Things I’m loving at the moment

Design Vintage Pale Grey Vintage Cupboard
Loaf Pudding Sofa
The White Company Beaumont Four Poster Bed
Distressed Metal Shelf Unit
Rattan Butlers Tray
Timsbury Velvet Mustard Sofa
New Trapeze Chandelier
Long Ear Hook
Easton Baskets
Chambray Towel
Stamford Single Bed
Design Vintage Pale Grey Vintage Cupboard
Loaf Pudding Sofa
The White Company Beaumont Four Poster Bed
Distressed Metal Shelf Unit
Rattan Butlers Tray
Timsbury Velvet Mustard Sofa
New Trapeze Chandelier
Long Ear Hook
Easton Baskets
Chambray Towel
Stamford Single Bed

Surviving a property renovation

I couldn’t tell you how many times I get asked ‘how on earth did you cope with two babies in a caravan whilst doing up your house?’ The honest answer. I don’t really know. But I did, and I’m still here to tell the story! 

But looking back, it was something I agreed to with complete ignorance. I think it’s fair to say it’s an understatement to call Luke a ‘handyman’, as he is much more than just ‘handy’, and I’m not just saying that because he’s my husband. He is a qualified plumber, that’s his main trade, but he specialises in property renovations. He has done quite a few for clients now, but admittedly never his own.

Our first home was a one bed coach house, which he transformed into a two bed with a garage conversion downstairs that became our kitchen/living area, but that was a well overdue project. It became a joke amongst our friends who’d ask me in front of Luke when he was going to finish the kitchen. This project took about 6 years and was only completed as we were selling. But in all fairness to Luke, he does have a full time job to do so all the ‘handy work’ he does on our home, is done in his spare time.

Spare time isn’t something you have much of when you have children. Can you see where I am going with this one.

So going back to our current home, our ‘still’ pink home, Our Pink Project, which I’ve fondly named it due to the peeling pink paint on the outside of the property. Which, we’ve had sandblasted, but Luke the perfectionist still feels the need to go over the whole property himself ready for painting. still not completed, but totally liveable. No longer are we residing in an unheated caravan with a shower that lets the rain in, a cooker that you have to stick your arm in to light with a match and a toilet that has slugs in. Yes this was our living conditions for over two years. An original promise my husband made to me was that we’d live in the caravan for ‘just a couple of months’. This, I could just about deal with, but two years?! Well that’s what happened, two years at which point we even brought our new born baby, Wilfred home too.

I distinctly recall viewing the cottage for the first time, walking around, listening to Luke talking through all of the walls he’d knock down, moving doors and adding rooms. Meanwhile I was just clocking up the pound signs and thinking about how much time it would take. But for some reason I agreed.

The decision to live on site, even though the living conditions were pretty unsavory gave me a chance to see the progress. So at times when I’d have a mini meltdown (and trust me, these were quite often), I could just look out the window and remind myself what all of this was for. I think this helped a lot. The start is probably the hardest. It’s exciting when you’ve got the keys, the property is yours and one of the first things you do is rip down that old 1970’s flowery wallpaper, some of the old brown and orange curtains and start dreaming about putting your own stamp on the place. But once that initial excitement turns to realisation that the point at which you will be choosing curtains is probably a very long way off. Reality sets in and that question that you will be asked more times than you’ll ever imagine, ‘when do you think it’ll be ready to move in?’ starts to become the norm. 

Then there’s the spreadsheet. It’ll become your right arm throughout your project, you document everything on this, listing all those little jobs and materials, the timeframe and then don’t forget to add in that ‘total cost’ column. Unfortunately I have this incurable condition which prevents me from choosing the cheapest or most reasonable item for sale. But why are the nicest things always the most expensive? This causes a lot of arguments in our household, but in most cases (agree not all), they’re usually the things that last the longest or are just better quality. Or have I just brainwashed myself having had to say this to Luke so many times when he questions me. This is a debilitating condition when renovating a property though, because any budget you may have had, you can kiss goodbye. Instead, do the essential rooms first. The bathroom, the kitchen and then the bedrooms. However we didn’t take this particular advice, and did a few things backwards, utilising the caravan kitchen for as long as possible. 

A friend who had also been through a full house renovation said, once you start seeing plastered walls, you’re nearly there. She was right, at this point it feels as if everything is coming together. But the journey to that pint felt never ending at times! When we had discovered we had a pretty bad damp problem downstairs and ended up digging a few feet out of the floor, things really looked like they would never end. This wasn’t a one off unfortunately, but I think in the grand scheme of things we were pretty lucky as nothing too serious happened. Unless you count the chimney falling down.

On move in day, we had a bathroom, we had bedrooms and a sitting room, but no kitchen. Instead, we’d do the walk from the house to the caravan for cups of tea/ cooking. It was a great way to cut down on unnecessary grazing and curb my 20 a day green tea habit, but it was pretty tough with a toddler and a baby in tow. So we made a makeshift kitchen in part of the kitchen area, this made a huge difference to our quality of living. We even bought a mini cooker which had two hobs on top, so we could still cook hot food. 

