This half term I was determined to get on a few days out so clutching our shiny, new National Trust membership cards we headed out to one of our nearest properties, Rufford Old Hall. I’ve lived close to it for years but never actually been to visit which was the whole point of us getting National Trust membership. We have a fair few properties close to us and this will make sure we get out and see what’s in our area.
As much as me and my husband would have loved to go around the house that just isn’t going to be possible with three small children. They have obviously realised this so have set up lots of outdoor activities for you to do with your family. As it is the school holiday most of the properties are holding events for 50 Things To Do Before You’re 11 3/4 and they were making mud pies in the courtyard! They also provide free bug hunting and wild art kits for you to loan as you explore the outdoors. Lucas was thrilled to see a basket full of binoculars to borrow and we grabbed a bird spotting checklist too; I just love these little extras which mean you can make more of the outdoor experience without having to bring everything along with you.
We set off into the woodland first, walking along the canal, spotting bluebells and listening to the birds. It was quiet so we took our time, also Lucas was still being a bit grumpy after a short nap in the car so he needed a little while to adjust. The woods aren’t too big so perfect for little legs but there is still lots to see on the circular route. We headed over wooden bridges and looked out for the trolls underneath and checked out the dens that had been built in the woods.
Part of the woods have been transformed into the Woollen Woods, an outdoor art installation supporting The Campaign For Wool, which made the walk extra special. At this time of year all the bluebells are sprouting up and the forest seems super green so to see little woollen fairies, flowers and creatures hidden in the undergrowth is really quite enchanting. Lucas ran eagerly from tree to tree to see what animals were hiding and we kept finding new critters every few steps. Our bird spotting went a little astray as we were caught up in spotting the woollen creations but it was so much fun and a really different walk through the woodland. It is on until the end of August 2015 and I would really recommend going while it is on, especially with young children.
Once we had explored the woods we bravely returned the pushchair to the car and let the twins loose to have a wander round the gardens…there are no pictures from this part of our day because it was total chaos! We have reins but still end up chasing them round everywhere, trying to coax them in the right direction and after a mad 15 minutes in the garden we decided cake and tea was needed. The lady in the tea rooms was so helpful finding us high chairs and lovely with the children even though she was obviously busy. The cake was homemade and delicious, well worth a little pit stop if you are visiting.
I’ll be honest I can’t really remember any proper days out last year, we were so caught up with the twins that getting out was the last thing on our mind. It is nice to feel like we can go on adventures again. The twins chatter away like crazy when they are out somewhere like this and it must be so different to them as I guess they have been quite sheltered until now. Lucas is usually happy when we find cake or ice cream and it feels like a total breath of fresh air to get out somewhere new with them. I love to watch them seeing new things, taking in the world around them and enjoying each other’s company. When we get this family time together I feel a little refreshed too; so much of my day is spent talking to three children and most of it is indoors. Although I don’t always notice I think it does start to wear you down. That is why these moments are extra special and we aren’t doing anything wildly exciting but we are together, away from the house, from the television, from all distractions. We are explorers and adventurers, we get to see the world through our children’s eyes and it is a real privilege.
In case you didn’t know this week is National Barbecue Week but of course in true British fashion we don’t really have the weather to back it up! Home Bargains sent me some lovely barbecue items and me and my husband planned a lovely night in, a BBQ supper for two, once the children were in bed. We are very much a cliche when it comes to a barbecue as my man does the grilling and I do the salads. We often have friends over for barbacues and I love hunting down some bargains to add to our outdoor dining collection. I am thrilled with the items from Home Bargains as they are perfect for planning a barbecue or outdoor party.
Sadly, the weather let us down on this occasion but as I had already planned a couple of delicious barbecue side dishes to accompany the burgers I went ahead with them and added a cheeky cocktail (or two)!
Here is what I made:
Halloumi, Roasted Vegetable & Cous Cous Salad – Roasted vegetables always go down well in our house: this one is peppers, onions, courgette and tomato, seasoned with a little salt and pepper and oregano and spayed with oil. The great thing about this is you can just use whatever you have in. Just roast them in the oven at 180C for around 20-30 minutes. I add to it some cous cous and spinach; I like the flavoured ones that come out the packet…no fuss. On top of all that goes grilled halloumi which you could easily grill on the barbecue but I just fry for a couple of minutes either side. I make this all year round but it is fantastic to go alongside a barbecue, especially as I have a few vegetarian friends who can feel left out when all they are offered is grilled meat.
