or family history, and I adore what the Trust have done with it as it is probably the most child friendly National Trust place we’ve visited, and that’s saying something as most National Trust places are quite child friendly. There is a bit of history downstairs but as soon as you go upstairs it is all about the kids. There is a colouring room for them to colour their own crowns and the walls are decorated with framed children’s drawings. There is a story room with lovely children’s books where the walls are decorated with lovely fairytale murals.
The next room is all about dressing up as Knights and Kings and Queens and Princesses. Most costumes were far too big for LM but they were perfect for Monkey and we did find one dress that just about fit LM (and she does love a pretty dress), aren’t they adorable? Good childhood fun!
Continuing through the house you come to The Peter Rabbit Adventure. A whole wing of the castle dedicated to the stories of Beatrix Potter. The kids adored this bit and we could have stayed there for hours. Playing cooking and tea making in Peter’s burrow, planting and watering in Mr McGregor’s garden. Then upstairs is squirrel Nutkin’s Tree house, and Jemima Puddleduck’s nest, with yet more dressing up, as Peter and his sisters.
It didn’t end there as there was a room filled with soft play bricks for you to build your own castle (which we all had great fun with), a room with a table tennis table, a room with a billiards table, a room dedicated to the local area with stones to build your own stone wall, and magnifying glasses for you to investigate the rings of a tree.
Honestly, there was so much to do! When it was time for lunch we were unsure about eating our picnic outside (as it was pretty chilly) , but thankfully there was an indoor picnic room on the top floor. Set up as a tea party you could play and eat in there. So after eating our yummy lunch we had fun with yet more dressing up and all enjoyed trying on the various hats available.
With our energy restored after lunch we headed outside. The castle has some lovely grounds and woodland to explore…
… But of course we were drawn to the fantastic adventure play area. The kids (big and small) all had a whale of a time outside.
I think you’ve probably got what I was talking about in terms of it being all about the kids! It is a spectacular place to see from the outside and a fantastic fun-filled place to visit. I definitely recommend it to anyone visiting the Lake District with children.
Our little miss has started playgroup. Playgroup/preschool /nursery whatever you prefer to call it, 2 mornings a week LM is now in the care of some lovely childcare professionals.
I’ve known the day was coming for a while as our local playgroup take them from age 2 1/2, but then it has suddenly snuck up on me. With being away on holiday last week we have been away from a normal routine, then on his first day back at school today, Monkey has gone on a farm trip (his first proper school trip which is a big enough deal in itself), then he got a bad cough on Sunday and was quite poorly so I wasn’t 100% sure he was going.
So last night lying in bed I was suddenly thinking about the fact that my little girl, my baby, was starting preschool the following morning. It’s not like we were completely unprepared for it. She had her trial before the Easter holidays and loved it. We’ve been reading “lulu starts nursery” at bedtime and talking about how she would be going soon and she has been excited. I just don’t think I fully processed it until last night. So I had all sorts of dreams, dreams where we were late, dreams where she was upset, honestly all sorts.
But of course this morning dawned and all was fine. We weren’t late and she was excited to wear her playgroup t-shirt. She adored wearing her backpack too!
We took (a much less poorly) Monkey to school for his trip then walked over to the playgroup. The ease of the location in relation to the school is one of the reasons for choosing this playgroup. It makes pick up and drop off so easy but also means a lot of the friends she makes here will go on up to school with her. One of her friends (who is actually about a year older) already goes here and I think that helped this morning.
We arrived and LM went straight in with no fuss. She sat down to play puzzles with her friend then we said we were going. We gave her a kiss and she waved us off quite happily with a “bye mama. ”
It did feel odd walking away without her but I have known for some time we were both ready for this. I got home and did some exercise and some cleaning and pottered about. There are always tonnes of things I can keep myself occupied with for a couple of hours. It was lovely though, too, actually. To have the house to myself. Some time to myself. It’s not like I’ve never had that, since Monkey was born, but it certainly hasn’t been a regular thing. Now it is. Now I get to have 2 mornings a week to myself, and still have the rest of the time with my girl.