Plastic boxes became our savours. We invested in loads of them. Also those plastic storage shelves with the drawers for organising things. We used the plastic boxes and shelves to store food (clear ones, so we could see what we had), and enormous black ones for clothes, toys and shoes. We used the caravan as a bit of a storage unit to start with and then slowly moved everything into the house.

Brand new carpets were laid. Cream carpets. So with works still very much ‘still in progress’, we were keen to make sure the carpets stayed cream. Luke laid lots of clear plastic sheeting over all of the carpeted rooms, and the stairs. If we were potty training, this was the time to do it! 

We painted the entire house white, just so that it was painted and ready to move in and we could make decisions once we were in. I’m glad we did it this way. So many people say that you should try and ‘live’ in a space before you decide on how it’s going to look. For me, this couldn’t have been any truer. I think rooms are a bit like people, they’re all different and all have their own personalities. How can you know what they’re going to be like without spending some time in them (the room that is).

Moving into the cottage couldn’t have come soon enough, but works on the house still hadn’t finished at move in day, and even though Luke had tried to get a lot of the dirty and dusty jobs out of the way, there were still things that had to be completed. So this meant dust storms of varying degrees throughout the house. At one time in my life this would have sent me over the edge but everything can be cleaned (and it was!) Several times. Living in such chaos and uncertainty, which pretty much sums up a house renovation, means you have to try and avoid letting things totally out of your control bother you. And if there’s one big piece of advice I can offer you, it’s that most things during a home reno from timescales, materials, costs and trades turning up are all pretty much things completely out of your control and be prepared that these will not always be on time/ to budget or will be delayed. But what’s important is to remember, it will be done, because you’ll make sure it will. 

Having lived in the caravan we had to embrace the minimalist life. Having a toddler and baby in the caravan and all the baby paraphernalia that they come with meant Luke and I had to sacrifice a lot of our own belongings just to fit theirs in. So when we finally moved into the house, opening boxes with our belongings in was an amazing feeling but also brought about some feelings of shame. I had so much stuff. Stuff I hadn’t used or needed or even remembered I had, had in over two years (some of it longer as it had been packed up and put in storage when we sold our first house). So I can honestly say that living in the caravan and undergoing a home renovation has been truly humbling. I wrote a blog post on this too ‘My life cleanse and why I don’t need things to make me happy’. It has definitely made me appreciate what I have, what we have and how lucky we are. For so many, our living conditions in terms of space and everything else in that caravan and even our makeshift kitchen in the house, are some peoples’ way of living. They have no choice. 

So from those dark days, the arguments me and Luke had over when the house would be ready, the days I was ready to throw the towel in and book into a hotel or sell up and go and buy a new build so we could move straight in and I could start choosing curtains… and now, I’m writing this and can confidently say, I’d do it again. I would. This isn’t our forever home. We never planned for it to be, although we’re not planning on moving anytime soon, but I now know I couldn’t ever buy a house and move straight in. I’d need to knock down a few walls first! I’ve actually really enjoyed reconfiguring our entire house and making it our own. Now I feel like I know what to expect though, so will that make it any easier? I don’t know whether ignorance is actually bliss. But, one thing I do know is, I’ll be making sure we buy a much newer model of caravan (with central heating and double glazing), with no slugs next time!

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Remembering Him

Remembering Him

This week (9th – 15th October) is baby loss awareness week and seeing and hearing people’s stories shared across social media always brings about a lot of emotions for me, but so important for people to keep sharing their story. Baby loss is a difficult subject for so many of us, including me. A subject that we all shy away from for so many different reasons yet sadly so many of us have had experience of baby loss. Every year the same message is shared ‘let’s break the silence around baby loss’.

As someone who has experienced baby loss with our first baby who had a rare condition called anencephaly which means the babies skull is not formed properly during pregnancy causing numerous complications and sadly death during the pregnancy or shortly after birth. Our baby boy died during the pregnancy. Then during our second pregnancy we had a miscarriage at 12 weeks.

Upon the loss of a baby you experience so many emotions and some of which are guilt, feelings of isolation and loneliness (even though I had my husband, family and friends around me), failure, disappointment, emptiness, confusion and a sadness like no other.

This is still not something I find easy to discuss. I have my two boys Arthur and Wilf now but I’ll never forget our first baby. He made me a mommy. I choose not to share our loss with many people, but I’m not always sure why. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to make people feel awkward and it’s not something you really drop into conversation. But then there’s so much guilt that surrounds that. The question you often get asked ‘how many children do you have?’ Or when Arthur was born those that didn’t know me would ask ‘is he your first?’. And the words would come out of my mouth ‘yes’, a blatant lie, when deep down I really wanted to tell them all about Baby Willis. But I’d do it because it’s not always a comfortable conversation for people. But maybe they’d also been through the same experience, maybe it could offer them an outlet for all those feelings they’re bottling up inside too. Maybe they are also desperate to share their story? Instead I’d always walk away from those conversations feeling so guilty and upset that I’d ‘discounted’ our baby by not telling anyone about him. Ever since my mom died, I’ll open up and tell people about her and people will offer their sympathies or may also tell me about losing a parent too… so why can’t I tell them about our baby boy?

