Friday, 29 January 2016

A Great Book, A New Dress and Old Music...#LittleLoves

It has taken me almost completely by surprise that it's the end of the week already; I don't know how it has gone by so quickly.  We are almost in February...February!!  Although I'm not one for wishing the year away I think it will be nicer to head into Spring and maybe have some warmer weather without the bitter winds and torrential rain we've had too much of lately.

But onto this week...

I'm not really the type of person who enjoys fantasy books but a few years ago I picked up one by Robin Hobb and fell completely in love with her trilogies about Fitz and the Fool.  There's something so hypnotic and magical about the world that she creates and I can totally lose myself in the stories for hours at a time.  I was given the first book in her latest set for Christmas and have been dying to start it; which I did this week.  I also finished it as well which is a bit of a shame!  I tried to drag it out as the second book is still only available in hardback but I completely failed.

I am finally all caught up with the last season of Scandal so I can start on the new season now.  It always leaves me with my jaw on the floor, although I do get a little bored of the President-Olivia thing; we all know it won't go right in the next season either!

A couple of new things for me this week one being this dress.  I am so not one for wearing dresses as I find it easier to just grab my skinny jeans in the morning when the kids are needing breakfast and help with their uniform but I love the look and style of this one so I gave it an airing.  Typically it was on the windiest and wettest day we've had.  Trying to wrestle with two children, two water bottles, two book bags and keep my dress from whipping up around my ears was probably not the wisest decision I've made.

I was sorting through some boxes and I came across a whole load of old CD's from way back when; a time when I thought I was much cooler than I actually was.  Blue, Cover Drive, Blazin' Squad I've been playing them in the car this week.  Quite a few times the kids have asked me what on earth I am making them listen to, which sort of makes sense!  I was pleased to find my Lawson album too though; love those guys.

I have been terribly lazy this week and haven't made a thing!  We haven't even eaten home most nights so I haven't even got a meal to share or anything.  Eek!  Perhaps I could go with 'made no effort to do anything?!'

And Lastly...
I started back at spinning last week which was my first time since Christmas.  I was feeling really smug thinking how it hadn't caused me as much pain as I'd been expecting and then yesterday was just intense.  There were quite a few times that I wondered what would happen if I just dropped sideways off my bike.  I go with a friend and I spotted this when I was trying to explain to her later on how I just about sums it up and I'm sure anyone who's been spinning will agree!

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

A Winter Trip to Lytham St Annes

Before we moved to the North West I would never have seen myself as the type of person who'd enjoy beach trips during winter in England.  To me, a visit to the beach was about soaking up the sun and appreciating the warm weather not bundled up in coat, hat and scarf, trying to shout above the brisk winds to make myself heard and stop the children from going in the freezing cold sea.

Now, however, I love it and I think there is lots to be said for going to a seaside town during the colder months.  Admittedly not everything will be open but:-

- attractions which are open will be a lot less busy;
-the lighting will be perfect for good photos as the sun sits lower in the sky and sets earlier (hello golden hour)
- the beach will be pretty much deserted leaving you with vast stretches all to yourself

What's not to like about that?

Although we live in a seaside town, we decided to venture further afield recently and visit Lytham St Annes.  I know from reading around that Lytham gets very busy in the summer so it seemed like the perfect season to visit and check it out for ourselves whilst the majority of sightseers were off somewhere much warmer.

We arrived by car and found ample parking; driving along the seafront there are a number of pay and display car parks or, if you are lucky enough to find a space, on road parking which costs nothing.

The first thing it's probably worth pointing out is that Lytham and St Annes are two different places.  Although the area is commonly referred to as Lytham St Annes (just to confuse people who aren't local) they are two different seaside towns which are situated along the same picturesque stretch of coastline.  So we stopped off first in Lytham.

There isn't a beach per-se in Lytham, as you can see it's more marshland than sand, but there is still plenty to see.

First up for us was the historic windmill.  You can get access to the windmill at Easter and then from the late May Bank Holiday until September but it's best to check on the Visit Lancashire website as opening times do vary.  Obviously visiting in January meant that this landmark windmill was closed but it was still pretty interesting to get up close and see it.

Just a few steps away there was a board which provided us with enough information about the windmill to keep the kids interested.

