Thursday, 18 December 2014

Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, Scarborough, Yorkshire

Recently we were invited to stay at the luxury boutique Ox Pasture Hall Hotel, which is located in the North York Moors National Park near Scarborough, North Yorkshire. The idea of a relaxing break away, sans children was too much of a temptation to turn down and so we practically snapped off the hotel’s hand in an attempt to say yes!

Arriving in the dark (thanks to the pesky winter light) we didn't quite get the full impression of the country manor, saving that until the following day but we were very appreciative of our luxury suite which was delightfully warm and cosy after battling the freezing winds.

Our suite had a separate bedroom and lounge area, and a luxury bathroom as well. 

We also had a wonderful view out over the countryside from the bedroom window. It looked so inviting first thing in the morning but, unfortunately, it was bitterly cold outside!

Deciding to make the most of my childless time, I immediately sought out the bathroom, which was very lavish in appearance, with a walk-in shower, his and hers sinks and waterfall taps. I made the most of those, drawing myself a bath and spending a whole, peaceful hour soaking before dinner. Bliss!

We had arranged to have dinner at 8.30pm, so around 7.30pm we headed into the bar for a drink. There are two separate lounge areas connected to the bar which both have comfy sofas and inviting fires. James had popped out to reception and asked ahead for a bottle of wine and it was lovely to walk into the lounge and see our bottle and glasses just waiting there for us. Definitely something I could get used to.

We ate dinner in the Courtyard restaurant which offers a three course evening meal; whilst we enjoyed our wine we looked over the options and made our choices before being taken into the restaurant itself.

The food was absolutely delicious, but be warned: there is so much of it! In between each course the chef provided us with a palette cleanser/taster so in effect we actually ate around 6 courses each.

I’m not really complaining though as the food was very well cooked, very attractively presented and James said that his lamb was the best he’d eaten in a long time. Our waiter was also extremely attentive and we felt well looked after. On Sunday as we were leaving, a great number of people were heading into the restaurant and I can understand why; it’s probably a very popular place to get together with family and friends on a Sunday afternoon. I imagine the traditional Sunday lunch they offer is amazing.

On Sunday morning we enjoyed a cooked English breakfast before we headed out for a walk around the grounds, and the local area.

We didn't actually get too far as it was so very cold but it was nice and refreshing and before we headed off home we enjoyed a warm drink in the lounge and tried to regain the feeling in our fingers and toes. 

During our stay there were two weddings which took place, so I was unable to get a good look at the wedding facilities as they were occupied (I considered adding myself into one of the wedding parties for a sneaky peek but James told me it was rude!), but from the look of the grounds and the outside of the hotel I can understand why this is a favourite amongst brides. The 17 acres would provide plenty of picturesque opportunities to grab photographs and I had a quick flick through some wedding albums which were in the lounge and it really looks like the most amazing setting for a wedding.

So, in summary of our stay:

Overall what we liked:-

*Staff were very attentive and helpful.
*The hotel is a beautiful country house which has been carefully and attractively decorated and it made the perfect place to have a romantic break away.
*The food in the Courtyard Restaurant was divine.
*The surroundings are gorgeous, if you want a little hideaway in the countryside then this is the ideal place.

What we weren't so keen on:-

*We had a couple of issues, such as our shower being broken and not getting fixed until Sunday morning although we reported it on arrival on Saturday.  This didn't affect our stay particularly but it was a slight let down when otherwise we'd found staff couldn't do enough.

That's it!  

We really enjoyed our stay and wouldn't hesitate to recommend Ox Pasture Hall Hotel to anyone looking to escape for a couple of nights for a bit of rest and relaxation and I would actually love to be able to come back in the summer as I imagine the grounds would be stunning and the hotel itself is located close to the coast which would be lovely to explore in the warmer weather.

Disclosure: I was invited to stay at the Ox Pasture Hall Hotel and provide honest feedback about our experience.  All thoughts and words are my own.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Celebrating 12 Years With Nude Jewellery

Recently I was sent a beautiful necklace from Nude Jewellery, a renowned London-based boutique jewellers.

