Breaking out of the gloom – January

Logically I know we have had a great month. When I think about our little family it’s all loveliness, but the outside world is encroaching so darkly.

Good stuff first though. Thanks to lots of time at home over Christmas we have been able to keep the house as under control as it can be with a toddler who likes taking everything out of everywhere she can reach then scattering it far and wide. I have even managed to do a bit of decluttering as and when I see it, which also helps as there is less general stuff everywhere.

Trike & ducks
We have managed to find a few new groups to go to which fit with Felicity’s nap time and we fill my non working days very happily with lots of trips down to the park, Library, feeding the ducks or toddling about our little town. Her latest obsession is her push along tricycle which she points to ever so hopefully every time we open the garage to get the oh so much more practical pushchair out. Most of the time I can’t resist either…

A lot of time has been taken up with planning our kitchen renovation, which is very exciting. Ignoring how much our savings are going to disappear the thought of a working oven and dishwasher is so wonderful. And the fun of looking  at storage solutions – under plinth drawers and pull out spice racks make me genuinely shudder with delight. Felicity has been so patient with us spending a large percentage of our weekends at kitchen showrooms too. She is going through a phase of loving to nose in cupboards, so going to places where there is nothing to do but open and shut drawers and cupboard doors seems to be a hit way to spend a weekend in her eyes.

I have also been keeping in mind my word for 2017 and have been crafting almost every evening for the first time in a long time. It has definitely helped to have something relaxing to focus on rather than just drifting the evening away messing about on the Internet. The only trouble with my tactic of using up random craft kits is my makes aren’t necessarily things I need. Anyone want this owl? I don’t trust Felicity to not chew the felt bits off.

Handmade owl

All lovely and yet I feel gloomy – the news from the US has literally been keeping me up at night, with the Muslim ban being signed just as I was up for Felicity’s first wake up and stupidly checked the news. It was all so horrifying that I then couldn’t get to sleep for hours watching the developments.

I desperately feel I want to be doing something but managed to completely miss that the Women’s March was happening until it was too late to go. We would have loved to have taken Felicity as I worry so much about her growing up in this kind of environment for women. I feel guilty for worrying about kitchens which I know is so unimportant in the grand scheme of things. All the things I hold most dear: human rights, the NHS, even actual facts (I’m a librarian, verifiable sources are kind of important to me), are being chipped away at the moment.

Yet I know that just obsessing about these things – rather than resisting them in a useful way, I’m obviously going to do that – won’t make them go away. So I will continue choosing kitchen flooring, taking my daughter to the park and making. Then ramble on about all that on the Internet.

Farewell December and 2016 hopes 

Happy belated new year to you! This post is a little bit late as we saw 2016 out with Will’s parents at their new house on the North Norfolk coast, which is internet free at the moment – is near a rather lovely beach where we saw a stunning Winter about to set sun.


Our November run of illnesses and breakages unfortunately continued into December. After a bout of a vomiting bug, more colds and the house still being a tip after the leak that happened whilst the boiler was being fitted (they’d had to rapidly move the piles of stuff we’d cleared for them to do the fitting all over the place as they were trying to find the leak as quickly as possible and we’re taking the floorboards up!) we called time on the plan of us hosting Christmas, as Will’s lovely Mum offered to cook lunch at their house instead. 

We were so grateful and it was a good thing we’d changed the plan as the oven then conked out a few days before Christmas. What with that and the dishwasher breaking, and the fact that the rest of the kitchen is heading towards the end of its life anyway we are going to replace the whole thing (if it’s in anyway in our budget from the money we’ve been putting aside for the purpose – a big if!). What with all this, and the general grimness of the world more generally – I am not sad to say goodbye to 2016.

December wasn’t all bad though – we celebrated my 30th with a trip to the Ritz for afternoon tea. It was lovely and I’ll write a whole post about it at some point! After we recovered from our various bugs and finished work for Christmas we did manage to have a lovely relaxed time, pottered about at home, had a wonderful Christmas Day thanks to Will’s Mum and Dad, had a day out to London Zoo using the membership we got as a Christmas gift, then topped it off with our trip to Norfolk. Hoping this means a good start to 2017!

2016 Hopes

I’m not a big one for New Year resolutions – mainly because I tend to make lots of ‘must do better’ resolutions and changes throughout the year and I prefer being a bit gentle and hopeful with myself at the start of the year in the dark and the cold. I think last year’s hopes strayed a little bit into resolution territory and I didn’t do so well with them as I did the previous year as a result. I’m going to take a different approach for 2017, but I thought this was a good time to reflect back on my 2016 hopes.