I picked her up and they said she had been a star. She hadn’t been upset at all! Yippee! She played with her friend a lot of the time, but not all and took herself off to play with others and on her own too so that’s nice. It’s lovely she has her friend to play with but also that she isn’t dependent on her, if that makes any sense.
It’s the first day so I know there could be upset to come but I’m so pleased of how well she did and so proud of her. Love my fierce and independent little lady so much.
We visited some amazing places on our recent trip to the lakes, and I was so impressed by how child/toddler friendly many of them were. One place that I was particularly impressed with, was the Lakeside Aquarium, which was wonderful and fantastic value for money.
We’ve been to numerous sea life centres which are amazing but are also really expensive. When I saw the flyer for the aquarium, and how low cost it was, to be completely honest I assumed it wouldn’t be that amazing. But oh how wrong I was! There was just as much as at some of the smaller sea life centres. True it didn’t have a play area outside or water play area like at Weymouth, but it had it’s own unique exhibits.
I had thought that there would only be fish and animals from the lakes area but in fact there were exhibits and zones of animals from all over the world, in addition to the local wildlife.
One of the favourite exhibits for us was the incredible display of leaf cutter ants. I was a little nervous for LM as it was almost entirely open to the touch, but we managed to keep her from touching any ants. The incredible thing about the display, was that you could really see the ants carrying leaves and bits of food up and down the ropes back to the nest. There were also panels meaning you could see inside the nest to see the different ants doing all of their jobs. I won’t go on but it was incredible and hubs, Monkey and pops were well and truly transfixed!
We also loved watching the otters being fed and I was very pleasantly surprised to find an underwater tunnel which was really lovely. Above this were some ducks, which LM loved, and we were fascinated by as some of the male ducks were showing off for a female!
There is a lovely coastal area with open pools containing star fish and anemones. There was a great fun dress up area with some sea animal costumes for adults as well as children. With everyone busy looking at the animals I snuck on a crab outfit (daft as I am) and amused myself by sneaking up on my family members and giving them a shock lol! Hubs then dressed as an octopus, Monkey as a shark and LM was so cute dressed as a starfish haha (she wasn’t hugely impressed though I’ll admit!)
I was so surprised with how many animals there were as there were also Marmosets, piranha fish, terrapins, a big tortoise, rays, clown fish, frogs, snakes, and literally all sorts. Under 3s go free and there were a variety of family tickets for 2 adults and different amounts of children. So for us a family 5icket with 2 adults and 1 child it was only £15.95 and I think there are discounts if you buy tickets online. It really was such good value and I would highly recommend it.
I did not receive any compensation for this blog post. We paid to visit and was so impressed that I wanted to share my thoughts.
I love to travel. I’ve travelled the world (literally) and can get quite itchy feet in between holidays so am always planning our next adventure. Much as I do like a bit of a relaxed holiday from time to time, I do prefer a bit of an explore. Hubs isn’t great at sitting still either and with active kiddies we, in general, prefer to be out and about a lot on our holidays. We have been abroad with the kiddies but we love our UK holidays too. There are some stunning places in the UK, and our recent holiday took in one of my favourites, the Lake District.
It’s been a bit of a cheeky one as it is in term time. Monkey isn’t yet 5 so as he’s not yet of “compulsory school age” we can get away with doing it without getting a fine, and as the timing worked better for my parents, and little brother and fiance, to join us, we decided to do it. Plus of course it was much cheaper.
We rented out a lovely, and very large, cottage for the 8 of us, in Lakeside at the south western edge of Lake Windermere. I have been to the lakes a few times before and just love the lakes and mountains.
In short we’ve had an amazing week. I will write some more posts about some of the specific places we’ve visited over the next few weeks but on the whole we’ve done so much! Here’s a brief rundown (with tonnes of photos, obviously!)
We’ve seen a castle and an aquarium.
We’ve been on a boat trip up Lake Windermere, visiting Ambleside and Bowness along the way.
We’ve been to Beatrix Potter’s cottage, Hill Top and had afternoon with a gorgeous view at the hotel next door. We’ve been to the Claife viewing station on the edge of Windermere and the Beatrix Potter Gallery in Hawkshead.