Nude Jewellery work with up and coming designers alongside established jewellers to create gorgeous contemporary jewellery and their collections are all about modern, statement pieces.  You can buy from their extensive collection of handmade jewellery or work with their in-house team to have a bespoke piece created for you.

The necklace I was sent was created by award-winning designer Nikki Galloway to celebrate Nude Jewellery's 12th birthday.  It is very similar to the Vanilla Links Triple Link Necklace available on their website, with the same lovely hammered texture on the rings which really capture the light and make the necklace glimmer.

The necklace arrived in an exquisite black box, giving a real sense of luxury.  I can imagine being handed this box as a gift and feeling suitably impressed!  It also makes a stylish box to store the necklace in when it isn't being worn.

This handmade jewellery looks amazing on, I love the way the detailing on the two rings reflects the light and sparkles; the only downside was that it made it very difficult to take a good picture and really show off the texture on the rings!

It is simple enough that you could wear it all day, or to dress up an outfit and you can tell with just one touch that the necklace is a high quality piece.

With Christmas being just around the corner, if you are looking to treat a loved one to some stunning handmade jewellery then be sure to have a look at Nude Jewellery's website.  I am sure you will be spoiled for choice with the pieces on offer.  

This year Nude Jewellery were listed in the Retail Jewellers Inspiring Independents Top 50 and in 2013 they were shortlisted for 'Boutique of the Year' by the UK Jewellery Awards so you know you are purchasing a piece from a respectable and sought after brand.

I would really recommend the jewellery, and if you are looking for that extra special gift this festive season then do head on over and have a look at some of the gorgeous jewellery on offer.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Easy Christmas Craft: Snowflake Decorations

Last week our lovely Kindness Elves left a craft task for Meg and Eli: to make snowflake decorations using lollipop sticks.

Now anyone who knows me, will be able to tell you that I am not a fan of craft.  I'm usually not very good at letting the kids just 'get on with it' and constantly hover behind them offering creative 'advice' which just annoys them no end.  Not to mention the fact that the house ends up covered in glue and glitter and I repeatedly discover sparkly gems stuck to the furniture for weeks afterwards...

But, I digress.

My point is that this particular craft is about as simple as they come, but you are left with very effective snowflake decorations which can be used as Christmas tree decorations or given away as gifts and so on.

You need:

*Lollipop sticks - 3 per snowflake
*PVA glue
*Sparkly gems or other suitable decorations
*String for hanging

As PVA glue tends to dry quickly you could make the snowflakes up in advance or let your children have a go.  Meg was perfectly fine to make her own but Eli needed assistance.

They go together much as you might stick vertically straight, and two others in an X shape; I found putting one line of the X above the vertical stick and one below looked the most aesthetically pleasing but you could do it however you liked.

...and that is pretty much it.  Let your kids decorate them however you wish and simply sit back and appreciate the results.

Once the snowflakes are dry, you can glue some string onto the back in a loop shape so that they can be hung on the tree etc.  We gave some of ours away as gifts so I used a sparkly pen to write the creator's name on the back as well as 2014, so they can be displayed with joy for years to come!

Don't you just love an easy peasy craft?

Mini Creations

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Siblings {December 2014}

This month has been an interesting one for my little siblings.  I don't know whether it is end of term tiredness, winter bugs or what but they have seemingly spent the majority of their time at home fighting like cat and dog.

I wake to sounds of Meg getting exasperated with Eli not playing the game 'exactly' how she wants him to and drift off thinking about how Eli rugby-tackled Meg to the ground because she called him a baby *insert loud sigh here*

I am hoping it's just a phase; as Meg realises that she can't have it her way all the time, and Eli learns how to control his frustration without resorting to being physical.  As their relationship shifts and remoulds, which I suppose it will do constantly as they get older and each become more independent and aware of themselves.

All that aside, there have been some lovely moments when James and I have been able to step back and just watch the two of them play together (and take bets on how long it will be before one of them is telling tales on the other!)

