Things I’m loving at the moment

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

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

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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Tough times don’t last, but tough people do…

“Tough times don’t last. Tough people do” Unknown Author

I’m sure (and hope) I’m not alone here, I’m talking about when you go through those periods when everything just seems like such a struggle and you just can’t see any end in sight. To anything. Well I’ve recently been going through this!

Everything feels like an uphill battle and I feel like I can’t make any clear or final decisions and start doubting everything. Even what to have for breakfast! And for me a big part of this is living in such a mess, with absolutely no order. For someone that likes order and everything in its place… that’s me! I’m one of those people that arrives somewhere to stay and can’t do anything until I’ve unpacked, hung up my clothes, put out my toothbrush, toiletries and ensured things are where they should be. Yep, that is me.

I feel a bit as if there’s an expectation to have your s%^t together these days. Or is that just me?! I feel it’s my duty, and my job as a parent, that I have to be ok and look like everything’s alright (even if our morning has been like world war 2 trying to get Arthur to brush his teeth and I couldn’t find my knickers because they’re in a box somewhere amongst the pile of clothes and other stuff in our bedroom that looks like it’s been burgaled.) No one wants to hear about your awful morning or why you’re late. But sometimes I think when you’re trying to keep it all together it makes things feel worse.

Our way of life for the past 3 years has been somewhat of a challenge. Our lives have, and a lot of it still is, in boxes. I have completely and utterly surprised myself though, I mean I never for one second thought I could live in a caravan. But I did! Don’t get me wrong though, it’s not been easy. And I’m feeling fed up.

We are so close now to having the cottage fully live-able, we are sleeping in there, the main family bathroom is functional (however it’s not finished!) but we’ve still got no kitchen/ living area, downstairs toilet, utility room, ensuite or anywhere in our bedroom to store our clothes (apart from two humongous free standing rails.) The bedroom looks a little like we’ve been burgled. That’s another blog on how I am currently going through a life cleanse and throwing out all clutter, including half my wardrobe.

I feel like our life has been in limbo for so long… practically the whole of Arthur’s life (he is now 3!) and so far all of Wilf’s. I didn’t plan this in my head. It wasn’t how I thought things would be.

I remember thinking when I found out I was pregnant again with Wilf, how I couldn’t wait to enjoy my maternity leave in our new home, having all of his things in one place, and lots of time to dress it and make it just how I wanted it. I felt like I had a difficult time when Arthur was born, we were packing up our old house, moving in with my parents (which you’d think would have been easy with grandparents on tap), it wasn’t. Living back at your parents as a proper grown up with your own family, is hard. My mum was poorly too, which made things all the more difficult and upsetting. Then when we decided to rent, it was just another upheaval that at first was a welcome relief to have our own space, but then the house sold, so that’s when we had our bright idea to buy a static and live on site during the renovation of the cottage.

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This meant my entire pregnancy with Wilf and up until very recently were spent living in the caravan, through two heatwaves and a freezing cold winter complete with some serious snow, not to mention a few storms when I actually lay awake at night convinced the roof was going to blow off or imagining the caravan being swept away (with us in it) and landing in a field! Luckily we are all still here to tell the tale, albeit a few of my beloved coats that were discovered to have mould on them from damp in the caravan over the winter.

I should look back on these times now and be thankful they are over. And yes I am, but now I feel like we have new trials and tribulations to face. I haven’t yet completely managed to rid ourselves of ‘that’ caravan, we are still cooking and eating in it. I’m sure we could manage if we didn’t have small children, but preparing their meals and milk etc requires a working kitchen! Wilf is also weaning now so I’m trying to save our new cream carpet. The kitchen/living area has no flooring down so with a little one on the move, it’s just not safe (or comfortable) to be eating in right now.

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Over the weekend, I went to visit my 100 year old nan (very nearly 101!) who always asks about everything that’s going on in my life, including the house. She is one of the most grateful people I know, (alongside both my children) which is something I absolutely adore and admire about the innocence of children! My nan has lived through two world wars, losing the father of her child (my dad) at war before my dad was born, a few recessions and probably seen things in her lifetime we can’t even begin to imagine, and she is so optimistic. Nothing seems to phase her.

