We just got back from a break at Center Parcs and once again I feel really rested and like I’ve just had a really fun break with loads of good quality family time.
I’ve been to Dunham Massey many times. It’s one of my very favourite places to visit. I’ve always felt we’re really lucky to live in a city and have all the benefits of the incredible amenities at our fingertips, while at the same time being such a close drive to the beautiful countryside.
Dunham in autumn is particularly beautiful, the frost lingers in the grass, the trees shed their leaves leaving a carpet of gold and the deer skulk in the woods.
But I’ve somehow never stumbled upon Red House farm tucked away on a lane near Dunham.
I found myself with a Monday off work, following working the weekend. And, as it was near Halloween I gave one of my favourite go-to websites a quick once-over (rainy city kids – it’s brill) and found a Halloween event at the farm. My parents live in Macclesfield so it seemed like a sensible place for us all to meet.
Typically on the way there it absolutely threw it down and I expected the whole event to be a total wash-out. By the time we all arrived however, the sun was out and I was pleasantly surprised by the turnout.
For a little farm, the event was really good. You paid for kids and not adults, and despite me somehow managing to forget my first born’s name and being shamefully reminded by her “I’M FOUR MUMMY”, the lovely lad behind the til charged me a couple of quid less and after getting a wristband, paying a pound extra for a pumpkin, off we went.
My little girl was gleeful at the tractor barrel ride – literally a string of plastic barrels made into little cars. I wondered at first why mums were getting in with their kids, and – somewhat optimistically – threw my daughter in alone and stood back, only to see them shoot off bouncing across the fields. “I felt SICK mummy” she stated upon her return – didn’t put her off going again though!
There was plenty to amuse the kids, the barrel ride, a climbing wall, kids playground with swings etc, mini tractors, an entire barn full of giant bouncy castles, a ‘treasure’ hunt, pick a pumpkin and pumpkin carving. We spent ages there and all of us thoroughly enjoyed it, it felt like really great value for money, and it’s such a bonue when you find something that parents kids and grandparents can all enjoy.
I’m not sure what the farm is like without an event like this – if you’ve been let me know, but it’s definitely somewhere I’d head back to. I really like it when you feel like you get good value for money, and there’s loads to do. We certainly left feeling like we’d all had a really great time.
Feeling a bit peckish we headed to the Lavender tea rooms just down the road, I was keen to show my mum who hadn’t been before (Red House has a cafe, but I wanted to show my mum the delights of Lavender) but hadn’t realised it doesn’t open on Mondays – d’oh, and so we went into Dunham Massey. My parents are National trust members (of course they are!) I am not, and had to take the £6 car park charge – ouch.
It’s always worth it though, I find the beauty of the place utterly breathtaking. We had a fairly long walk before the mini-me got ‘too tired’ and tried to insist on having me carry her. You’re three stone now, no way!
We all headed home, tired and having had plenty of fun, all for less than £10 (other than that car park charge! and the cake at Dunham, but let’s face it, their cake is uh-mazing and it would be rude not to!)
If you’ve been to the farm, let me know what you think. And if you have any other recommendations for autumnal activities, get in touch
It’s the beginning of July, and while for some this might mean long lovely summer days with the family, for me it means…the Tour de France!
Not taking part obvs, not even watching, but the grand tour that takes my husband out of the country for nearly a month. He’s a cycling journalist and this is his mecca.
It means for him the challenge of a lifetime, living the career dream, for me it means juggling work, home, a dog and a three-year-old.
(single parents, you have my utmost respect)
Last year, just before the tour, we got married. It was the best week ever. But having your husband leave the country for the best part of a month, less than two weeks after you get married is tough. Really tough.
So this year we decided we’d get some quality family time in the bag before he left. Biarritz in France is our favourite place in the world. It’s our ‘happy place’. We’ve been a good few times, mainly because when we lived in Birmingham flights were SUPER cheap, and we could nip over for a couple of days for £26 a flight and be on the beach within a couple of hours of leaving home.
I fell in love with the place, and fall more in love with it every time we go.
But the last time we went was 2012, two months before I found out I was pregnant, and we’d not managed to get back. So we decided we’d spend our wedding anniversary in our favourite place and we’d take some family to share it with us.
We got cheap flights from Birmingham and booked a nice house we found online.
Our wedding anniversary was bliss. The house was self-catering and had a little pool so we spent the day bobbing around with our daughter and had lunch at home. In the evening we popped out on our bikes for a pizza. It was as simple and perfect as I ever could have hoped.
This photo for June’s ‘Me and mine project (where you take a photo of your whole family each month) is us out for pizza all together. It’s so important she has these memories – that she was there at our wedding, there at our anniversary. When we got married, it wasn’t two people marrying each other, we were a family declaring our love for each other, promising to love and support each other forever. We are a team in our ups and our downs. I know she’s too little to remember these moments, so I hope me and mine is something for her to look back on. And it’s so lovely for us all to be on pictures together when there are so many we’ve just taken of each other.