Our recent trip to the beach was a perfect example of a day when they did actually get along.  It was freezing cold, so the beach was pretty much deserted meaning we had plenty of space to run around.  Meg discovered these little sand dunes and the two of them spent about an hour racing up and down playing Fireman Sam related games.

It is moments like this that I have to hang onto when they are squabbling and moaning about one another to me.  That they can actually get along and be good friends...just not all the time it would seem!

I cannot believe that it is December already.  I have loved taking part in the Siblings project this year and I will definitely be attempting it again in 2015 and hopefully improving on my photos as well...possibly by taking them face on rather than catching Meg and Eli with their backs to me!

dear beautiful

Friday, 5 December 2014

The Kindness Elves: Week One

Last week I shared the return of our Kindness Elves.  They are making a daily appearance here and originally I had thought to share a blog post every day but I just know I would end up falling behind so instead I shall do a weekly round-up of what we have been getting up to.

Feel free to take inspiration for the coming weeks or store the ideas away for next year, if you like.

Nov 30th
A door to the North Pole magically appears on the fireplace prompting lots of questions from Meg and Eli.  How did it get there?  Who will come through it?  Can they shrink and go and visit Santa?

Dec 1st
The elves arrive with a letter from Santa explaining why they are with us and what Meg and Eli need to do during December.  Both Meg and Eli were completely wide-eyed with wonder (making me wonder whether last year wasn't just a one-off for Meg not believing) and the letter prompted a long, long discussion from Meg about why it is important to be kind, which lasted throughout breakfast and all the way to school.  I won't lie...I was feeling less inclined to be kind by the minute...!

When the children came home they found the elves had brought them a silver chocolate coin to say well done for trying to be kind that day.

Dec 2nd
The elves made a bit of a mess this morning, bringing 'snow' (flour) back with them from the North Pole.  One of the elves was even making snow angels on the carpet!  Luckily they had also brought the start of our new nativity scene with them and explained to Meg and Eli how they would discover the rest of the scene and the accompanying story as well.

Dec 3rd
Today the elves were hiding in the Christmas tree and they had brought a friend in the form of Stick Man with them.  They encouraged Meg and Eli to be kind to a friend today and when they came home from school and nursery both were really keen to tell me how they had done that which was lovely.

They also discovered that the elves had set up an invitation to play in the form of a craft activity...even if they had made a mess again.  We created some snowflake decorations using lollipop sticks.  I will post the easy tutorial for this next week.

Dec 4th
This morning, the elves were kind enough to bring Meg and Eli a new hat and gloves set each.  However they had also been into the cupboards and brought out all the outgrown coats from past years.  Their note explained that some parents don't have enough money to buy warm coats for their children and did Meg and Eli think it was a good idea to give their outgrown coats to children who needed them.  Both agreed they did and this is something we will be doing next week.

Dec 5th
We had a bit of a dilemma this morning when it was discovered that one of the elves had gone missing.  Luckily, she had only been stuck behind the sofa and although Meg raised her eyebrow in a 'knowing' manner at me as I fished her out, she didn't give the game away or say she didn't believe, so fingers crossed on that score!  It did mean though that I had to think fast on what the elves could ask them to do today.  

As Meg and Eli are going for a sleepover at their Grammy and Grandad's house this weekend it was easiest to send the elves back to the North Pole for a visit.  They kindly left toothbrushes for them both and instructions to give lots of smiles and hugs though...

Are you taking part in Elf on the Shelf or the Kindness Elves?  Leave me your links or suggestions below, would love to see them!

Book Review: Inferno by Dan Brown

I can't believe I haven't reviewed a book since October!  Although I have been devouring books at a rapid rate and am now only two away from my challenge target on Goodreads, the last few weeks do just seem to have gotten away from me.

But, I have many great reads to share over the next few weeks, starting with Dan Brown's latest book 'Inferno'.  Read on for more...

Inferno by Dan Brown
'Seek and ye shall find.'