They were:

Being more thoughtful: this was all about remembering to think about our wonderful friends and family more, and generally I think I managed this quite well. Going back to work has meant I have ‘the book’ of organisation which if I lost it would mean we don’t know what we’re doing, eating or anything really. This has helped me keep track of things more which is great at feeling less reactive and guilty when special days for people go whizzing past.

Enjoying my particular life: not overly comparing myself to others (especially where parenting is concerned) – this had mixed results. I can definitely not claim to have never got stressed about Felicity’s sleep in comparison with others, or doubted my decisions, not helped by Health Visitors who just tend to lecture me about how all her sleep habits are wrong when I see them. But generally I’m aware we’re doing things the best way for our family and we’re all happy and healthy. I also read a great polemic by Zoe Williams about the sometimes toxic nature of modern parenting advice and judgement which helped to clarify things – I’m now reccomending it to pregnant friends!

Making – this just did not happen. Aside from helping out a bit with a friend’s wedding (lots of pom poms) I haven’t really been making anything. This is entirely due to a lack of free time, and energy to work out what I should make. I haven’t given up though – this is making a reappearance this year.

Sleep. Ha! Felicity’s sleep is so much better than this time last year, but I still might have cried if you’d told me that her sleeping through the night, even once, hadn’t happened yet. I have had seven hour stretches of sleep a couple of times, but generally I’m functioning on a few two or three hour spells over a night, which after fourteen months is rather draining.

A lot of thes were a bit too much like a resolution to actually work in the way I wanted. I hoped to think of things that I could achieve the spirit of which I will try to do in 2017.

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!

Finally joining in with #ThisLittleBigLife 

So it’s only taken me weeks but I finally managed to take photos for the great new link up run by Sarah Rooftops and Squished Blueberries. Which is all about capturing the special little uncelebrated moments at weekends and on days off. Our weekends have been so manic this Summer with lots of very big events like weddings that it didn’t seem in the spirit to join in before now. Last weekend was completely unplanned though and I actually remembered my camera – so here we go. 

We quickly nipped to Wimpole Home Farm on Saturday morning as we didn’t want the whole day to disappear into a blur of chores and it was a lovely day. This was the first visit where Felicity was really interested in everything. Her favourite animals were the rabbits, pigs and the shire horse. 

Very intentWimpole piggiesLook a horse

Afterwards we enjoyed sampling the National Trust cake and tea in the gardens, and relaxing on the deckchairs. 

Just relaxing on my deckchair

The rest of the day disappeared into a haze of errands and the worst kind of shopping – buying expensive things that are very dull, in this case a next size up car seat. It was so manic I failed miserably to capture any of the small moments, until we got to bath time when we tried out Felicity’s new hoop bath toy. 

Bedtime

Sunday was an equal failure in photography terms as I was very dopey from a particularly bad Felicity night. We did have a lovely barbeque with Will’s parents and I finally managed to cut some of the sweet peas that Will has been growing for me though. 

Sweet peas

Wedding memories and an alternative guestbook: handmade wedding #6

Wedding memories, photos and pinata

My Mum and Dad have a beautiful photo of my Nana and Grandad’s 1940s wedding which provided a little bit of inspiration for my own wedding, especially my bouquet and the shape of my dress (large and slim fitting, respectively). So I was keen to have it on display at the reception along with our parents’ 70s wedding photographs. I also wanted to include some photos of us as children so I made a little display with an old tree branch with childhood photos hanging above the old wedding photos in frames. With hindsight I would have glued the childhood photos of us back to back so they couldn’t turn round to the blank side. But overall I still liked the effect and I always enjoy laughing at baby photos at a wedding so thought it was only fair to give our guests the opportunity!

Wedding childhood and family memories photo display

The display of photos provided a good focal point on the table next to our alternative wedding ‘guestbook’ – a handmade piñata. This was definitely the best idea-found-on-Pinterest I incorporated into our wedding. I always struggle to know what to write in guestbooks at weddings, I always write the thoughtful message in the card, when I have time to think about it. I tend to panic under pressure when writing a guestbook message and end up with something insipid and impersonal.

Alternative Wedding guestbook, a pinata to open on first anniversary

So I was keen on an something different and when I found this easy piñata DIY I decided this was the perfect alternative as an entertaining way to collect our guests’ good wishes. When I realised that the first wedding anniversary is represented by paper it seemed even more perfect to seal up the piñata then smash it open on a year later on our anniversary. We actually did have a regular guestbook as well, but no one signed that at all so I think our guests preferred our piñata too!