Hasselback Potatoes – I use baby potatoes and slice them in a wooden spoon so they are ridged but stay as a whole potato. I just pop them in a little roasting tin, sprayed with oil and sprinkle on some garlic granules and sea salt. Roast them at around 180C in the oven until they are crisp and brown These are so easy to make and a real crowd-pleaser.
Elderflower & Prosecco Cocktail – quiet simply two thirds prosecco, one third elderflower presse, mix and add ice cubes with mint leaves inside. Refreshing and fabulous!
These look delicious served up on the plastic bowl, platter and tumblers from the Botanical Living range in Home Bargains, priced from 49p.
In keeping with the date night spirit I laid out the picnic rug (£4.99) for a cosy setting!
Thank you Home Bargains for the barbecue and picnic goodies, we were really impressed with this great value range. Hopefully we’ll have a barbecue in the sun soon!
If you are looking for more great ideas for outdoor eating check out my Pinterest Board:
I know the boys are in desperate need of a haircut but I’m not quite ready to hit that milestone yet. I took this photo of Boo on the weekend when we had a lovely sunny evening in the garden. I wish we could do this more often, they were all so relaxed and I love this photo of him. For once they didn’t come running towards me as soon as they spotted the camera. We are at the start of half term, one week for Lucas and two for Daddy so it is nice to let go of the routine a little and just enjoy being together. Hoping to have lots of fun with these boys over the next couple of weeks, it is always a little easier to get out and about with reinforcements!
Last night was one of those perfect sunny evenings when you can push bedtime back and just enjoy the warmth. The boys were pottering around our garden, playing football with Daddy while I lounged on a sun chair and took a few photos. I am dreaming of nights like this in the summer holidays. I love that we don’t have anything to get up for the next day so if they stay up a little late it’s ok. Our garden needs a little work, some patches are quite out of control, but it doesn’t bother them and they would have played out there all evening! Their little bare feet toddle all over the grass while they chatter and giggle. As they pass by they’ll reach up for a kiss and a cuddle with their skin warm from the sun.
They are reaching an age now when they all start to play together and I just love to sit back and watch them. Me and my husband sat together while they occupied the little playhouse; the twins were opening and shutting the windows giggling away as Lucas peeped inside. They really interact with each other now and I can see the sibling relationship growing between all three of them. I sometimes thought with three children it might be difficult, that one might be the odd one out but I’ve seen no signs of it. Lucas and Bear are so alike in personality that they have fun making mischief together. Boo and Lucas are so loving to each other, close in a totally different way. It is amazing how they engage differently with each other to suit each personality and Lucas is never left out of their twin relationship.
It gives me such contentment to see them all together; on the whole they get on so well and the way they laugh when they are with each other is uncontrollable – nothing else can make them laugh in the same way. We hit upon a magic moment last night when they were all in a fantastic mood and it makes me feel like the luckiest woman in the world. We get our fair share of days with grumps and squabbles but every now and again everything aligns and it feels close to perfection.
You can spend so much time planning fun days out and memorable adventures but sometimes those spontaneous family moments are the ones that bring the most joy. They weren’t doing anything special, just enjoying being in each other’s company and I love that at this age that is all that is needed to make them happy. I’m hoping for more many more evening like this, just perfect.
A few months ago I posted some photos from our school walks and I thought I would do a little update and just share some of my favourites from the past few months. It would be nice if they were all taken in glorious sunshine with the boys wearing shorts and summer hats and although some of them are, many of them are not! Just this week Lucas asked to wear his gloves and woolly hat as he was so cold so I grumpily went to root them out. No matter what though I am always quite grateful that we HAVE to get out the house everyday. It always makes me feel better to get some fresh air and walk but the truth is if I don’t have to do it chances are we would just curl up indoors on those rainy days.
Lucas is still great on the walk, he rarely complains that we have to go out twice a day, whatever the weather. In fact this week he was so excited that it was raining and he could wear his wellies to splash in the puddles. He has a great road sense now and always very carefully stops well back ready to hold my hand and cross the road. When we first started walking I was fearful that he would just wander out but his awareness really is improving.
It’s lovely now that the twins are a little older and are starting to point and chatter about the things they see. Every day as we get close to the school we see two green buses go past and that must be the highlight of the walk for them. When we go to pick Lucas up the lollipop lady is waiting for us and gives them a big grin and a wave. Occasionally when we walk past the Fire Station the big doors are open, those are the most exciting days for three little boys who just gawp at the Fire Engine in wonder!
I share a lot of our school run photos on my Instagram as we go along but it’s nice to have them on here and see how it all changes as the year goes on! Hopefully the next batch of photos will be capturing some lovely sunny days.