A bit further down from the windmill is Lytham's jetty which stretches out right onto the beach.  The beach here looked a bit boggy so we avoided going down onto the sand and contented ourselves with spotting features over in Southport.

Meg and Eli were desperate to get onto the beach but it just wasn't the right sort of sand.  We had to tell them it was sinking sand and then they had great fun spotting all the driftwood and debris which were in various stages of 'sinking'.

After we'd walked along the jetty we decided to head into Lytham's centre to enjoy a warming drink.  There are lots of little independent shops and coffee shops which was nice and the centre is quite compact too.  We chose The Coffee Bean to have a drink and a cream cake each and it was very tasty and reasonably priced too which kept every member of the family happy!

After that it was on to St Annes to see what was on offer there.  Here's the place you want to head for a beach that can be walked upon although Eli was disappointed that there is a real lack of sand dunes unlike further down the coast towards Ainsdale and Formby.  

In St Annes there is also the Victorian Pier and the St Annes Beach Huts which can be hired out and (having taken a sneaky peek at one which was open) look absolutely gorgeous.  Think kitsch decor, the huts themselves being pastel colours and then Cath Kidston-esque interiors with all the mod-cons you could need.  I've added hiring one to my list of potential ideas for my birthday as I think hiring one for the day (and evening) would be fantastic.

By the time we had walked along past the huts towards the pier, the sun was well and truly setting and the temperature had dropped so it was time to head back to the car.  As we drove back we passed a boating lake and a number of pretty looking parks which would be well worth exploring on a future day, perhaps when spring arrives and the temperatures aren't quite so bitter!

Packing my Suitcase

Friday, 22 January 2016

Simple Things, Glee and Getting Outdoors...#LittleLoves

I cannot tell you how pleased I am that Friday is here!  I've been struggling with a cold this week and it's not been terrible but I just feel like I'm doing everything about ten times slower than I normally would and I've been desperate for the weekend to arrive so I can hand over the reins to James and get some rest!

So onto the things I've loved this week (and being ill is definitely not one of them...)

I have seen The Simple Things magazine recommended by a couple of people over the last few weeks so I thought I'd get myself a copy and give it a go.  It made perfect reading for the days when the weather was just too miserable to get out and do something else and I love so many of the concepts about slow living and of course the Nordi/Scandi inspired decor section was right up my street!

I've been having a bit of a Glee-marathon whilst I've been on the go-slow this week.  Sky have all the boxsets on demand and it's just too easy to sit and watch a couple of episodes when I've some spare time.  We watched the first two seasons when it originally came out but missed the rest so I'm enjoying catching up.

January is the season of the new so I've been enjoying wearing a couple of new things.  This grey check shirt from Next is one of my favourite new pieces, even if a few people have pointed out that I really didn't need anything else checked, or anything else grey!  I also got a pair of comfy lounge pants in the sale which I've been wearing this week.  I wouldn't usually go for this style...I think my proximity to Liverpool must be starting to get to me!

I am loving Shawn Mendes - Stitches as the moment.  I didn't like it when I first heard it but it's one of those songs which definitely grows on you and now I find myself humming it round the house.

We had a go at making some weetabix faces from breakfast as a treat this week.  It's something Eli has been desperate to do for weeks but we just never seem to have time in the morning.  The kids both had loads of fun and it was a great way of getting them to add some sneaky fruit into their breakfast which they wouldn't have otherwise eaten.

And Lastly...
This week I was invited to join an Instagram community as a moderator called Love Life Outside.  It's a wonderful little community and some of the photos are just completely stunning.  If you want to join in that would mean a lot, just use the hashtag #lovelifeoutside on any of your outdoor pictures.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

Best of the Rest, Our Break in Oslo...

Although I always try to tell a personal story with my posts there are, inevitably, photos which I love but which just don't fit into the narrative I am creating with my posts.  This was certainly the case with my recent posts about our weekend break in Oslo and with over 800 photos to choose from it's probably easy to understand why!

However, I love sharing my captured moments and for that reason I thought I would write this post just to showcase those pictures which to me, tell a thousand words, but which I couldn't quite make fit anywhere else.

So here are the best of the rest, as it were.  They are mostly candid shots of Meg and Eli, which didn't really fit but which I love as they are a true representation of our time in Norway.  And the fact that my children are born performers, especially when they have an audience.