Smashing the piñata provided a lovely focus for our first anniversary (when I was heavily pregnant so other forms of celebration were limited) and it was like reliving the day again. We had everything from very drunken messages, anonymous jokey messages, a baby announcement (we weren’t going to open it for a year after all) to really sweet well wishes for our future together. It wouldn’t have been half as special if we’d stuck with a guestbook – not least we’d have read the messages right away when there are lots of other exciting things going on like cards, presents and honeymoon. The wedding day flew by so quickly it was so wonderful to save a little bit of it to savour at leisure a year on!

The rest of this series on our handmade wedding can be found here.

All photographs in this post were  taken by our wedding photographer Stephen Bunn.

Hit the road Fliss

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So we’re off – we have completed the Lake District and ‘first family holiday’ part of our little month long meander. Will is doing a work sabbatical looking for insects in the Cairngorms, and as I’m still on maternity leave we decided we couldn’t resist Fliss and me joining him. So we’re spending almost a month away from home, with stops in the Lake District, Aviemore and Northumberland.

I fully intended to take a family ‘we’re setting off’ picture with our new roof box (makes me feel very grown up having a roof box) and laden family car before we left home. This didn’t quite happen though as getting ready to set off was, shall we say, not such a calm experience. Between recovering from a hen party on Saturday, making sure we had the million and one random things we needed to remember to put in and getting the house ready for my best friend house sitting, it was a little manic. But we made it and touch wood haven’t discovered we’ve forgotten anything really crucial yet.

Being on holiday with a baby is certainly a change of pace but Felicity if anything seems to relish the change of scene, doesn’t sleep any worse in her travel cot and thoroughly loves having her Mama and Daddy around all the time. We’ve had to adjust our usually fairly busy holiday schedules to much more mooching, although going slower is no bad thing. We have still managed to get out for walks, and see some countryside, which is what we’d spend most of our time doing on this type of holiday anyway. I will write a post all about visiting the Lake District with a baby very soon, as there are lots of lovely things to do with a little person in that part of the world.

We’re so glad we opted for self catering, what with still being in the weaning stage and her going to bed at 7.30, being able to prepare our own food and have somewhere to sit not in the dark and silence after bedtime (unlike a hotel room) makes everything a lot more relaxed and like a proper holiday for us too.

Next stop Aviemore!

So that was May

Well this last month flew past. I always feel like this at this time of year, I think as the days get longer and the weather gets better I try and cram more stuff in so everything goes very quickly.

We’ve had several glorious bank holidays to spend time as a family, a few days out and a lovely trip to London to celebrate a family wedding. There has been some glorious weather and the first barbeque of the year with friends. Felicity was very impressed with her first taste of sausage.

Enjoying the sun in the garden

Although the weather has now gone horrid a lot of this month has been warm. A lot of time has been spent in the garden or experimenting with our new baby carrier – a Connecta – which has made mid afternoon walks through the woods and fields a nice change of pace from endless buggy tours of our ‘technically a small town but verging on the size of a village’ home and the supermarket.

 

Sling walks

We’ve hung out with our Mum and baby friends once a week, discovering ball pits and swimming for the first time. Felicity has also thoroughly mastered crawling which has made her a lot happier as she’s able to explore more but has the disadvantage that she is finding ways to get into scrapes and accidents in lots of new interesting ways – and terrifying me frequently in the process.

Jennifer from Pastry & Purls invited us to celebrate her birthday at the Harry Potter Studio Tour and a grand day out was had by all. It was so lovely to catch up with Jennifer and finally introduce her to Felicity. There will be a more detailed post on visiting the Studio Tour with a baby very soon.

Jennifer and Felicity

Family photo with the Hogwarts ExpressKnight Bus

Towards the end of the month we headed down to London for a few days for Will’s brother’s wedding. Such a happy occasion! Will was performing some best man duties so the wedding day itself was busy but we arrived early the day before and enjoyed wandering round Greenwich. I’d forgotten how much I love London and we had glorious views over the East End from the hill in Greenwich Park, and also whizzed round the outside of the Cutty Sark, although the weather was starting to turn at that point.

View from Royal Observatory Greenwich
Cutty Sark

Since getting back from London thoughts have turned to preparing for our epic trip for Will’s sabbatical work in the Cairngorms. We are off for almost a month (although not really – it’s complicated by more weddings!) and stopping for a family holiday in the Lake District before heading to Aviemore. I will be trying to entertain myself and Felicity while Will is working – we have the sling so I’m hoping on some good walks with plenty to look at for Fliss. I am slightly regretting booking a cottage with a ‘steep bank’ in the garden – we really didn’t think she’d be crawling yet! We’re then finishing it off with more holiday in Northumberland and a wedding in Somerset is thrown into the mix too. I’m both excited at seeing new places, and slightly nervous about Felicity’s  reaction to all the changes. I’ll keep you updated…