It’s funny that I’ve taken to sharing it on here, but I don’t expect if you asked me in the street I’d be so open. But I wish so much that I could be. I suppose this feels like a safe outlet for me to talk about him and it’s also quite therapeutic. I do wish I was brave enough to honour his life in the way it should be by talking more about him. Although I never got to see him open his eyes and look at me, see him smile or hear his first words, see his first steps or find out what his favourite colour was, I still imagined and still do wonder all of these things. I look at Arthur and Wilf all the time and wonder if he’d have been like them, would he be shy like Arthur or cheeky like Wilf. Would he be a fussy eater like Arthur or eat anything like Wilf. All we have is a few photos of him which the hospital kindly did for us and his ashes, but that’s all. I think that’s what’s hard. There’s no lifetime of memories or experiences we shared, just the time he was in my tummy.

I read something recently from Tommy’s, the baby loss charity that really summed up my own feelings and loss and almost clarified to me that it was ok to feel the way I do.

“No matter when you lose a baby, you will likely be mourning the future you imagined together…” spokesperson at Tommy’s.

If you have experienced loss or know someone that has, just having someone acknowledge your loss can be a great comfort.

There is so much free support and advice available for anyone who has experienced pregnancy or baby loss, and a few of these include Tommy’s, Sands, Teddy’s Wish or The Lullaby Trust alongside lots of support groups and networks where you can hear from other couples and families. Please don’t suffer alone.

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How healthy am I?

How healthy am I?

It’s a funny time for us all at the moment. None of us saw anything like this coming. In one way or another, Covid-19 has affected us all. We’ve all completely changed the way we live our lives, either working from home, unable you work, children off school, rethinking how we can stay active and stay safe, popping out to the shops is suddenly only a necessity, and we are all unable too see family and friends. Many of us suddenly realising how important our health and wellbeing is, as we are faced with the possibility of a potentially ‘deadly’ virus, Covid-19. I for one, have been giving my whole families health lots of thought during this time and want to make sure I am doing everything I possibly can to ensure we are looking after ourselves properly.

You may have seen on my Instagram stories that I recently took a test with Thriva to find out how my health stacked up. I chose to take this test before Covid-19 (also known as the coronavirus), but it seems so timely right now, more than ever. You can pick and choose what they test and can also look into some areas in more detail such as hormones or thyroid.

I was quite shocked by my results. They showed that I was vitamin D deficient (a lot of us are due to lack of sunshine in this country), but I eat a lot of eggs and my reading was quite low. I also had low vitamin B12 levels which can have a range of side effects, mainly making you feel tired, weak, alongside feeling depressed. I also had high cholesterol which horrified me! But having had some time to digest the results in more detail, I realised I’d just forgotten how to look after myself. Also armed with this information I could actually ‘do something’ about it. With moving house(s), living in a caravan (where cooking meals from scratch was almost impossible), then moving into the house with a makeshift kitchen and no oven… well, you can imagine the types of meals we were all eating. Nutrition had just been pushed to the back of the ‘to do’ list.

Rewind 4-5 years ago and that ‘me’ would have been absolutely horrified at my diet. I was really interested in nutrition and pretty much cut out processed foods altogether. I learnt so much about different foods and the difference they can make. I also went to see a nutritionist who taught me a lot. But a renovation, and Arthur and Wilf later, I seemed to just forget all of that knowledge and slowly bad habits creeped back in and I’m ashamed to admit I’d let them into my Children’s diets too.

Typical breakfast now – Omelette cooked in coconut oil and a handful of berries.

I think I’ve become a bit ‘stuck’ as to what to give the boys at meal times (more so Arthur) as he is so fussy, so they’re probably not having the variety I’d like them to have and I end up cooking the same thing over and over again. But the better I’ve got with my own eating and meals again, the more adventurous I’m becoming with theirs. Time is a huge factor for me though but that’s all we have at the moment – lots and lots of extra time! I’m also investing in a blackboard to start planning meals. Is that a sign of old age?!

Arthur will eat something if he likes it, but he doesn’t sit still at the table for long and plays with his food.

Overall, the boys diets aren’t that bad. Just not where I’d like them to be. So far I’ve avoided introducing McDonalds to the boys, and hope to for as long as possible, and when they’re old enough they can choose to go there if they want. I don’t want to stop them doing something so they rebel and just want it more, but you won’t miss something you have never had. We never had it as children and I can’t even remember the last time I had one. They really don’t interest me and if I wanted a burger, I’d much rather cook one at home.