I have been a massive Dan Brown fan ever since I picked up Digital Fortress a couple of years ago but my interest really kicked in when he wrote Angels and Demons.  It was such a fast-paced and fascinating read that I recommended it to just about every person I knew (just don't ask me about the subsequent films.  Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon?  Really?!)

Anyway, I have since watched out for the follow-ups and although I was left a little deflated after The Lost Symbol, I was desperate to read Inferno especially when everywhere I looked it was getting such fabulous reviews.  And can kind of sense what's coming here can't you?

The book starts with Langdon waking up in a hospital with a bullet wound to his head and apparent amnesia.  Langdon realises he has lost the past two days of his life and has, somehow, travelled from the campus at Harvard to Florence.  Whilst he is trying to recall what happened to him, an assassin turns up at the hospital and Langdon is forced to flee with a young doctor in tow called Sienna Brooks.

Langdon and Brooks then work together to solve the mystery of what happened to him, how he became entangled in a plot relating to Dante's masterpiece 'The Divine Comedy' and how he can help to divert a huge disaster being unleashed on the world.

A typical Langdon scenario and yet somehow this book was lacking so many of the elements which made Dan Brown's previous books so interesting to read.

One of the main issues is what made Robert Langdon such an interesting character in the first place.  He was a sort of academic Indiana Jones, who managed to escape the situations he found himself in with clear thinking and intellect.  In Inferno he seems to be known by everybody and anybody, and many people assist him in his quest.  He can simply walk into the museums and be recognised and this was ultimately quite boring.

Additionally, a lot of the book reads like a travel guide, and is incredibly dull.  If Dan Brown wanted to prove he had been to Florence before writing the book then he has done it well.  The problem is that it doesn't flow in the story; there are several long, drawn out paragraphs which are just descriptions of buildings *yawn*

There is also a lot of repetition in the book which is very noticeable.  We are told several times that one character is a 'facilitator' for a company and we are bashed in the face with the vision Langdon first has on waking up (so much so that I could probably recite it verbatim); it's as though Brown had a set quota for the number of words he had to write and couldn't come up with original material.  

So what did I enjoy I hear you cry?

Well, the overall premise of the book was good and I was willing to overlook the above mentioned points because, as I said, I am a Dan Brown fan.  I didn't spot the twist coming at the end which is always good although that might have been because I was drowning in the descriptions of Florence's architecture...

If you are a Dan Brown fan then you might want to give this a go.  If you've never picked up a Dan Brown book in your life then I would personally stick to Angels and Demons.  Brown's writing has increasingly gone downhill since his first book which is a real shame.

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree...

If you don't like to talk about Christmas before the middle of December, then it is probably best to look away now!

And yes, this is a whole post dedicated to my Christmas tree...

For the past 6 years we have had an artificial Christmas tree.  It was given to us by my parents when they upgraded theirs and whilst it has served us well, I have always harboured dreams of having a real one.

Obviously, it isn't always practical with small children and an array of pets so we stuck faithfully with our artificial one.  However, this year I was on a mission.  Last December we were in the middle of packing up and moving and with all our spare money going towards that, things were a little bit on the bah humbug side.  Without a doubt, Christmas is my favourite time of year so being surrounded by boxes rather than tinsel somewhat took the festive element away.  This year I was determined it was going to be different.  I was getting that real tree!

Eli is just about at the age where we can explain that he needs to not touch the tree so we figured we might be okay.  However we hadn't anticipated that Meg and her clumsiness would cause her to fall into the tree on an almost daily basis...we have our fingers crossed that there will still be some needles left by Christmas day!

Last weekend we went around a number of Christmas tree 'farms' and had a look at the ones on offer before choosing the one we thought was right.  We have a large bay window and I had visions of filling the entire thing but was persuaded away from the 8 and 9 footers by James, and 'sensibly' opted for a 7 foot Nordman fir.

Out in the open amongst the other trees it didn't look all that big but when it turned up on Monday there was a lot of debate over how we would actually get it into the house.  So as much as it chagrins me to say James was right...I'm definitely glad we didn't get a larger one.