I pulled out some clean clothes for her when I visited and helped her into them. She was admiring the jumper I said I was going to dress her in, and she just kept saying how wonderful it was; the quality and the colour. She thought I had just bought it for her, I didn’t have the heart to tell her the clothes were hers already. But it made me think how I have never heard her say ‘I don’t like that’ or ‘I’m not sure about that’ or ‘isn’t there something else I could wear’. She is more than happy with whatever she is given. Completely content. She doesn’t complain. She just gets on with it.

I’m in complete awe of her, as I only wish I could be this grateful and content with life. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not unhappy, I’m not ungrateful with my life. Not at all. I am so fortunate for what I have, and know it’s more than most. Just sometimes I need to step back and remind myself how lucky I really am.

My nan kept saying to me at the weekend, ‘aren’t you lucky you have your own home though’ after she’d asked me how it was coming along and I’d replied to say ‘slowly, and feeling a bit fed up’. We are so lucky, whether it has a kitchen or not, it’s somewhere we are fortunate enough to be able to call our home. So thank you nanny for reminding me of that.

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Recently, I also lost my mum, as you can imagine it’s been a very difficult time and I feel like it’s only very recently starting to sink in that’s she’s not here. That I’ll never see her again and I can’t just pick up the phone to her or pop and see her. I saw her most days. I don’t think you can always account for how much your emotions can exhaust you. Dealing with something like the death of a loved one, in my case, my mum, is, hands down one the hardest most life changing things I’ve ever had to face. They say it gets easier or you learn to live with it, but right now, I can’t see that.

A lot of the decisions and reasons for buying this house is because of my mum (and dad.) The village we live in has always been somewhere we’ve wanted to buy in, and a big factor in that is because of how close my parents live to the village (about 5 minutes away). We keep our horses and (used to) keep our pig, Bazz there (sadly he also recently died). So just popping to see to the horses and visit my parents was easier than ever before. Now things feel very unfair, mum isn’t just down the road anymore. She was also my go to with the house. I have said in a couple of my Instagram posts about how my mum often advised and heavily influenced a lot of my interior choices, and knew all the best brands to buy.

I’m sad she’ll never see the progress with the house now. We had just made the main family bathroom functional before she died, so she at least got to see that. I sent her photos of the boys having their first bath in the cottage which I’m sure she loved seeing. I just wish I could send her photos of all the other adventures we’ll have in the house.

I know we’ll finish the house. People tell you how hard a renovation is. Most people say they’d never do it again. Then people ask why you did that or you should have done it like this. Well it’s not your house! Then people ask why you bought that now rather than do something they see as more important. It’s us that lives here, surely it’s our choice what we do and when. People also constantly say how lovely it’ll be when it’s all finished. I know that. But there’s times when you just don’t see this. And this is one of them.

But I thank my Nan for bringing me back down to earth and reminding me that yes, I am so lucky to have my own home and such a beautiful family. And I know she’s not here, but I know my mum is watching over us and can see the progress on the house. She’d also probably tell me to stop being silly and that everything will be ok, ‘it won’t be long’. Even though she’s not here to ask, I feel like my choices I make now on the house are still heavily influenced by her and in a way she’s part of our journey to finishing Our Pink Project. I hope so anyway. I don’t feel very tough at the moment. Far from it in fact. Living in chaos doesn’t suit me. But hopefully I won’t feel like this for much longer and normal service will resume.

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Last week we all took a very welcomed break to Cornwall. To be honest, very unlike me who could quite happily holiday every month of the year, I wasn’t keen to go away at all this year. We’re nearing the end of the renovation works (well sort of), boxes are everywhere, I haven’t seen our suitcases for about 12 months and god knows where my bikinis are (priorities and all!) so a holiday was the last thing I felt like doing.

Everything’s been feeling a bit of an effort at the moment, with things everywhere and two small children, I’ve been feeling a bit sorry for myself. The caravan isn’t all that bad in the grand scheme of things, it’s kept us all with a roof over our heads which I know is more than those less fortunate can say, but it has started to get me down. It can all feel a bit oppressive in there, cramped, freezing in winter and an oven in summer. I also hate the disorganisation of everything. Paperwork is everywhere, and clothes are bursting out of every cupboard. But, I put my big girl pants on, and embraced our first foursome family holiday, minus the bikini, and agreed to go along.