This week I was trying to sort though some clothes in the boys room, not an easy task! As I was clearing I came across Mr. Zebra hidden away behind some socks. I took him out and gave him a shake listening to the rattle. He has been in our lives for nearly four years yet I remember so clearly buying him for Lucas. He was only a baby and I was looking for toys that might grab his attention. He really wasn’t interested in anything, he didn’t like his baby gym, the mobile on his cot held his interest for a very short space of time and all those marvellous sensory toys were hanging from his buggy neglected. He was a crier, I remember wondering what was wrong as he would cry so much. There wasn’t one time he didn’t wake up crying up to the age of about 18 months. It makes me laugh now but we didn’t have a clue! I realise that is just the way he was and a lot of it stopped as he got older and more independent.
So, looking for something that might distract him for a few seconds and stop the crying I bought the Lamaze Zebra. Looked pretty perfect to me for a baby toy – black and white, noisy and he’d be able to grip it. It turns out Lucas thought so too and he loved it. I remember how he would follow it with his eyes, smile at him and reach for him. As he got older he was chewed and thrown; he would purse his lips and go cross eyed in concentration trying to hold him. Mr Zebra had a permanent place in our change bag ready to be called into action for nappy changes. He came along with us to the doctors for the dreaded jabs and was frantically waved in front of him to try and distract him. Somewhere over the years he was put away with the baby toys and brought out again when we had the twins. He has been good to us over the years.
When I found him in the wardrobe I realised we don’t really have any use for him anymore as my boys are all past the stage of a little rattle toy. He could be added to the baby things that we send to charity shops or passed onto friends but actually I couldn’t quite bear to do that. He reminds me so much of Lucas and of the early days while I was still learning to be a Mother, making mistakes and doing the best I could. It reminds me that of all the masses of stuff that we had for Lucas this one little £7 toy was the only one he would bother with for months and months. It reminds me that this growing boy that I have bouncing around my house all day, chattering as we walk to school, asking me to stay for another five minutes while he goes to sleep was once a tiny newborn, my first baby. I remember Lucas waving it for the twins while we told him what a good big brother he was. I like to think that maybe when he is older he might find Mr Zebra hidden in a box and remember him fondly.
The age Lucas is now, right on the cusp of becoming a fully fledged boy, is such a amazing one. It has probably been the most challenging by far, he is constantly trying to make sense of things around him, controlling his emotions while trying to assert his independence. I have said before that I have never questioned my parenting more as I have done during this stage. He is stubborn, so so stubborn and everything is on his own terms But, he is also funny, his imagination flows over in everything he does, he feels deeply and loves the family around him, he is charming and cheeky all at once.
I don’t know where the years have gone; somehow I have a son who is nearly four and in a few short months will be starting full time education. I will miss him so much and the time with him now is so precious as it won’t ever be this way again. Even writing than makes my stomach flip. Soon someone else will see him for more of the day than I will and other people will influence him, will make him laugh and maybe even make him cry. Even now I see things changing when he wants to watch different things because his friends watch it and he is becoming part of a group that I can’t really be a part of. He’s always known his own mind and I wish more than anything that it stays that way. When I see him running to school and children shout his name I smile, he holds hands with his friends when they walk in the doors and he goes in without a backward glance. Trying to remember that tiny baby in my arms can sometimes be difficult so I think I’ll hold onto Mr Zebra for a little longer.
I managed to capture the twins in a rare moment of peace this week. I love their big brown eyes, endlessly long eyelashes and crazy wavy hair. This age is just incredible and I am constantly amazed at how much they take in. They think it is hilarious that they can chase each other round the house now, my boys rarely sit still and it always seems like they are on the go. They must learn so much from each other; whatever one is doing to other one wants to do the same and they can go from giggling to squabbling with several seconds.
We haven’t done anything particularly special this week but it has been a nice one as I feel I am seeing so much more of their personalities. Each afternoon we have our time together while Lucas is in pre-school; they like to play little games and bring me their favourite books to read. They are trying to copy words and ask what everything is but they are also letting me know when they are unhappy.
This week I’ve really tried to slow down a bit and just sit and play more. I’ve started to realise that all of a sudden they look big, and grown up, and not a bit like babies anymore. This time is passing quickly, our days can be so busy and I feel like I’m missing little moments with them. This week I’ve reminded myself to just be with them, everything else can wait.
My lovely friend Vicki from Let’s Talk Beauty picked me up a copy of Mollie Makes Blogging magazine which I am super excited about. Just so lovely to pick up and read a few snippets of for inspiration and I’m really glad I’ve finally got my hands on one!