Chips are almost always homemade in our house and I’ve only recently introduced these, and they don’t have any fizzy drinks. In fact we don’t have any fizzy drinks in the house. I never did when I was younger and because of that I seem to have no interest in them. But I do have a terrible sweet tooth and love sweets! And that’s where one of my problems lie.

I don’t want to be too hard on myself though. As a family, we have had quite a lot going on, for me children have made a huge change to my life, more so since Wilf. I don’t have the time for myself I used to. Then with renovating the house we’ve got very little ‘spare’ time as any time we do have is spent doing house things. I had a car accident when I was pregnant with Wilf (which knocked me about a bit and I struggled to exercise). I had an existing back injury but this really exacerbated it. And exercise for me is my thing. If I don’t exercise I see everything differently, and not in a good way. Then my mom dying, alongside lots of the other things that happen in life. And sometimes things do take a bit of a back step. And unfortunately that was health and nutrition. But I’m still here, and I’m taking control again.

So this blood test with Thriva was just the kick up the butt that I needed! It also offers something you can’t get by necessarily just looking at yourself in the mirror or the scales. I know you can tell a lot by your skin, hair and nails etc but this gives you an insight into what’s really going on inside your body. A lot of which you may otherwise never know.

I had a complete overhaul of all the fridge and cupboards and I am pretty much just eating fish (alongside the odd bit of chicken). I am also taking the recommended supplements that my diet was lacking. I’ll share more about these later as would like to give them a fair trial and see if they make a difference. A lot may be in my head, but I am starting to feel different. One big difference is energy and no headaches.

One thing that I have kept consistent is exercising, but alongside the better eating I’m starting to feel a lot better about myself and pushing myself a bit harder. I’m not making as many excuses. I’m nowhere near where I want to be yet but I know it doesn’t happen over night (unfortunately!) But they say it takes two weeks to make a habit and I feel like I’ve found my old self again and got back into those good habits.

I also want to really try keep introducing lots of new foods to the boys diets. Arthur is sooooo fussy, and his staple diet is around four items and I worry about it daily! He plays with his food and just doesn’t seem to enjoy it. But I’ve been making a real conscious effort to re-educate myself and refresh some of the things I already knew but perhaps not doing in terms of my own eating and theirs too. I’ve also bought a few books which I’m finding really useful for advice and recipe ideas for all of us.

I tell the boys how important it is for us to look after our bodies and I talk about different foods and what they do for our bodies, as I think it’s important that they know. We get one body and we can’t send it back if it goes wrong, so I’m going to make sure I look after mine and my families.

I will be taking another test with Thriva soon and I will let you know how I get on.

*This post is not sponsored.

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Our holiday to Italy

Our holiday to Italy

*The accommodation, Casa Sant’Elia, in this post was gifted. They did not ask for a review but I was so genuinely blown away by the place I wanted to share our experience.

We recently enjoyed our first holiday (abroad) as a family of four, alongside some very good friends of ours and their two children.

We had been abroad a few times with Arthur right from when he was a tiny baby, and although that wasn’t always easy. With one very memorable nappy explosion in the back of a taxi in Greece and trying to apologise to the taxi driver, who barely spoke a word of English about the smell and assuring him it was contained! We have some good memories. So we thought adding an extra mini human to the mix would be fine. You see all these other families doing it, and I like to think we’re pretty laid back, so off we went…

Destination: Le Marche, Italy. Staying at Casa Sant’Elia.

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Le Marche is a pretty untouched part of Italy, with very few tourists and some incredible open countryside… so no one can hear me telling my children off!

The flight to Italy was an early one – 6.25am from Stanstead (that’s about a three hour drive from where we live). So we thought we’d stay over at a nearby airport hotel and book a family room so the children could get a full nights sleep. Sounds like the perfect plan doesn’t it?

Well here’s the reality. The plan was to set off early on the Friday so we could get down in time to go out for tea somewhere and get everyone into bed early. It didn’t work out like that. Friday morning I woke up and realised I had completely forgotten that I was going on holiday with my family and forgotten to sort anything for myself, including clothes, toiletries and the rest of the kitchen sink you may need when exiting your front door. Some people are light travellers, unfortunately no matter how hard I try, I’m just not one of those. Although I’ve got to say I have got so much better!

I also needed one last gym blast before we left so like a mum with wannabe serious multi tasking skills, and a mastery of doing a million and one things in the space of a few hours I dropped Arthur off at nursery, took Wilf to his nursery (conveniently located at completely opposite ends of the city we live in), and went to my spin class. I spent the entire time stressing over how much I was going to have to do before we left and wondering why I was in a spin class and not doing all the things I needed to do. My friend who was going with us, her husband and two children, then Whatsapped me mid class to say ‘on a scale of 1-10, how stressed are you?’ I basically laughed out loud and thought that was my Que to do the unthinkable, cut my spin class short and get myself over to my nail appointment (another essential before going away right?!) But before I can leave the gym I must visit their shop because I just may need some extra gym bras and tops so grab some vests and a gym bra (that I really don’t need by the way!) don’t try them on and leave. Made it to my nail appointment, giving me more time sitting still, thinking about the other 5 million and one things I should be doing.