Another aeroplane shot, I know.  But there's just something about this one I love.

Eli was so taken with this giant tree is Oslo Central Station that every time we passed through (which was quite a few times...) we had to stop and count the baubles.  He amused the rail staff no end and I'm sure they actually started to recognise us in the end.

Another great Eli moment: not believing that people had ever lived in houses which were so tall.  'But it's like a treehouse' he kept on saying.

One of my favourite candid shots; they look so much like they aren't enjoying themselves when in fact they loved getting to sit so close to the fire.

Two from the top of Oslo Opera House.  Because once you've braved the treacherous slopes and steps you have to leave your name in the frost so everyone else can know too, right?!

James got a bit creative with the camera when we went to Vigeland Park and tried to capture the frost and just how cold it really was.  This is one of my favourites.

Meg and Eli mid-performance outside the Royal Palace on Karl Johans Gate.  Not sure what the tongue thing is all about...they had a great time dancing and doing their thing whilst we stood off to one side and pretended they weren't with us...!

Monday, 18 January 2016

Love Life Outside...

One of my goals for this year was to get outside on a more regular basis to explore and discover the area around us.  As a family we love being outdoors (some of us more than others admittedly...) but we tend to stick to the same places we have always been despite living in an area which is literally stuffed full of beaches, woodlands and open countryside and I wanted that to change.

So far we have managed this perfectly, trying somewhere near us each weekend this month and whilst I know we probably won't be able to keep the momentum up in quite the same way, it's a pretty good start!

Alongside this, I have been umming and ahhing over starting an Instagram community for likeminded people.  I love Instagram, it is my favourite form of social media by far and I enjoy following certain hashtags and connecting with others through them.  So I was delighted when I saw that Alison from Anniebobs had started a community and a hashtag called #lovelifeoutside for all those outdoor moments you love to capture.

Having joined in with it for a couple of weeks, when she shared that she needed a partner to help her select pictures to be featured as there were so many amazing ones to choose from I immediately volunteered.

You don't have to be a blogger to join in, you just need an Instagram account and your photo can be of anything, as long as it is taken outdoors!  The hashtag really is what is says...if you love life outside then come and join in.

I have found so many new accounts to follow which inspire me to get out and maybe view some places we've already been to a little bit differently which I love; I recently shared my hope that I will raise Meg and Eli to have adventurous spirits, to teach them about love and kindness but also to live freely and without fear.  I think there is no better way to embrace that style of living than when you are outside and I have seen a number of other Instagrammers who clearly share my thoughts on the matter too which is just amazing.

So please do come and join in.  I'll also be sharing my favourite photos from the community and from my own Instagram account over on the blog so look out for those as well.

Friday, 15 January 2016

Siblings {January}

Here we are, about to embark on a whole new year of Siblings photos.  I have loved looking back over the past couple of years and seeing just how different both Meg and Eli look.  Sometimes in just the space of a month they suddenly look more grown up...I need time to slow down!

It's harder to see what they get up to now that they are both at school and when they come home I have noticed that Meg needs a lot more 'down time' than before; quite often she will shut her door and read a book or listen to some music, closing out the world for a while.

First thing in the morning though, very little has changed.  I wake to the sounds of an intense battle for the universe being conducted with lightsabers and shrieks and shouts of joy as they take on the bad guys or clunks and bumps as they slide up and down the stairs on some sort of secret spy mission, using only night vision goggles to make their way around the house...their games are so much  more creative now, if a little loud and I love that they still get so much from playing with each other.

There are also quieter moments as well, such as this one grabbed in a rush before it was missed. 

I honestly think it is such a privilege to get to nurture and guide their relationship with each other; having a person you can rely on through thick and thin is such a special thing and we try to foster that within them; to look out for each other, make sure that they are okay and to always have one another's backs.  

I hope it always continues to be this way!  Give or take the odd ridiculous argument over whether someone is sitting too close to someone else on the sofa of course...

And because I am going for a more candid approach to parenting this year; here's one which perhaps shows Meg and Eli at their most realistic!

The Me and Mine Project

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

A Weekend Break in Oslo, Norway {Part Two}

Last week I shared the first part of our recent trip to Norway which included our visit to the Viking Museum and Folk Museum on the peninsula of Bygdøy and the beginnings of our Saturday afternoon which included a quick stop at the Nobel Peace Museum.  You can read more about all of that here.

