October: birthday and back to work 

October is now a special time for us as it’s Felicity’s birthday month. A year has gone very quickly and she is most definitely a toddler, she’s rampaging everywhere now and we have even had a few tantrums – eek!

Look - a butterfly!

Butterfly house exploring

We had such a lovely time celebrating her birthday though. The actual day was one of my working days, so Will and I booked the day off and took her to the zoo with my parents. She was very very impressed with the butterfly house, it was small enough that she could toddle round and admire (chase) the butterflies. Elephants were dull in comparison. We’re currently debating whether we should get a membership so we can go back with no pressure to see everything in a day.

Happy birthday baby

First birthday puffin cake

We also had a little birthday party with lots of baby friends, it was a little manic but very enjoyable. I even managed to make and ice a cake half-neatly. My grand plans to make elaborate decorations didn’t happen, but luckily my sister-in-law had crafted an amazing puffin to go on top – Felicity’s favourite book is about a puffin, quite a lot of the presents ended up being puffin themed too.

October also saw my proper return to work, rather than just the odd day. I am really enjoying this, but I have been putting a lot of  energy into getting back into the work mindset, as well as getting Felicity used to her new routine and making the most of our days together. And that’s without making sure we’re all clothed, fed and living in a vaguely clean house. 

My big hope for November is that I can maybe do something that isn’t work/Mama-ing/housework or watching Gilmore Girls whilst slumped on the sofa exhausted. Gilmore Girls is obviously time well spent, even if we’re only averaging an episode a night, but I’m hoping I can maybe get my hygge on with some candles at the same time, or actually pick up some knitting or crochet. Wild ambitions!

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The lovely Lake District (with a baby)

It was slightly by default, as a lovely place about the right distance between home and Will’s sabbatical location, that the Lake District ended up being our first family holiday destination. I’m very glad it was though as we spent a happy five days there in glorious June weather.

We had to slow our normal holiday pace down significantly with a little person. Not that we never used to relax on holiday, we most definitely did. It’s just when we headed out we did tend to cram a lot in and I think we tried to replicate that initially. We’re up and about early these days so Will was bouncing to get out the front door and start exploring from about 8am. It meant we hadn’t got quite as organised with packing all the stuff Felicity needed for a day out and we ended up setting off at an odd time for her nap, which created a bit of baby boredom and grumpiness later in the day. We took it slower on the following days, soon learning that it was ideal if we headed where we going during her morning nap (or arrived for her morning nap if she could drift off in the sling or the buggy), did activity, made sure we could get her lunch at a sensible time and easily and basically repeated in the afternoon. She loved it though – I was rather dreading going home as she loves anywhere with people to nose at. She is in her element in cafes and tourist attractions and has learnt if she stares at people very intently they then generally smile, and if she then waves and smiles at them they smile more. Peak Felicity making friends on holiday was reached in Scotland by her grinning at a Norwegian man so much that he ended up giving her a bit of her lunch (with my permission!) Here’s a little synopsis of what we got up to during the Lake District bit of our June trip.

The walk to Wray Castle

See & do

Walking Usually on this length of holiday somewhere outdoorsy like the Lakes we would probably spend a couple of days sightseeing, and at least a day or so going on long walks/hikes. We were a bit worried we wouldn’t really be able get out into the National Park at all with a baby but thanks to a combination of the sling and a great scheme called Miles without Stiles, a collection of routes with access for those in wheelchairs and buggies, we did manage to see some countryside. There needs to be more initiatives like this in my opinion so as many people as possible can enjoy beautiful places outside cities and towns.

The sling walks we did were all fairly niche wildlife related so I won’t share them here, Will has over on his blog though if you’re interested. If we visit again I’d be keen to try and get up to the fells as that was the only thing the walks we did were missing this time.

Some of the Miles without Stiles routes are very short for those with limited mobility, but there are a couple of longer ones too. All are fairly flat by Lake District standards. We got the buggy round fine on all of the walks we tried and the shorter routes we did in Grasmere and Staveley helped us discover some quieter off-the-beaten-tourist-track places, especially in busy Grasmere.