Then it’s time to hit the shops for some panic buying! You know, for all those things you think you might need if going to stay in the outer Hebrides. Except we were travelling to Italy, one of the best places in the world to go shopping. I bought a lot of things that morning that I didn’t need, including some silver Birkenstock’s in the wrong size. Luckily I never wore and since returned (alongside every other item I bought that day!)

I arrived home to a mass Amazon delivery (more panic purchases the day before) 8 Trunki’s, 2 children’s swim floats, and 2 packets of dive floats. I only have 2 children, one wouldn’t be able to balance on the Trunki and neither can swim, the floats will be useful but they are only up to age 24 months so no good for Arthur. Good job Amazon have such an easy returns process!

Now it’s action stations to get showered and ready, Luke brings both boys home and we’ve got to go. Already a few hours later than we originally planned.

Fast forward to airport hotel, it was pretty late by the time we got there so just decided to get everyone to bed. But this didn’t quite go according to plan. I think it was about 1am when Wilf decided to go to sleep (well it was more a slump on our bed in exhaustion after the battle from hell to settle him), and then the alarm went at 2.45am. I think the entire floor on our hotel heard Wilf that night.

Checking in time, and guess what? Our bags are way over weight which resulted in a £130 payment to Ryan Air.

When it was time to board, we went to gate 38 (final call) but when we got there we found out this was the wrong gate, it was for Alicante. We were flying to Ancona. Still, they both begin with the letter A.

Panic. Ancona was also final call but that was gate 98. We had to get a shuttle over to this gate as the airport was so enormous! They told us to ring someone using one of the white phones, then this guy ran over and said there wasn’t anyone available to help us we’d have to make our own way there – about a 15 minute run away (complete with four children?!) The Guy sounded like Buzz Lightyear on his quest to help us get to Gate 98, giving us directions, and said he’d let us out a special door. So off we go only to realise we’d lost Arthur!! I just ran back to the gate shouting him and then he appeared crying his eyes out with a lovely lady who he’d told he was going to Italy and that he was just looking at the planes. That moment was up there with one of my all time worse parenting moments, from the feeling of panic to complete and utter guilt that we didn’t notice he wasn’t with us!

This man grabbed us again and instructed us to ‘just run, it’s a long way, and… good luck’.

So with all children with us this time, somehow we made the flight! Thanks to Buzz Lightyear and his directions!

Are you ready for the next instalment? Flight was about as bad as they go with four children who don’t enjoy sitting still and over tired but won’t go to sleep until the last 10 minutes of the flight. Then you wake them to put your seat belts on and they just scream the plane down.

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We hired a van (the fun bus), as there were so many of us and thought it’d be easier than our friends following us in convoy to Casa Sant’Elia. At the hire car place Arthur decided to smack his teeth on the metal desk. The noise was horrific, then I saw blood and at that point I was convinced he’d lost all his front teeth. We were rushed into the airport first aid room… luckily an ice pack and lots of mummy cuddles, my very brave little boy and his teeth were all fine. And I’m just hoping at this point we all make it ‘alive’ to the Italy house.

I’m pleased to say we did, and once there we were all pretty speechless. I have seen the photos and the videos of Sant’Elia, but there’s nothing like seeing the real deal.

The accommodation, Casa Sant’Elia, (very kindly gifted-by the owners Irené & Jerry Avis), who restored the property from a derelict farmhouse to its current glory as a stunning five bed (sleeps ten), was just like a home away from home. You’re surrounded by incredible countryside and rolling hills for miles. The owners were there to meet us when we arrived and were so hospitable. They really went above and beyond in welcoming us from the moment we arrived, to the moment we left. The place really is pretty mind blowing. I’d seen pictures and a few videos of the place before we went but I don’t think they do it justice. It’s one of those places that has to be seen!

It oozes style, and it’s one of those places you just want to steal all the furniture from. Irené clearly has an eye for interiors. The main staircase, which were restored stones form an old monastery lead up to the bedrooms with walls covered in family photographs, it really feels like a house that’s been filled with love and lots of happy memories, making it feel like a real home away from home.

I can honestly say it’s way up there with one of the best places we’ve ever stayed. So all the drama to get there were already a distant memory.

Casa Sant’Elia has its own private swimming pool too which obviously went down very well with the children (and adults!) The men went out to get some essentials and did the quintessentially British thing, showering the pool in copious amounts of blow up floats (apparently for the children) but they were the first ones on them.