Three days after our anniversary, my brother-in-law, mother-in-law and her partner all flew out to join us and we had a perfect couple of days hanging out, being silly in the pool, cycling around, paddling in the sea, just relaxing and laughing lots.
One evening, we even managed to leave our daughter with the in-laws and snook out for a quick drink alone. What a treat!
Biarritz is beautiful, one of the loveliest places I’ve ever been, I can’t wait to go back!
(Flights to Biarritz are available through flybe , we booked our house through Air B&B, but have stayed at a couple of hotels I’d recommend including the Mirano hotel – uniquely decorated, little chic place with amazing owners, the Oxo – small but centrally located, and the ocean – amazing hotel, best location, expensive!)
Thanks to rainbeaubelle for the me and mine project idea – where you take a photograph of you and your family each month.
I’m back! OK, so you probably didn’t notice I was ever gone! That’s fine,
I’d only just started blogging when a glitch in the matrix set me back a little. Well – a miscarriage to be precise. Don’t feel awkward reading that, It’s a fact, it happened, and I’m learning that for some reason it’s socially unacceptable to talk about. But, I’ve always worn my heart on my sleeve and 15 years of radio presenting – telling all of my life stories to total strangers – means I’m used to over-sharing.
I had to take a step back from the blog, that I’d actually only just set up, because I set it up when I found out I was pregnant as something to do on my maternity leave, and once I realised that maternity leave wasn’t going to happen, I couldn’t face the blog either.
So what’s changed? Well in all honesty, it’s been a long process. Longer than I expected. Longer than I imagined it took before it happened to me.
I didn’t think about the life admin required after you miscarry a baby – the cancelling of email subscriptions telling you how big your baby is in vegetable terms, the baby yoga class updates you subscribed to, the deleting of the baby apps, the unfollowing of the many million Instagram accounts of perfect, multi-sibling families and beautiful maternity clothing that only seems to pop up in your feed just as you’re having your first ‘good’ day.
I didn’t realise I’d suffer flashbacks, and nightmares, that leaving my daughter at nursery would be like having my heart torn out, and I’d need weeks of counselling to deal with these issues.
I didn’t consider that it would take many days – weeks even – before I stopped waking up in the night and instantly reaching for ‘the bump’ before remembering I was no longer pregnant.
I didn’t realise my body would take months to get back to normal, that my boobs would stay massive, my weight wouldn’t ‘drop off’ that once a month I’d turn psycho – but wouldn’t have a clue when, as it would take at least three for my cycle to return.
I didn’t realise that every time I saw a pregnant friend or sibling children, a baby scan, or a new pram my breath would be taken away.
I didn’t realise that some people would put a time limit on your grief, or decide for you how upset you are ‘allowed’ to be upset.
I didn’t realise I’d feel so guilty, so angry, so sad, so bitter, so hollow for so long….
But with good counselling, a good online support network (MOLOs I’m looking at you) great friends (REALLY great friends) a loving supportive husband, and the most beautiful kind amazing daughter I could ever wish for, I feel like I’m getting there.
There isn’t a day that goes by when I don’t think ‘what if?’ When I don’t think about my impending due date and how pregnant I ‘should’ be right now. There isn’t a day when I don’t look at my little girl playing by herself and feel guilty, there isn’t a day when I don’t think ‘what did I do wrong’?
But now there also isn’t a day when I don’t feel positive and thankful for those who supported us.
There isn’t a day when I don’t marvel at the strength of my body to repair and recover.
There isn’t a day when I don’t think I’m also really f*cking awesome for recovering from something so physically and emotionally painful, for getting back to the gym, signing up to an online course, holding my hands up when I struggled and asking for professional help, for putting on a brave face and getting back to work, even when inside I was broken.
There isn’t a day when I don’t look at what I DO have and feel extremely privileged.
There isn’t a day when I don’t look at my daughter and feel a bit guilty for not realising earlier that SHE IS ENOUGH, for remembering how goddamn lucky I am to have her in the first place.
There isn’t a day where I don’t laugh and smile with my awesome friends and know that the future is bright
One of the loveliest things about going away is getting a few bits for wearing on holiday. Why I am always so keen to get something new for holiday, when I’m so rubbish at shopping at home I’m not sure, but I’m always careful to make sure it’s just one or two things, and they’re versatile.
This year it’s some amazing high waisted jean shorts from American Apparel that can totally be dressed up or down (or even worn with tights underneath in colder months) The high waist hides a multitude of sins and they’re just long enough for thigh-flattery.
I’ve also recently discovered Joanie clothing – AMAZING vintage/retro inspired clothes in lots of sizes. (8-22) I LOVE their t-shirts and bought two for my holiday. I practically lived in them, so comfy and really cute.
I nicked the idea for the head ties from @mother_of_daughters on Instagram. But somehow she can really carry them off, and I ….can’t! ha ha, I tried, and it kept my sweaty hair off my neck, but I just couldn’t quite make it look cool – it’s from Lush anyway!