The longest walk we did was up to Wray Castle on the western banks of Windermere. I didn’t quite twig that the mileage listed on the walks is the round trip total, so was a bit surprised at how quickly we got to the castle on the journey out!

Soft play at Wray Castle

Wray Castle – This definitely wins the competition for weirdest National Trust property I’ve ever been in. It is a nineteenth century replica of a castle, set just up from the shores of Lake Windermere. It is not a stately home as such so it has been given over to various children’s activities, including a soft play/build your own castle room that Felicity very much enjoyed. I don’t think I’d necessarily bother paying to go in with a baby if we weren’t members anyway as most of it is  designed for slightly older children – with things like ping pong, colouring and a hands on Peter Rabbit play garden. It would be good for a rainy day though, and on any day the cafe is lovely and there are stunning views to take in.
Beatrix Potter's Hilltop Farm
Beatrix Potter's Peter Rabbit garden at Hill Top

Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Another National Trust property that I was keen to visit as I missed it on a previous trip to the Lakes. This was Beatrix Potter’s home and an inspiration for her children’s illustrations and stories. We didn’t spend long here as it was very crowded (even just after opening at 10am). It was fascinating to see the inspiration for her illustrations though and some bits were so obviously the model for her books it was almost surreal. It’s quite a small site for the number of visitors and there was no lawn or anything in the garden where we could put Felicity down for a crawl and to let off some steam so we retreated to the hotel next door for a coffee instead.

Boat trip on Windermere

Boat trip on Windermere – It was so hot one day the idea of sitting on a boat with a breeze blowing was heaven so we hopped on the 45 minute island cruise from Bowness. We weren’t sure if these would be suitable with a baby but we were assured they were. The only thing we were requested was to fold up the pram before boarding, for obvious reasons. We were a bit worried that with the design of our buggy (the seat unit has to come off to fold), we were going to lose the seat over the side of the deck where buggies had to be left, as the railings weren’t that close together. It survived though – phew. I would definitely consider getting an umbrella style buggy for future trips. Felicity took the boat trip in her stride and I don’t think realised there was anything different going on!

Lakeland shop – I’m a bit obsessed with Lakeland generally, any kind of innovative homeware is the sort of thing I love looking at, and Lakeland is the ultimate home and kitchen shop. As the name suggests, the shop originates in the Lake District and their flagship shop is right next the train station in Windermere. I managed to convince Will to pay a visit one rainy afternoon with the lure of their excellent cafe, and we were so glad we did as not only were the coffee and cake amazing there was also a free and pretty much deserted small soft play area for Felicity. She had never been to soft play before this trip as everyone I know usually mentions it in the same breath as the scream emoticon. She loved it though and it was certainly a very civilised introduction to the seemingly inevitable soft play visits for us. We ended up going back a few times whenever we were in need of cake or Felicity was in need of a bit of crawl.

Stay

We rented cottages for the whole our trip as it’s just so much more relaxed being able to watch TV or read after bedtime rather than sitting in a hotel room in the dark when Felicity has gone to bed. We did initially look at AirBnB but there doesn’t seem to be much availability in rural places as yet so going through traditional holiday cottage companies worked out cheaper. We booked with Lakes Cottage Holidays for this part of the trip, who I would thoroughly recommend as they allow flexible bookings and shorter breaks, not just Saturday-Saturday whole week stays.

We were based in the lovely village of Staveley, just a few miles from Windermere – which is why most of the things we did above were based in the South Lakes area. There was plenty to do around where we were staying rather than dragging Felicity further afield. Staveley was a great place to be based, not as crowded and touristy as Windermere or Bowness, but with a lovely pub and some other amazing food and drink options (see below), and a little playground for Felicity as well.
Eagle and Child beer garden

Food and Drink

Eagle and Child Inn, Staveley – Lovely pub food, but the main thing we liked about this pub were the most fantastically beautiful beer garden views I think I’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing. They were also lovely with Felicity, a high chair appeared before I’d even got her out of her buggy as soon as Will went in to order drinks and mentioned we had a baby.
Hawkshead beer and Felicity
Hawkshead Brewery Beer Hall * – We couldn’t resist stopping in here on an afternoon walk, me to buy a present for my real ale obsessed Dad, and Will to sample some local ales. It was a lovely atmosphere on a sunny afternoon and I’m told the beer was good and the honey roasted with chilli nuts were definitely very good.