Games of Thrones, obviously, me and my husband love it. I’ve also started watching Once Upon A Time on Netflix which isn’t amazing but I am so addicted! I can’t stop watching it and I keep trying to explain what is going on to my husband but he just looks at me in disbelief. It does sound a little strange when I say it out loud but it is a good bit of escapism and easy to watch so I like it!
It’s kind of sad that I sometime struggle with this one. Music used to be such a massive part of my life, I was so passionate about bands and live music and I would just sit in my room listening to albums over and over again. Now the only time I really pay attention to music is in the car and as I don’t have one in the week it doesn’t happen that often
This last month I have been to a couple of blogging conferences and I’ve just loved meeting up with other bloggers. I think I’m getting to the stage now were there isn’t always a lot of new information I gain from these meet-ups but getting to chat to other bloggers has been the most inspiring thing. It’s not even that we constantly talk blogging, I feel like I know them so well through reading their blogs that we can talk about anything. I am constantly overwhelmed by the support the blogging community offers and the way we can all come together to offer advice, encouragement and sometimes sadly empathise with a blogging friend. I’ve been blogging for a while now but over the last year I’ve met some people who have become real friends and I truly do appreciate and love that.
I really wish there were a few more hours in that time between the children going up to bed and my own bedtime. There is so much I want to get done within that short space of time and I’m not very good at staying up too late either so I try and cram as much in as I can. I’m trying to set aside a couple of nights for exercise too; I went swimming this week and it was brutal which made me realise that I really need to get my fitness up. My arms ache so much and I didn’t even do that much. I put out a post this month about my weight loss journey and it was a little bit of a scary one for me because it was so personal. It sounds silly now but I didn’t sleep very well the night before because I was so worried about it and I needn’t have been. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate everyone who has commented or tweeted me about it, it really does mean so much to me! Anyway, now I have lost the weight I do want to concentrate on toning and fitness. Yoga is the next thing I want to try out; I have never done it before but I like the idea of carving out an hour just to relax, clear my mind and hopefully stay fit at the same time. Watch this space on that one!
Some bits of life lately over on my Instagram.
As our boys are growing up we are finally starting to think about taking them for their first ever holiday. I’ll be honest, we just haven’t been brave enough to risk it yet. I guess we figured it wouldn’t be much of a holiday with the sheer volume of stuff we would have to take with us and the fact that the children outnumber the adults but as the twins grow up we see the glimmer of hope that one day soon we will be able to enjoy a family holiday. I’m such a big fan holidaying within the UK, there is so much to see right on our doorstep and travelling up and down the country has so much to offer – from the seaside to the mountains, I think we would always enjoy a British adventure.
Having looked over the Darwin Escapes website I have been so tempted by their holiday parks. They offer the perfect getaway for the modern family with activity breaks, spa breaks and the traditional family holiday. Offering a new type of holiday park, Darwin Escapes have recently relaunched with a brand new website; you can book a break with them at a ’boutique’, ‘luxury’ or a ‘traditional’ park in several locations all over the UK.
I love the look of this lodge in Cheddar Woods and having a home away from home is exactly what we are looking for with three small children!
Here is what Darwin Escapes say about raising the standards:
Over the past few years, we have invested tens of millions of pounds to create some of the best holiday parks in the UK. All of our sites are beautifully maintained; the levels of service outstanding and the quality of their offering and attention to detail are impeccable.
We are setting new standards for the UK holiday park industry by creating brand new parks in stunning locations which provide holiday makers and holiday home owners with accommodation and facilities to rival 5 star hotels.
We are committed to ensuring all of our customers have the best experience with us. We will go the extra mile so you can relax and create memories that will last a lifetime.
To celebrate the relaunch of the Darwin Escapes website they are offering a fantastic opportunity to win a free holiday. You can read more about how to enter here to be in with a chance to win one of three fantastic holidays and experience Darwin Escapes. Each break offers something different so you would be sure to find something to suit you whatever your idea of the perfect holiday is. Head over to the Darwin Escapes Facebook page to enter, competition closes 27th May 2015.
I keep putting off writing this post, I don’t know why but I’ve found it difficult to write. Maybe part of that is admitting that I was really unhappy with how I looked, admitting to the world that I was overweight and it was all my own doing. I just wanted to feel happy when I looked in the mirror. It has also been a very personal thing for me which can be a little bit scary to share, but at the same time I want to write about it as it has been a big part of the last year of my life.