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The gardens are equally incredible and absolutely immaculate. Flower beds surround the property, it looks as if it’s been lifted from somewhere and placed in the middle of rolling hills and fields. Sant’Elia is hidden at the end of a winding white road and not at all what you expect to find and the owners are also now opening up Casa Sant’Elia to weddings, and I can’t think of a more perfect venue to have an intimate wedding with friends and family.

It’s such a great place for couples, a group of friends or families. There’s something for everyone, not just at Casa Sant’Elia (that you could easily just stay at your entire stay), but in and around the area too.

If you enjoy running or walking you’re also in for a treat with all the stunning scenery and hills surrounding the house to get your heart rate up. My friend and I did go on a couple of runs whilst we stayed there and they were very hilly but the views worth it. We also found ourselves eyeing up all the derict properties wondering if we could replicate what Irené and Jerry had done at Casa Sant’Elia. I think it’d be pretty tough though, the work they have put into the place is incredible. From planting the copious rows of vines, to growing and nurturing the 500 plus olive trees. Then there’s the renovation itself.

Just a 5-10 minute drive from the house is a patisserie, Il Biroccio, that sells breads, pastries, coffee and alcohol. The owners popped us in a pastry breakfast on our first day, so we had to go and visit the place for ourselves where we picked up some pizza slices for tea.

About a 15 minute drive from the house is a proper traditional Italian town, Filottrano, which the owners took me and my friend to for our own little guided tour on all the best places to visit and pick up some fresh fruit and veg. It was a very different experience to the fruit and veg aisle in Sainsbury’s and we even got to sample some of it before we bought it. We went back a few days later and had some ice cream and pizza and took a walk around. Nobody really speaks English there, and I don’t think they see many tourists, but . Walking round we stood out as tourists, but I love places like this, as you know you’re seeing and experiencing the real country your visiting. Often hard to find these days.

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Literally a five minute drive from Casa Sant’Elia is Ca’ Vecchia Beerstrot, a restaurant that (bear with me on this one as I know you’ll probably be expecting traditional Italian cuisine). They specialise in burgers and beers, but if you like burgers, you love Beerstrot! Their beer is bigger than their food menu. The restaurant is all outside surrounding by corn fields, but as the weather is always so amazing there, it doesn’t affect them. Plenty of space for the children to safely run around too. When you arrive and sit down at your table, you can see why it’s all outside – the views speak for themselves! They’re breathtaking!

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There are also plenty of beaches to choose from within about a 30 minute drive. One beach we went to was amazing for families, with baskets filled with toys on each of the parasols, completely free to use! This was a great opportunity for the grown ups to sunbathe whilst the children dug for their lives in the sand. We visited two other beaches during our stay, both totally different, with one sandy beach which had the most incredible mountain backdrops and some really funky cafes and bars. One of the toilets I also took a photo in as it was named after my mom, Linda! (I’m sure wouldn’t be too happy about being named after a toilet, but it made me smile!)

img_9535Another beach we visited was a pebbled beach which had lots of incredible seafood restaurants. We went to one of the restaurants for lunch and it didn’t disappoint.

The owners are always working around the property as the vines and olive trees always need tending to, and Jerry has his very own tractor, named Ruby to manage the fields. Which of course Arthur spotted immediately! Arthur and our friends two girls (Wilfy watched as he’d be trying to drive the tractor!) were lucky enough to enjoy a ride in the back of the trailer whilst we were there, luckily on the last day (otherwise I think Jerry would have been booked up all week giving them rides everyday!) Both Irene and Jerry are clearly very busy people, but always seemed to have time for us no matter what, and helped to make an unforgettable holiday, even more unforgettable.

Irene and Jerry also recommended we take the children to a nearby waterpark, which also required everyone to wear swimming hats. We weren’t expecting much from as it was such a quiet, non touristy area. But it was a proper waterpark and I totally surprised myself (from what I had imagined would be my idea of a nightmare) turned out to be a really fun day. Arthur also really enjoyed the water and by the end of the day was really confident enjoying some of the water slides, including the biggest slide there (where he sat on his dads lap! But ended up having several go’s).

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Unfortunately Wilf had a very unsettled week, decided not to sleep most of the time we were there and would only be settled by his daddy. Which was pretty tough on Luke, but we put this down to new surroundings, a possible development leap or the heat.

Besides the lack of sleep, our week at Casa Sant’Elia flew by and to be honest didn’t feel long enough. We felt like we’d only touched the surface seeing all the things there were to see and we would definitely love to go back and explore more of this beautiful country!