The Sourdough Pizza Co. – we had decided to get a takeaway on the last night as a treat, but didn’t realise where we intended to order from didn’t deliver. Due to sampling at the brewery earlier in the day Will couldn’t drive and I had to feed Felicity before bed. So even though we’d already had a pizza night earlier in the week we decided to try this company. I am so glad we did, sourdough pizza is officially amazing, I’m still fantasising about this pizza. In fact I might have to go back to the Lakes just to have more.

More? Artisan Bakery – Located right next to the Brewery, we didn’t realise this was here until the last day, so only sampled some of the cakes we bought to share with some friends we stopped in with on the way up to Scotland. They were delicious though so I’d really recommend this place, looked like they did a lovely breakfast menu too.

Booths' Wuthering Bites bag
Booths – I always take an opportunity to visit these lovely supermarkets whenever I’m near one. I really want them to come down South rather than just being a Northern England thing. We got all our food here for meals at the cottage. Also they were doing these amazing pun based resuable bags for three pounds which I couldn’t resist. Other options included ‘The Cake District’, no comment on how well that summed up our holiday…

*No babies were fed beer in the making of this blog post.

Sunday night delights #12: an epic catch up

Oh dear, sorry for the rather epic blog silence. After our weekend in Edinburgh (post about that coming very soon!), I came down with a horrible bug that totally wiped me out for almost a week. Last weekend was mainly spent in bed and this week was rather manic catching up with everything so I have neglected my little blog terribly. I also can’t believe it’s Christmas on Thursday, being ill confused me terrible, we only got our decorations up on Thursday, though I am now revelling in the coziness and the twinkling!

Birthday presents

This weekend…

Well I couldn’t help having a nice weekend: it was my birthday yesterday! I got so many lovely gifts, including books on crafts and interiors; a new teapot and purse and many other lovely bits and pieces. With all the messages from friends I haven’t seen for a while as well, I felt like a very spoilt lady. After all the illness and chaos I was very keen to have a quiet one, and that was exactly what I got. I was brought breakfast in bed and had a long lie-in whilst opening presents, followed by lunch with my parents and more presents (accompanied by prosecco rather decadently). The afternoon was spent with good friends and birthday cake (and baby cuddles). Topped it off with a relaxed evening crafting, with a Chinese takeaway and a Harry Potter film. I realise that sounds like the whole day revolved around food, but it was all the more awesome for it. I like nothing better than that kind of relaxed day, and really felt like I haven’t had one for months, so I loved it!

Today started off less nicely in that Will seems to have come down with the bug I’ve just recovered from, so we had to cancel our plans for attending a friend’s wine and cheese party this afternoon. Instead I caught up on some Christmas crafting, sorted a few more presents and generally enjoyed the Christmas cheer at home, lighting the candles in our living room and turning on the tree lights made our little house such a nice place to be today.

The week to come…

I’ve got a few more days at work, a few more Christmas parties and meals and then I’ve got a heavenly 11 and a half days off. Can’t wait! I hope you’ve got some time off to relax and enjoy the season.

Sunday night delights #10: a little late

I know I shouldn’t, but I tend to get a sinking feeling halfway through Sunday afternoon, as I realise the end of the weekend is near. I thought I should take some time to think about all the lovely things that have happened over the weekend, and what I’m looking forward to.

This weekend…

It was a good one everyone! A busy one too which is why this post is a day late, it’s Monday night delights this time. After a pretty hideous day at work, concentrating on cheerful things is only a good thing too.