We had a day close to the cottage, with a nature trail and adventure play area followed by a yummy lunch at a nearby hotel, before taking an amazing walk through the stunning woods opposite our cottage.
We visited Coniston and Tarn Hows where we saw some stunning waterfalls and amazing scenery before stopping at the Bobbin Mill to learn how bobbins were made. (This was actually fascinating and the tour was much more interesting than I thought it would be!)
Finally we visited another lovely castle with the most amazing gardens I have possibly seen, and a lovely wild adventure trail.
So it has been a busy but amazing week. We have seen and done so much… and yet we’ve barely touched the surface in terms of things to do up here.
My daughter likes pink (Or Kink, as she calls it). Big surprise in our culture eh? So why does it irk me? I don’t want her to ever feel limited by the fact she’s a girl (and nor do I want Monkey to ever feel limited by being a boy) or that it means she is unable to do something. I want her to have and do whatever she wants, and she wants pink. So why am I uncomfortable about that? Is it just because it is so stereotypical?
I have to admit that I have tried to stay away from the predominantly pink clothes that are available for girls. Yes she wears pink (mainly because we have a lot of hand me downs from friends but also because I like pink and don’t want to avoid anything completely) but actually she wears all the colours of the rainbow. But her choice is always for pink. she prefers her pink coat, her pink shoes etc. So she does wear pink quite a lot at the moment.
The same goes for toys, she has pink toys but she also has a lot of more multicoloured things and a lot of boys toys thanks to her older brother. I got her a red balance bike rather than a pink one… But she won’t go on it and I have to admit I am wondering whether she would be more inclined to use it if it were pink?
She shows such a preference for all things pink that it drives me crazy at times. With Monkey he was always about red and yellow when he was little, though he has moved over to blue and yellow as his main faves recently I think. With LM it is pink and purple. Anything pink or purple and she coos over it. I’ve just bought her a pink drinks bottle to stop the tantrums she had whenever she saw a friend with a pink cup and I tried to get her to use a blue or clear one.
It’s not that I want either of my kids to be brought up ‘gender neutral’ as I don’t really agree with that. We are born a gender and I don’t see any problem with identifying as that gender, to a point anyway. I also disagree with the boys will be boys mentality or that girls have to wear dresses and be graceful and dainty. As with most things I tend to like the middle ground. I’m a girl and I do like some pretty things and to look nice. But I also like to not bother with looking nice sometimes. I enjoy mental arithmetic, and I like cars. I want my son to know its ok to cry sometimes and for my kids to know that there aren’t different jobs for men and women.
So what does it matter what my little girl’s favourite colour is? Really? I’m a big fan of the “let toys be toys” campaign and I dislike the pink aisles for girls toys. But with a girl who loves pink so much without any prompting… I wonder if there is something about pink that girls love and that’s why the toys are pink and they know the will appeal to them? But then I am reminded of the fact that in the 19th century pink was more associated with boys than girls so it must be cultural, right? That even though I haven’t encouraged her to like pink, so much that she sees associates pink with girls.
I like Skye in the paw patrol as she is as much a part of the team as the boys, but again why is she pink to show she’s a girl? Dora wears pink, Millie in Umizoomi wears pink. Again is this because girls like pink or do girls like pink because of this constant reinforcement that pink is for girls?
Does it even matter? I have no idea. I’m going to continue to do what feels right with my kids. To play with the same things with both of them. Because girls can build and play cars and boys can play with babies and cook. To let them be who they want to be, and play with what they want to (within reason obviously, not kitchen knives lol) even if that means swallowing my own opinion or ideas. To guide them to be adults who know that men aren’t better than women and women aren’t better than men. That we have our differences, but that they don’t make either one less than the other. And I imagine that while I am doing that, that my daughter will be wearing pink.
It was my birthday at the weekend, and it as a very lovely birthday. It’s difficult as you get older, to know how to celebrate your birthday sometimes. We thought about having a big bbq with friends and family round but in all honesty I couldn’t be bothered. I do love hosting things like that but it is a lot of work and actually, for my birthday, I didn’t want to do it. I just wanted to relax instead.