As you can probably guess the drama continued for our journey home… Ancona airport is a small airport so we didn’t have any problems finding the right gate this time, however on the plane, Wilfy didn’t take too well to being confined to our laps, and whilst I took Arthur to the toilet on the plane a passenger behind decided to ask Luke to ‘control his child’. Wilf had been crying on and off since take off. But this was not the best thing to say to a (very) sleep deprived parent! Luke suggested going out onto the wing of the plane. The passenger didn’t see the funny side of this and then told Luke he wasn’t doing a very good job?! Luckily as I arrived back at the seat, I managed to calm everyone down (complete with the whole plane watching us), two stewards getting involved and poor Luke trying to assure me it was nothing to do with him (which it wasn’t!) Despite this and all the dramas on our journey over, it was an incredible week and we all feel pretty lucky to have had the opportunity to visit such a stunning place.

Casa Sant’Elia really is a hidden gem which I can wholeheartedly recommend to anyone looking for luxury accommodation, planning a special event or an intimate destination wedding in Italy.

You can find out more about Casa Sant’Elia here: santelialifestyle.co.uk

 

 

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My life cleanse and why I don’t need things to make me happy

My life cleanse and why I don’t need things to make me happy

This may sound ridiculous, but living in the caravan has been up there with one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Seriously. But I have also learn’t so much about myself that I don’t think I would have otherwise. It was small, oppressive, cramped, depressing, boiling hot or freezing cold, uncomfortable, stuffy and no matter how much I cleaned it, it was never to my standards! We had to be super organised, tidy and mindful of keeping anything we didn’t use or need. Otherwise it’d be in the way. But in the last 12 months or so I feel like I have had an epiphany and I feel quite liberated!

I would never in my wildest dreams (or should I say nightmares), imagine living in a caravan with our children. It’s not how I would have ever planned or pictured family life. I imagined us all sat round a big kitchen table, in a nice country kitchen surrounded by lots of nice things. Not Luke’s makeshift table (made out of up cycled scaffolding), our food stored in plastic boxes, just one plate and bowl each and several blow heaters or fans.

I remember being pregnant with Wilf and trying to explain to the midwife that we lived in a caravan and that it was only temporary. I was so worried she’d think we’d be incapable of looking after our baby properly in such a small space. I’m pretty sure this wasn’t what she thought at all, and seemed more concerned about me and my health and where my permanent residence was! I guess you could live in the most incredible house in the world but be the worst parent ever. Both my children are well loved, healthy and happy, and the caravan is nothing to do with this. That’s because of us.

If I ask Arthur now ‘did you like living in the caravan?’ his answer is yes! So for me, that says it all. We’ve had some fun times in there, including his 2nd birthday when we successfully fitted most of the family in the lounge and even Father Christmas managed to visit! Arthur’s had all he’s ever wanted and needed in there, (including lots of love), so whether we lived in a house or a caravan. It doesn’t matter. As long as your children are safe, happy and loved. That’s all that’s important.

It’s not ‘things’ that make us happy. Okay. Obvious isn’t it?! But it’s so easy to get caught up and carried away buying things we don’t need that give you that temporary high. That excitement when you press ‘add to basket’ and ‘checkout.’ Don’t get me wrong, I’m every marketers dream, I’m the first in the queue, the sucker buying something I don’t really need but must have because of the nice packaging. But you’ll soon forget that new jumper, put it to the back of the wardrobe and then buy another one. And if you’re anything like me it’ll be the same one in a slightly different colour that only you’d know is ever so slightly different because of the way the sleeve is cut or the detail on the hem!

When we packed up our old house I knew how many clothes and ‘stuff’ I had, but I didn’t really think much of it. I never once thought ‘do I really need all of these things?’ But living in the caravan I wasn’t able to have even a quarter of my possessions with me. I had to seriously downsize my wardrobe, my toiletries, handbags, scarfs… you get the gist. I was so worried how I’d cope, how could I possibly survive without all these things? But I had no choice! I guess I also had other priorities. I had to ensure Arthur had everything he needed. Space was limited, so I wanted to make sure any space we did have was for the essentials that we really couldn’t live without. Then I got pregnant and we’d need to make even more room for baby paraphernalia.

So what about all the clothes and ‘stuff’ that’s been stored away? Well it’s just been sat there, unused, and the majority of it I’ve completely forgotten about and I haven’t missed it at all. Moving into the house I’ve now started to unpack a lot of these boxes and realised I just don’t need it. I can’t possibly wear all the clothes I have. So I have packed up all of the unwanted, duplicates (sometimes quadruples) and taken them to a local shop, Exchange and Smart, that sells your clothes on your behalf. They get 50% from the sale which I thought was quite a lot, but it takes out the hassle doing it yourself. It also prevents me from changing my mind about things! I’m terrible for making excuses to keep things and holding onto things because of an emotional attachment like the top I wore on my first date with Luke (15 years ago) or a jumper my mum gave me (that never fit) but it reminds me of that day she gave it to me. Neither of which I will probably ever wear, but just keep, because. If I take it somewhere, its not so easy to take it back! I did start to photograph a lot myself and sell it, but I just haven’t got the time, and there’s so much! Anything the shop doesn’t want I’m going to take to a car boot next spring alongside all the other things I’ve cleared out that we don’t need or use. Then this can go towards something we do need.