And we couldn’t have picked a better week! The week the UK was experiencing the start of an extreme heatwave with temperatures in the 30’s. Cornwall felt like we were somewhere tropical. I love Cornwall whatever the weather. We’ve now been for the last three years as one of Luke’s friends has a Chalet there, which is a stones throw from the beach and it’s perfect for little people!

We had initially booked two weeks but cancelled the second as we thought we might go abroad somewhere later in the year, but I’m not sure we will now as there’s still so much to be done on the house and we really need to plough all our money into that rather than a holiday (as much as it pains me to say).

We spent everyday on the beach, and visited a local animal sanctuary on the last day, driving home that same evening (thinking Arthur and Wilf would sleep the whole way home) … didn’t work out that way, and took us an extra couple of hours longer to get home but we’ve now visited most service stations in the south west.

I was always very fortunate when growing up. I have two sisters and we’re all very close. They’re my best friends. Amidst the odd squabble about someone else wearing each other’s top, I have some wonderful memories from our family holidays. My parents loved holidays, which is probably where I’ve got my love for travel from. We went every year, sometimes twice or even three times, and we always went abroad. We stayed in villas and then hotels as we were older and became harder to please.

We never really holiday’d in this country though, so until I met Luke, I hadn’t really been anywhere in the UK to experience places much longer than a day or two. And how lucky we are to live in such a beautiful country!

I have still only visited Wales, Devon and Cornwall, so have a few more destinations to do in this country but once the house is done we’ve said we are going to do lots of long weekends which I’m already looking forward to. I read something the other day that has really stuck with me, which said ‘make every second count when your children are young, you only have 18 summers with them’ (that’s if they stop holidaying with you when they’re 18!) I hope they don’t! But when you put it like that… it’s not much at all is it?! So make the most of it. Every moment, every day, and every single holiday.

So I think whether it’s a few days, a week or longer, some sort of family break altogether is really important. Sometimes the monotony of that daily routine and passing like ships on the night can get you down. For us, with the added stress of the house it can be difficult to enjoy your time together at home sometimes when you’ve got a million and one things on your mind and a to do list as long as the channel tunnel, getting away with a change of scenery can do wonders for your relationships with each other and time to relax.

I’m so pleased we went. Although it now seems like a distant memory!

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Since buying the cottage, Luke has been summoned (by me) to work on the renovation. This has meant that most evenings, practically every weekend, including Bank Holidays, I’ve spent parenting on my own. Of which I have learnt to have the upmost respect for single parents! It’s not just me that misses him though, as Arthur is a true daddy’s boy and when daddy is around, I don’t get a look in. He loves to imitate his daddy and say he is building a house, being a builder, complete with his construction hat, hammering everything in sight (luckily in the caravan, so he can hammer away as hard as he likes!) … I won’t be so relaxed when we’re living in the house.

With the amazing weather we’ve just had over the May Bank Holiday, I have to stop myself saying, ‘forget the house Luke, let’s all do something together’, but this weekend, more so than most, has been really important, as the final bit of carpet is finally being laid in the lounge and on the stairs. After having to cancel our first carpet fitting because we all had flu, and our youngest Wilfred was in hospital, the next booking was an admin error at the carpet shop and wasn’t booked in the diary, so we had to wait until their next available slot which wasn’t until May. So you can see why this is a bit of a monumental occasion!

So Luke worked tirelessly all weekend to get the lounge ‘carpet ready.’

I’ve been scrolling through social media all weekend at everyone’s sunny spent days at home or out somewhere fun with family and friends. Whilst I’m feeling like I’m doing a pretty rubbish job at entertaining Arthur, and looking after Wilf, spending the whole time wishing daddy was with us (and that we didn’t live in a caravan, which feels like a microwave in the warm weather).

Saturday I thought I’d brave it on my own and take Arthur somewhere fun, as after locking both children in the car a few months ago and Luke having to come and rescue us (smashing the window in as we didn’t have a spare key). I have pretty much avoided any adventures on my own ever since.

So, I took them both to a local ice cream farm, Churchfields. Obviously Wilf isn’t quite old enough to appreciate or experience ice cream, but mummy can for him! I didn’t rush there as all we do in the week is get up early to take A to pre school so I like to give him a bit of time to play and relax in his pyjamas (and maybe it was a bit for my own benefit too!)