So on Saturday I left hubs with the kids, and popped down to London to see some friends. I was armed with a picnic and hoped the weather would be kind as I headed to Greenwich Park. As it turned out the weather was perfect, warm and dry but not too hot either, and I had the loveliest day with my girls, just sitting doing nothing but chatting. It’s so rare to do something like that and I enjoyed every second.
I was home by 11 so it wasn’t too late a night and wasn’t too hung over the next day for my actual birthday.
Thankfully LM slept in for us that Sunday Morning so I had a relaxed start with tea and presents with hubs and Monkey. I had a nice hot bath and got ready while hubs sorted a picnic for our day out bluebell hunting.
One of the things I love about having my birthday at this time of year is that it is very much bluebell season. There are some woods not far from here that I have visited regularly over the years, but this year I wanted to try somewhere new. I saw that Brampton Woods were supposed to be nice, and are only about 20 mins away so thought we would try there.
Uncle Mark & Auntie Fran came with us, and well we weren’t disappointed. Almost as soon as we entered the woods we were greeted by some beautiful bluebells.
I had read online the best spot to find the bluebells so we headed in that direction and wow it wasn’t wrong. There were bluebells as far as the eye could see, it was stunning and everything I had hoped it would be.
We spent a while larking around and taking pictures and just enjoying the bluebells, then had a lovely little picnic before carrying on exploring the woods.
There were areas in the woods where it almost looked like it was showing, or like we were in a misty swamp or something as there were fuzzy spores everywhere. Think like the seeds from a dandelion clock, but everywhere!
We spoke to one of the rangers and apparently it is the sores from an aspen tree. Normally they get washed or blown away but because it has been so dry recently they are just gathered together. So it’s very unusual but was kind of cool and felt pretty ethereal. Even during our picnic there were spores flying around us, it a LM out felt like ash falling the scenes from avatar after home tree burned down. Even though it was quite cool I was glad to be in the non fuzzy areas again as it was just everywhere and it felt like you were breathing it in!
We had great fun and it is a lovely wood as it is so diverse, with open area, ponds as well as the more dense woodland areas.
We had a lovely day and it was just perfect for my birthday
The Easter holidays are over and I honestly can’t believe how quickly they have flown by. We’ve had lots of ups and down but mainly ups, thankfully, and lots of fun as a family while Monkey was being off school, so I thought I’d share a little run down of our adventures over the past couple of weeks rather than trying to write separate posts about what we got up and what is going on.
I’m going to start with the negative first as there has been a bit of a shadow cast over the last couple of weeks that I’ve hinted at but not really talked about. Deep breath, here we go. My amazing aunt was, very sadly, and shockingly diagnosed with cancer just before the start of the holidays. My aunt, who is the fittest 70 yr old I can imagine, who treks all over the world. She came back from a trip to Sri Lanka in February and got a cough. The cough got worse so she saw the Dr, they did an x ray and referred her to a chest specialist. It got worse and they got her in for a scan. The scan revealed an aggressive tumour in her lungs, another on her spine and cancer in her liver and kidneys. This all happened incredibly, incredibly fast and it was hard to catch our breath. They started radiotherapy, then she lost the use of her legs and was admitted to hospital. The speed this has happened has been mind-blowing and there’s obviously been a lot of sadness and coming to terms with things. We don’t know what the future holds exactly but we so know that she probably won’t be with us into her nineties as we had hoped previously.
I’m not going to go into it more than that, and it may sound like I’m being cold and matter of fact but that’s the way I have to handle it. My aunt is an amazing lady and she is positive and upbeat and we have to be the same on her behalf. And I have to live my life. Below the surface I am obviously incredibly sad but I can’t let that overwhelm me as I have the kids to focus on and to think about. We’ve explained to monkey that she’s poorly and the Doctors are trying to help and that they may not be able to. And that is how it stands at the moment. I’m sure you can imagine that this has dominated the last few weeks for us so I couldn’t talk about our Easter hols without mentioning it. Well I suppose I could, but I didn’t want to.