Starting from the beginning: in June last year my husband took the below photo of me. We had been sent a lovely Ergo Baby carrier to review and I knew I would need some photos. It was super hot and I was feeling really uncomfortable, I kept trying to cover up but it was just too warm. When I came to edit the photos my stomach sank and I just couldn’t feel happy with the images. If I’m honest it was the wake up call I needed! I initially lost weight after having the twins but it had started to creep back on all over again. I remember buying that stripy vest top in a size 18 and expecting it to be a little loose, which it wasn’t! It was time to change and I knew that I was ready to do something about it.
I spoke to my husband and said I just had to go back to Slimming World, that I wasn’t happy with how I looked and I really needed to make some changes in my lifestyle. He has always been incredibly supportive of me however I looked but it doesn’t help your relationship when your own self esteem is low. It wasn’t just about my appearance, I felt uncomfortable; I lost confidence whenever we went out. I hated being like that in front of my boys, feeling tired and achy. I didn’t want them to see me unhappy with myself or not being able to run after them: chasing them around and playing with them the way I should be.
I have been to Slimming World in the past. When I first moved in with my husband I put a lot of weight on. It was a bit of a low period for me, my parents were going through a divorce which led to my relationship with my Father breaking down. I definitely used food as a comfort and it’s only now that I’ve realised just how much I have always done that. I initially lost weight for our wedding but I still wasn’t a size I was 100% happy with. After having Lucas I went back again but I knew we’d be having more children in the future so I didn’t put everything into it. This time I really felt like it was it, I was ready to change. There was nothing in particular I was doing it for, no event or holiday. This was just something I wanted desperately to do. I was fed up of looking through my wardrobe in despair, still wearing maternity clothes because they were comfortable. I avoided mirrors, I didn’t want to be in any photos even with the boys because I didn’t like looking at them.
I joined one day in June last year and instantly felt better. Something felt different this time and I think I’ve finally adopted the idea that this is it now, this is the food I want to eat. And not only that but this is the food I enjoy. I’ve lost just over 3 stone now and I have another few pounds to go until my final target is reached. In 10 months I’ve gone from a size 16/18 to a 10/12. I’ve completely changed my relationship with food: I’ve always cooked homemade meals and they’ve always been pretty healthy but for me personally I need to go and get weighed each week to keep me going. It stops me from over indulging on chocolate and wine. I now have my little treats when I really want them rather than just eating them because they are there. I’ll buy us a couple of slices of cake, a bottle of wine or little bars of chocolate rather than gorging on the naughty stuff. My real weakness is pizza and if I want it I’ll damn well have it! There is no sense depriving yourself but I have to be prepared not to lose weight that week. And that really is fine – this is the first time I’ve seen this as being just how I eat, how I will always eat. Some days/weeks maybe won’t be so great and that’s okay because I will always get back on it.
I’m pleased with my size now but I have a little way to go with toning. So far my only exercise has been walking to pre-school with Lucas – I reckon I do about four miles each day – and a Zumba class once a week. I’m ready to try something a little more challenging now, maybe Yoga or Pilates. My stomach, quite rightly, bears signs of a twin pregnancy and c-section so my final goal would be to tone that up, but as for my weight and dress size, I’m perfectly happy with where I am right now.
Surprisingly, or at least it has been to me, the thing I love the most about the weight loss is not the physical appearance but it’s how I feel. I have so much more energy, I feel like I can run and play chase with the boys and I can make it up the stairs without getting out of breath. My knees and my back no longer ache and I feel like I have a spring back in step. It’s just how I want my boys to see me, to remember me, as someone fun, who was confident and happy in herself.
That has been the most remarkable thing that this new healthy lifestyle has brought me. It doesn’t make you instantly happier to look in the mirror and see a slimmer you, in a lot of ways in my head I still think of myself as bigger. I buy size 12 clothes convinced that I will get them home and they won’t fit. I look at photos of myself and still feel surprised that I’m slimmer than the image in my head. I feel better now than I have in maybe eight years. It is hard to admit that you don’t like the look of yourself, that you really have let yourself become too overweight. To be able to reach out for the support and help can sometimes be even harder.
I haven’t shared any part of my journey on my blog or social media before because basically I’m crap under pressure. I kept it quiet from most people only telling them as they started to notice the changes. This was something I just wanted to do for myself and I feel proud of what I’ve achieved so it finally felt right to share. I have been putting off sharing this story for months as writing about weight loss is such an emotive subject for me. Being a bigger woman has been so linked into my personality for so long I kind of feel like I’m finding out about myself all over again. I find it hard to look back at these photos but I try not to look at them with regret. I’ve made the changes now and it has made the world of difference to me, I feel healthy and I’m starting to feel truly happy in my own skin.