Saturday was such a lovely day when I caught up with Jennifer from Pastry & Purls and our other friend N. We went to the V&A in London to visit the exhibition on Wedding Dresses. If this is your cup of tea then I thoroughly recommend going, as there are some truly beautiful dresses on display. I think I actually found the older dresses more interesting than the modern ones, as it is fascinating to see how certain features reappear over hundreds of years.

We intended to view another gallery or two after the main exhibition, but after sitting down for lunch in the cafe, we ended up spending as long just chatting and catching up as we had at the exhibition, especially when lunch turned into afternoon tea and cake! It is wonderful when you can just happily sit and chat for hours though, something I feel I don’t do as much of now I’m older – University was nothing but sitting and chatting from memory. We just had enough time for a quick shop visit as well before we had to part ways (boo!).

I had to get home as we had a fancy dress housewarming party to attend. The fancy dress theme was art so there was rather a panicked scramble to get a costume together, Will and I went for the rather random choice of ‘The Awakening Conscience‘ by pre-raphaelite William Holman Hunt, to mixed success I think! Still, it was still a lovely evening with lots of people getting fairly tipsy and making various animals out of pipe cleaners.

Sunday ended by being a bit more admin focussed when we spent a ridiculous amount of time getting a new mobile phone sorted for me (it all went very complicated due to my name change since the wedding). It was so badly needed though as my old phone could no longer make calls and texts didn’t always come through. Pretty much useless as a phone essentially! I feel a bit guilty that I went for another minerals-eating iPhone rather than getting something more ethical, I had at least driven my last phone into the ground rather than getting an upgrade when I was offered one years ago. I’m concentrating on the better photos I will be able to take from now on, so hopefully the blog will benefit from some prettier pictures. We did manage to have a bit of fun when we went to see the new Hunger Games film last night (I recommend) followed by the pub. A rather unusually active Sunday night which was actually a really nice change – and why I didn’t write my blog post on time!

The week to come…

A funny one this week as we’re both going away for work so my normal pottering about at home will be replaced with networking and conference dinners. I’m loving the portability of crochet though so I will definitely be taking some to do if I get a minute in between talks at the conference. I’m also already looking forward to getting back to my own bed again (rather sad I know), but we’ve just put on the lovely new duvet and bedding we got as wedding presents and it’s so warm and soft. Don’t think the hotel bed will be able to compare. Feels like a little treat each night after our old scratchy bedding.

Sunday night delights #9

I know I shouldn’t, but I tend to get a sinking feeling halfway through Sunday afternoon, as I realise the end of the weekend is near. I thought I should take some time to think about all the lovely things that have happened over the weekend, and what I’m looking forward to.

This weekend…

Back to my normal self this week! There may have still been a fair bit of lazing in bed, but because of choice rather than illness so the better sort of lazing.

IMG_3056

Had the most social weekend with lots of cake, my friend had a voucher for afternoon tea and check out the crazy amount of cake we had between three of us! I might have had another lot of cake today as well when I visited a National Trust property with another friend, it’s pretty much essential to eat cake in National Trust cafes I think.

Had such good chats with so many good friends this weekend, even on the phone it was lovely catching up with my old Uni house mate, J, who is getting married next year. It’s actually fun chatting weddings when it’s not mine we’re talking about.

It’s lovely catching up with friends but I haven’t spent as much time with Will as a result so this evening we had a Chinese takeaway as a treat and curled up on the sofa to watch the American version of The Office. Heaven!

The week to come…

– I have been asked to make a Christmas list by my Mum, nothing lovelier than looking at pretty things that I’d like – even if I’m not lucky enough to get anything it’s fun looking.

– I also need to get Will’s 30th birthday presents ordered, I have some ideas so hoping to get something suitably awesome!

– Have been remembering to light the candles in the living room occasionally recently (little flames having to satisfy my desire for a fireplace and fire), and I’m determined to do it regularly this week. Makes everything feel so cosy.

Hope you manage to get some cosiness this week too.