After a bad night with Wilf up several times, I wasn’t on very good form. We arrived at Churchfields, popped Wilf in the pram and couldn’t find the car keys. I ended up emptying the nappy bag, ransacking the car and getting into an unnecessary flap whilst Arthur just kept asking ‘what you doing mummy?’ In the end I picked Wilf back up out the pram thinking maybe he was hiding the keys and he was lay on them… thank goodness!

I had the idyllic idea that Arthur and I would sit down and have a nice lunch together whilst Wilf slept peacefully in the pram, then Arthur could have a play and an ice cream and we’d go home.

This is what actually happened…

We find a table and sit down. Of course Wilf starts crying, no actually, screaming. I picked up a menu and asked Arthur what he’d like for lunch. He doesn’t want anything. He doesn’t even want ice cream. The queue looks enormous. I’d need to order our food, tell them the table number and sit down again. That will involve taking the pram and Arthur with me to queue. Sounds simple, but it never is, is it. Why can’t these places have walkie talkies for lone parents with children? Don’t you think that’d be so much easier?!

I sack off the idea of lunch. Logistically I just don’t know how we’d survive that queue and go back to the table with Arthur who doesn’t even want anything to eat.

There’s a soft play area through the restaurant, past the enormous queue. So I thought I’d try wearing Arthur out. To get the pram through the restaurant area I have to practically lift it to get it over this really inconvenient strategically placed hump in the doorway. Every door at this place seemed to have a hump (I’m sure there’s a technical term for these ‘humps’). They’re basically large inconvenient steps in the doorway that isn’t pram or wheelchair friendly. We walk past a glass cabinet with enormous ice cream sundaes on display (I mean seriously!)… obviously Arthur wants one of those and won’t move until he has one. So we get in the enormous queue.

I managed to avoid a sundae and he had an ice cream cone instead. Wilf wants to be picked up and Arthur also wants a cuddle. A two and a half year old with an ice cream cone on one of the hottest days of year sat on my lap… more of it went on my lap and feet than in his mouth.

We’re ready for soft play after that. I carry the pram over another door hump, which is actually a lot bigger than the previous humps so I do my best ‘I can cope impression’ and lift the pram over the hump. Do you know, not one person offered to help me?! He’s bored after about 10 minutes anyway and wants to see the tractor that we passed on our way in. Clamber over more door humps, and see tractor. He spots a pig in a field in a ‘pedestrians not permitted’ area (basically someone’s private land). Try telling a 2.5 year old it’s someone’s garden…

Look at pig. Suggest leaving. Return to see pig again. Walk away. Return to pig again. Look over at car park and wonder why someone has left their boot open. Realise it’s my car. At least it’ll be cool in the car.

On Sunday, friends were coming over late afternoon as Luke needed some manpower help to hold some oak that we bought to cover the big steel in the lounge. I stayed in with Arthur and Wilf till they came over, but it meant being stuck in the caravan melting as the gardens so overgrown and dangerous with lots of building materials everywhere and a big bonfire, there’s was no way I could police A and keep W out of the sun safely. I was suffering with serious cabin fever by the time our friends arrived, but they came over with both their boys, who are virtually the same ages as our boys. Both our eldest’s are great little buddies so no matter what we do they always have a good time together.

The cottage is in a really great spot, it’s close enough to the town centre, but far enough away to feel semi rural, and the lane we live on is a single track so it’s pretty quiet. There’s a lovely walk to a well known pub that everyone flocks to in the summer called The Camp which is right on the bank of the River Severn. So Luke finished off late afternoon (yey!) and we all took a walk to The Camp with the big boys travelling in style, in our Radio Flyer.

Moments like these that we do get to all spend together as a family make it all worthwhile, and are often better than any day out (particularly days out without daddy!) Often Luke will say he’ll ‘clock off’ a few hours earlier to go for a walk together and go up to the local park and every time I feel so fortunate about where we live. There’s plenty to do with a lot of things in easy access.

Our old house wasn’t in the best area, and not somewhere I’d ever suggest to go for a walk. It’s a lovely area and I can’t wait for the boys to grow up around here, enjoying all this outdoor space.

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