And my bag? oh, it’s incredible. It’s a tote, but you can pull one of the straps through and use it as a rucksack, which was amazing for transitioning between walking and cycling. Plus it’s made from durable fabric and has lots of pockets for threenager bits.
They’re expensive but worth it (imo) and it was my treat to myself to replace the bag that was stolen when we were burgled.
It’s from Kanken
This dress (that I’m doing an epically cheesy pose in) is from a great online shop I’ve discovered called Olive clothing (which works for me as I do most of my shopping online as I don’t get time to go shopping and I HATE changing rooms!). All their dresses come in one size which I think is generally about 8-14. It can be hit and miss – I’m wide-hipped and a couple of dresses have been tightish. They are also pretty short given I’m only 5 foot 4 – this was on the edge of acceptable for me! But as it was hot, I wanged some shorts underneath and wore it out, I even cycled in it. It’s muted, pretty, chic, comfy and there’s plenty of room for dinner in it!
And I just had to include this little beaut who’s rocking a John Lewis dress I just can’t get enough of, especially when she matches her tangle twister!! ha ha
thanks for indulging me x
Copenhagen seems to be ‘the’ place to visit at the moment, but I’ll be honest, before a friend of mine went a year or so ago, I’d barely heard of it and it certainly wasn’t a destination on my radar.
So, I haven’t written here for a while, haven’t updated weekly as I planned to originally because I’ve been a bit poorly.
Here’s the story of women who were challenged while travelling without their children, but WITH breast pumps, and breast milk, give it a read:
Here’s the amazing story of a man who gave up his time for free to help out an old couple:
In a world full that’s currently seemingly full of hatred and division, I find it such a relief when a beautiful story of love and sharing cuts through.
This is the story of a disabled couple who fell victim to a rogue trader who left them without a usable kitchen. The husband – who currently lives in a nursing home – used some money (£13,000) to buy his wife a new kitchen for her birthday. Arnold has to live in a home since having cancer of the spine.
The couple couple, one can assume given Arnold’s age, have been together for a while and were separated by horrible circumstances: Imagine your husband not only having a life-changing illness, but then having to move out of your home and live elsewhere, leaving you alone.
Then as a present Arnold tries to do a lovely thing for the wife he’s left, and buys her a kitchen. Except not everyone’s as lovely as Arthur. Not the guy who left them in the lurch with an unfinished, unusable, unsafe kitchen anyway.
Well this is the part I love. Instead of reading about this story and saying “good grief some people are awful aren’t they?” and returning to work, local builder Ernie Etah heard about their plight on the radio, and fixed their kitchen for them.
The builder has swooped to the rescue, fixing their kitchen and not charging a penny. What a guy. Ernie is, as Arnold says “epic”. Ernie, we salute you. I hope other people can read the story and do the same. Maybe a bit of altruism will make the world a better place.
Happy new year!
Hope you all had a fabulous Christmas and very happy move into 2017. I can’t help but think that figure sounds so futuristic. Doesn’t help realising that I went to university 20 years ago this year – eek!
Christmas was lovely our end. For once I held back on going overboard with the Christmas presents for our little girl. The other half wanted to get her a bike anyway, so that was her present ‘from Santa’, we got her the Sylvanian Families boutique she’d been asking for for weeks (despite a last minute, “no, I want the treehouse” – yeah thanks Nickleodeon. God bless Ceebeebies)
And we hung a stocking full of lovely stuff.
We knew we’d get presents from so many other people – grandparents, aunties, uncles, friends etc that we really didn’t want to go overboard.
We had a lovely time and managed not to travel. We’re in Manchester and my parents are in Macclesfield while my in laws are in Leicester. Most year’s we’ve been to both and then travelled home on boxing day and gone straight back to work, so this year it was lovely to go to my parents for Christmas dinner, come home, and have the inlaws round at ours on boxing day. It’s njust nice to have your own bed sometimes isn’t it?
Something really amazing happened on Christmas day, that I’m still in awe of, and that’s my little girl learning to ride a bike. She was three in September! And I have to admit, it was a little bit of a case of ‘egg on my face’ with regard to the other half telling me she’d be able to do it, and me arguing to the other.
She had a balance bike a good year ago and has become increasingly brave on it. Getting to the point, as fearless toddler do, where she flies down hills with her feet up.
The other half (a keen cyclist) assured me, that when kids are good on balance bikes ‘the done thing’ is for them to move to a pedal bike WITHOUT stabilisers
On Christmas eve we had a ‘discussion’ about whether or not this was a good idea. My point being – let’s put stabilisers on just for Christmas day, as I couldn’t deal with her falling off, crying, having a mardy and Christmas day being ruined. His point – she’s super single-minded and once the stabilisers are on, we’ll never get them off.
So, we go into the street on Christmas day on her brand new bike, SANS stabilisers and…well…here’s what happened….
And here’s what she did on her second attempt two day’s later.
So yeah folks, my three-year-old can ride a bike! it’s almost comical how easy she found it and how proud I am. She loves running and swimming, so maybe we have a triathlete in the making. Maybe….