At the moment we’ve got two temporary enormous freestanding rails. My clothes still over spill both these rails. So I set myself a challenge that I could only have one rail for all my clothes. I still have a lot to get rid of, but I’m pretty proud of myself so far. I’m trying to completely change my mindset. If I buy something new, something existing has to go.

I have so much storage, baskets and nice boxes which I’ve bought over time (to store all the things I don’t need). Ridiculous isn’t it?!

Whilst we’ve been living in the house and using the caravan to cook and eat we’ve left a lot of toys in there so that Arthur and Wilf can play whilst we cook. So, packing up the caravan to completely move out this week (ready for it to go once and for all). I’ve also realised how many toys we have. And I didn’t think we had that much as we’ve not had the room… I limited the toys to two large storage bags and a large storage chest. But over time the toys just kept creeping their way in. Arthur plays with the same toys over and over, and gets bored very quickly. He forgets what he has unless I pull it out and put it in front of him, so I am going to start periodically rotating his toys, making sure he plays with everything he’s got.

According to the British Toy and Hobby Association and NPD Group, the average UK child aged nine or under received £350 worth of toys last year (2016). And major toy buying doesn’t just happen at Christmas apparently. The UK trend of year-round toy buying is said to be ‘relatively unique’ in comparison to the continent. I feel a bit embarrassed about this. Why are we buying our children so many toys for no real reason? Is it necessary? Arthur is perfectly happy with a cardboard box, and Wilf loves hair bobbles and coat hangers!

One thing that is really important to me, that I feel my parents instilled into me and my sisters, was to ensure we understood the value of money and we weren’t spoilt. We had a comfortable childhood, nice holidays and never really wanted for much. Something I feel very fortunate for. But, we certainly weren’t spoilt and never had pocket money. We had to go out and earn our own money if we wanted things and I had a Saturday job by the age of 12. I want to pass this approach and mindset on to my children. And one thing I’ve decided I’m going to do is ensure my children don’t just get toys or treats whenever they want. Arthur has already started to say ‘I want that mummy’ when he sees something on the television. He’s only 3! So, from now on, anymore toys he has he’s got to choose a toy he already has to replace it with, and we will give the old one to a charity for children less fortunate than him. I want him to understand he is fortunate, but there are others that aren’t.

This epiphany has got me thinking, and reading! I came across this article about Minimalist Living, which is all about living with less. The benefits of minimalist living includes less financial burdens, such as debt and unnecessary expenses, and most importantly happiness. I really like this approach. I feel like we’ve all started to lose our way with buying unnecessary things and cluttering up our homes, cupboards or sheds, and we’re passing this way of living – frivolous spending and ‘treating’ our children to the new ‘in’ toy to the next generation. This over consumption is contributing to damaging our planet too. I think it’s also costing us our happiness. We put so much pressure on ourselves to have the next big thing, often the ‘thing’ we can’t afford, don’t need or even have anywhere to put it.

I am not ashamed to say that I have got myself into unnecessary debt when I was younger (and had little or no responsibilities), to buy clothes, shoes and handbags and other things, that I didn’t really need. And looking back I feel really stupid. ‘That dress’ I had to have, well I probably wore it once for a few hours, it’s been put in a dust bag and never seen the light of day again. How awful is that?! Then I struggle to part with it because it’s so expensive and I might need it again one day.

Don’t get me wrong, getting rid of stuff isn’t easy. That’s probably why I have so much stuff! But the caravan has really helped me as I’ve had no other choice than to try and live with minimal items. Without really trying too hard, I’ve had to change my mindset. Having lived in the caravan now I know I can live without these unnecessary things, and forget about it if it’s not important. It’s almost been forced on me with no choice, but it’s made me so grateful of what I do have and appreciate things more. I don’t think you can possibly enjoy something if you have lots of it.

I still haven’t got the answer to how many pairs of jeans, bras or fluffy jumpers I need, but I do know there are only 7 days in a week, so unless I wear 20 pairs of knickers and 32 bras all at once… then when will I wear them all?

There are professionals who can do the leg work and deciding for you, one of those is actually a friend of mine, Rachel, aka the Declutter Darling, who specialises in decluttering your life! She’s got some impressive A list clients who she’s helped organise and declutter homes for. She is also a strong advocate for the Marie Kondo way, a Japanese art of decluttering. This will honestly revolutionise the way you tidy!

Advice from the Minamilist article is ‘look at a possession. Pick something. Anything. Have you used that item in the last 90 days? If you haven’t, will you use it in the next 90? If not, then it’s okay to let go.’

I know I’m not saying anything radical here, but I can honestly say that since shifting my way of thinking. Making myself get rid of stuff I don’t need or use has almost lifted a weight off my shoulders. I feel like it’s also cleared not just my bedroom drawers, but almost my mind. It’s quite liberating. It also makes your house a lot easier to keep clean and tidy!

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