We had made a quick decision to get off the tram at Brynjulf Bulls Plass knowing that it put us within walking distance of the Nationaltheatret district which we were keen to explore.  After spending some time looking out over the water we made the short walk up to the Nationaltheatret district and, in particular towards Karl Johans Gate.

In some respects, we found Oslo to be quite like London; the public transport is very easy and simple to navigate and a great way of getting round the city but it's also quite nice to walk around and take in some of the sights you might otherwise have missed if you just stuck to the tram, bus or metro, for example.

As we passed the Nationaltheatret we noticed, in the distance, a large ferris wheel which immediately got the kids attention so we meandered down towards it and discovered the delightful Jul Vinterland.

To say it was busy would be something of an understatement; it was rammed.  We couldn't get anywhere near the stalls to see what was being sold but having already been to the Christmas Market at the Folk Museum we weren't too disappointed by this.  Instead we bustled our way through, holding tight onto the kids until we got closer to the wheel.  On passing the wheel we discovered an ice skating rink.  Well, there was no way the kids were leaving without giving it a go.

It was both Meg and Eli's first time properly ice skating and although there were a few wet bums and ungainly tumbles after a while Meg had really started to get the hang of it.  Eli on the other hand was not a small person made for ice skating.  If you pop over to my Instagram account you'll see a short video I shared of him.  I was standing on the sidelines on bag and photograph duty and I could barely breathe for laughing; he just couldn't get the concept that he had to keep his legs still and get his balance before he started trying to skate.  As a child who lives his life on hyper-speed this didn't come as much of a surprise!

Whilst we were enjoying ice skating the sun began to set and before long we were treated to the whole of Jul Vinterland beautifully illuminated.  Unfortunately with the setting of the sun so the temperature dropped again and as both Meg and Eli were wet from the skating we decided to call it a day and head back to the apartment.

The following morning we were up early to make the most of our remaining time in the city.  Our train to the airport was booked for 3pm so we had much to do before it was time to go.  We decided to start with a visit to the Oslo Opera House; partly to please my interest in architecture and because I had heard there were some good views to be had.  We were so lucky in our timing, we got to watch the sun rise over the city and the kids got to see Bjørvika, a small inlet of Oslofjord frozen over which they thought was amazing.

We braved the slippy ice and climbed to the top of the Opera House for the view across Bjørvika which was stunning.

Afterwards we headed back into Oslo Central Station to grab a hot chocolate and warm up our frozen fingers before heading off to Vigeland Sculpture Park.

The Vigeland Sculpture Park was another attraction recommended to us and is the world's largest sculpture park created by just one single artist.  There are over 200 sculptures created by Gustav Vigeland, and there is also a museum although we didn't have time to visit that.  The sculptures were certainly interesting and raised a lot of questions from the kids, the main one being why no-one was wearing any clothing?!

Despite the 'rudeness' of the sculptures it was a great choice to let the kids burn off some steam before our flight back home.  There was a little playground which, although somewhat hazardous from the ice, was still the perfect way to let the kids be kids.  Although they both enjoyed wandering round the city and exploring, they still needed the opportunity to just run around for a short while.

After Vigeland Park it was time to head back into the city and grab some lunch before heading back to the apartment and packing up.  We decided to head towards Karl Johans Gate which is the main street running through the city centre and have a visit to the Royal Palace on our way through.  One of Meg's favourite things about London in the summer was our trip to Buckingham Palace so we knew this would be a winner with her.  Then it was on to find somewhere to eat.

One thing it is definitely worth noting is that Oslo is expensive and so we had shied away from eating out to try and save money; we came across a wonderful little place called Tullins Cafe which was quite reasonably priced and served something the kids would eat so we decided to give it a try.  I would definitely recommend Tullins for anyone wanting to eat out in the city centre.

After Tullins we headed back to the apartment and then to Oslo Central Station and onto the airport and home.

We were all exhausted which I think shows because I didn't take a single picture after we left the train station; but it was an absolutely fantastic weekend break and I would certainly love to go back.  We've heard that there is a train you can catch from Oslo to Bergen which takes you through the mountains and passed the fjords so that is definitely one to consider for next time!

Travel Monkey