Moving on to the lovely things we have been up to during the holidays. It got off to a brilliant start with some tree climbing for our Monkey, a lovely family bike ride and some gruffalo spotting while enjoying the gorgeous sunshine. Sadly that Sunday night our Little Miss had croup. It was nowhere near as bad as she has had previously, she didn’t have the wheeze (that they call stridor) just the horrible bark like cough. She even slept ok, while hubs and I were awake and worrying for half the night! So we had a quiet day on the Monday as her cough thankfully became more normal. Hubs took Monkey to work with him which he loved.
On the Tuesday, hubs had some time off work so he came on a bike ride to our local country park with us which was really lovely. The kids had a whale of a time in the sand and water play area there and we had lunch together in the café. That evening my stepdad popped over for tea that evening as my mum was down in London with my aunt.
That night I drove down to London to see my aunt and my mum. Hubs and the kids had lots of fun together the next day with another cycle ride and café trip
I was feeling pretty drained on the Thursday after the trip to London but we had previously arranged for a day out, going on a bear hunt, at our local country park. The kids loved it, though Madam did have a major tantrum (as she wanted to go to feed the ducks while we were on the trail s couldn’t) which I struggled to deal with with everything that was going on, though thankfully I had a very good friend there who supported me through it. She did get over it and once I explained that the bear was just a man in a suit, she liked him, and she loved the journey back on the little train, so all ended very happily.
On Good Friday we did a couple of errands, one of which was looking at bikes for Monkey’s birthday next month. We were planning on just looking but there was a fantastic one, which was on offer over the holidays, and because only the display model was left available we get an even better price for it, so we couldn’t resist. It’s bigger than we thought we would get, with 20″ wheels, but Monkey is so tall and the smaller ones just felt like he would grow out of them so fast. It is much bigger and heavier than his previous bike and while he is fine when he is riding it, he did start off with lots of wobbles when he was standing up, starting or stopping bless him. My older brother came over that afternoon so Monkey loved showing him his new bike and we all went out to help and encourage him. We also did a bit of easter baking on the friday, with easter nests and some Creme egg brownies, yum!
The Saturday of the Easter weekend was a beautiful day and with rain forecast on Easter Sunday we did our little easter hunt then instead. Monkey loves a good map so I made a little map for the kids to follow. We tend to just give the little eggs, and this year we gave them some little troll toys too (they aodre trolls atm). They get so much choc from all their relatives so they don’t need much from us! That afternoon my little brother and his fiance came over too.
Sunday was a roast dinner for lunch at my mums which was lovely and another little easter egg hunt there. Monday we had Hubs’ family over, including his aunt and uncle from Yorkshire for a lovely bbq. I didn’t take many photos but that afternoon we went back to hubs’ brother’s house and the kids loved playing their cats and tortoise including giving the tortoise a bath!
Tuesday was a quiet day for the kids and I as hubs took my parents down to London to visit my aunt in the hospital. This kids and I pottered at home and went on a bike ride to play on the play area. We also had a bit of a princess party which you may have seen! The kids were so good and it was nice to have bathtime fun with them as that is normally hubs’ time with them.
Wednesday we visited one of our favourite farms with friends and had such a lovely day. Just so full of fun and probably the fullest day I’ve ever spent at the farm so there was a tired Mummy and children that night!
Thursday was nice and chilled and we saw hubs’ parents for a play in the morning and just had a little play on another local play area in the afternoon. My phone also broke on Thursday which was just a pain, then when I took it into be repaired I was persuaded to upgrade as I only had 1 month left on the contract instead. So apologies for the pants pictures at the play park here, they were taken on a temporary phone.
Friday was at the park with friends in the morning, testing out my new phone. (more to come on that in a separate post) and we had a fab time with friends we hadn’t seen in a while. That afternoon was at My mum’s house for the afternoon for some snuggles and hot wheels fun.
So there we have it, 2 weeks went by in a flash! As mentioned there were definitely ups and downs but on the whole it was really lovel, My house is a tip though so I’m ready for monkey to be back at school, no matter how much fun we had!!