We also decided to have a change in theme this year; previously we have stuck with gold and red but this year we have gone for silver and white with tones of pale pink and blue and lots and lots of sparkle.

I absolutely adore it.

There is something so lovely about coming into the lounge and seeing the tree illuminated; seeing the lights catch the decorations and give a little twinkle...and don't get me started on the smell.  Beautiful!

The fact that you can't see the television if you sit on one side of the sofa, and one of us has to risk life and limb crawling under the tree each day to water it, is just something we have to cope with...yes?


Monday, 1 December 2014

Me & Mine Project {November 2014}

dear beautiful
This month we have loved:-

*Mummy going on her special trip to Uganda and spending the whole week with Daddy (and surviving!)  If you haven't read about Mummy's trip, the post is here and she would be super happy if you could have a quick look!
*Family days out to the pumpkin patch and to find the Gruffalo.
*Daddy getting another new job (we are hoping this one is for keeps!)
*It only being one more month until Christmas.

With me being away we haven't had much opportunity to grab a family picture so yes, this is a selfie, yes I'm not looking at the camera and yes, we are standing in front of Christmas trees even though it's only November but it's very representative of where we are right now...playing catch up!

Being away was amazing but it has somewhat thrown us off kilter.  Hopefully in 2015 I won't be so disorganised with taking family pictures.

Friday, 28 November 2014

The Kindness Elves Return

Last year we welcomed the Kindness Elves into our home, thanks to the wonderful idea by Anna at The Imagination Tree and I was very much looking forward to joining in again this year.

Unfortunately, on opening our Christmas box we discovered that one of our elves had met an untimely end which may have had something to do with Eli deciding to pull his hat off last year and causing all his stuffing to fall out!

So,we had a rethink and decided to change the elves we used and go for something slightly smaller and less easy to damage!  My wonderful sister hunted out these elves from the new Tiger shop which has opened in Leicester (why aren't there any Tiger Stores in the north of England?!) and has sent them to us just in time for their arrival on Monday.

We will keep the same names as we used last year, but will explain in the letter that Santa thought they'd get on better if they were a little bit more elf-like in their size...or something equally creative to convince the kids.

I have been super organised and have each day planned out already which should help to ensure that the elves (and Meg and Eli) have something to do each day in December.  If all goes as it should I've got some really great ideas which will hopefully help the kids to share some little pieces of joy with our friends, family and neighbours.

We have also got our elf door ready to appear on Sunday morning, followed by the elves on Monday.

So, here they are:

If you want to join in, head over to The Imagination Tree where Anna has put together several ideas for things you can do with the Kindness Elves.

We also have a number of other traditions which make the festive seasons special for us, and which will be making a return.  These include:-

Christmas Eve Box
Last year, the Kindness Elves left a box full of goodies when they headed back to the North Pole which included pyjamas, a Christmas book, a Christmas DVD and some treats to enjoy whilst watching it that evening, some reindeer food and a special key to allow Santa to open the door as we didn't have a chimney.  

The kids absolutely loved this and Meg even mentioned it last week when talking about what we would get up to this Christmas.  I can't wait to see their faces when they get this years.  

Advent Candle
This is a tradition I have carried over from when I was a little girl; I found a very attractive candle for 99p in Home Bargains and we will burn it down each day to countdown to Christmas.

Christmas Books
We have collected a number of Christmas books over the last 5 years and with the Kindness Elves bringing at least one new one every year, we hope to grow our collection!  The start of December is the perfect time to bring them out, to really start to build the excitement and also to enjoy stories we don't get to read throughout the rest of the year.

Advent Nativity
This is a new one for us this year, but we are hoping to do advent a little differently.  I have bought a wooden nativity set and each day will reveal a new character for the scene along with their part of the nativity story.  I have seen this done by a couple of people and always think it looks like such a lovely way to tell the nativity throughout the month of December ending with, of course, the birth of baby Jesus on Christmas Eve.  I will let you know how we get on!

Have you got any Christmas traditions?  I'd love to hear them!