18 August 2017

Our family visits lavender fields for the first time

A couple of years ago I spotted that summertime visits to lavender fields were a thing, especially if you are a blogger. Around late June my social media feeds would turn purple and flowery, with kids frolicking amongst lavender beds looking all serene and joyful. So naturally I wanted to drag my long-suffering husband and our most-definitely-not-serene fournado for a photo session to the nearest lavender fields to us. One hour drive away.

You can imagine how that conversation went, but suffice to say since I am here writing this post and sharing these pictures justice (or rather, me!) prevailed!

girl at lavender and wheat fields at hitchin

hitchin lavender wheat and lavender fields

dad and daughter at hitching lavender

dad and daughter smiling at lavender fields

beetle on a lavender flower

dad and daughter picking lavender

little girl cutting lavender

butterfly on a lavender flower bush

Some top tips for visiting lavender fields: Little girl holding a lavender bouquet

And to be honest, the trip was actually rather nice. We went to Hitchin Lavender Fields, which are the closest lavender fields to us in North London. It was gorgeously fragrant, and very very pretty and our daughter spent a long time speaking about how much she enjoyed picking lavender. My husband got quite into it too. At Hitchin you pay £5 per adult to get in and you get a paper bag and scissors and can take as much lavender as fits in the bag. We took loads… so much so that we made lavender bouquets as an end-of-year gifts for all 11 of nursery staff members, and we still had plenty to spare! We drank some lavender lemonade before retreating back home in a sleepy daze – the little one actually fell asleep in the car!

It was predictably busy over the weekend, and I had to try all my might to get those perfect shots of just our family in the picture. There was lots of cropping and strategic placing of heads in the frame, so the dreaded “other people” would be either cut out or blocked out. In the end I was rather pleased with what I got, considering how many people there actually were as you can see in some of these pictures…  

Picking lavender at Hitchin Lavender: some top tips

Picking lavender at Hitchin Lavender: some top tips

mum and daughter picking lavender at hitchin lavender

lavender field rows

mum and daughter picking lavender

mum and daughter at hitchin lavender, smiling

little girl standing on a lavender field

little girl walking on a lavender field

smiling little girl on a lavender field

If you are planning on visiting lavender fields yourself I would say be prepared. The bushes can be scratchy and there are lots of bees. Long trousers or jeans are likely to be most comfortable. There are lots and lots of bees, and the amount of them came as a bit of a surprise for me. Husband got stung once, but generally speaking they are quite OK if you just gently push past them. The photography can be gorgeous, but as everyone and their uncle loves lavender fields, you best get there either very very early or very very late for best photographic opportunities. Lunchtime is when the hordes descent.

It is nice just to walk amongst the flowers and breathe in the smell, but if you are allowed to pick them, go for the ones with fully formed buds which haven’t yet opened – those are the most fragrant. It takes about a week for them to dry after which you can use them in a variety of different crafts. Our lavender buds have now dried but we haven’t yet done anything with them. Would you have any ideas what to do with them?

mum dad and daughter smiling family portrait at lavender fields

Have you visited lavender fields yourself? What did you think?

9 August 2017

The brightest pink shirt: kids outfit of the day

This little lady loves her skirts and dresses. There have been so many times I have tried to persuade her to wear trousers, because it has been cold, or because it would just look better, or be more practical, and after a all-mighty paddy, I have relented. Once again. For she is a dressy frilly glittery girly girl, who loves her pink and hates trousers, and will not wear them. And if it is necessary to wear trousers when the mood is not right, you will certainly hear of it. The only time I've had her go to school crying was during a cold rainy day, when she was forced to wear her uniform trousers instead of her uniform dress. 

The brightest pink shirt: kids outfit of the day

girl in bright pink Joules shirt in park

It has been quite interesting seeing her express more and more of her opinions on her outfits. We have a very different style, her and me. While I would rather dress her up in preppy and adult-like clothing (think a slightly trendier version of what Princess Charlotte might wear), she would rather go for the most neon brightest and sparkliest version she can find. Sometimes, quite honestly, it is a bit ghastly. And there is no turning her head. On days when practical measures have demanded it, there have been a few shouting matches, and a few temper tantrums, and attempted reasoning, usually futile... 

When I had my baby, I admit, I was pretty excited about being able to doll her up in all these cute, adorable outfits, dresses, skirts, jeans, shorts, all kinds. I was picturing muted colours, lots of white, blue, some brown tweed, maybe a bit of sunshine yellow to pop the outfits. Knitted cardigans with fair isle prints. Tasteful flower motifs and embroidery. 

girl holding a leaf on her forehead

girl in a pink shirt in park with a leaf

Then, she grew up. And now it is on her terms only. So when I go shopping I try and pick the things I know she likes. I look at the cutesy little bows and trendy little jeans longingly and skip hop straight to the pink aisle and try and spot anything that has a bunny, a puppy, or perhaps Elsa or Anna on it. 

And of course, her outfit choices are pretty darn cute and I do love them even if it not quite to my taste, it's just not what I had pictured her wardrobe to be like. These baby pink shoes she picked herself from Clarks, because they have bunnies on them and as she put it at the store, "I love bunnies!". She matched them with her baby pink Little My socks because she likes Moomin too. The shirt-skirt combo is from Joules, one of her favourite outfits because well, it is bright pink, there is a flower, and even the skirt has some matching pink accents to it.  It is a cute outfit, even if her posing with a leaf on her forehead is a bit strange. She has taken to doing that recently - I believe it is meant to be some sort of a princess decoration...

girl in a pink shirt and blue skirt standing in a park

baby pink canvas shoes with bunnies on them

girl sitting on grass in park

girl holding a leaf on her forehead
Canvas shoes Clarks (Gracie Pip) / pink shirt by Joules / skirt Joules 

I do wonder how I will feel about her outfit choices in about ten years... Unfortunately I remember what I was like at that age. I went through some very strange style phases and I am sure my mother was shaking her head behind my back! 

What kind of outfits do your kids like?

31 July 2017

How did July 2017 go for our family?

As ever, at the end of the month I share a quick summary of what has been happening in our lives in the past month. July has been a rather active one, and we have been outdoors a lot. It has been lovely to go to a pick your own, and to lavender fields, and the beach, and it feels like nearly every weekend we have been out there somewhere. And I hope August will be as outdoorsy for us too!

We went to the lavender fields because it was one of those things I have wanted to do for ages, ever since seeing other bloggers share their stunning lavender field family shoots... With a fournado in tow I didn't manage to capture those visually amazing family shots many do, but they were quite funny nonetheless!  

family at a lavender field smelling flowers

This July I have loved:
  • Lavender fields! We took a trip down to Hitchin Lavender because well, my social media feeds have been purple whole of July and blogger see, blogger do. 
  • The beach! We went on a beach near to London at the beginning of July. I've probably said it so many times here but I just love the seaside and if there is anywhere I could live, it would be by a beach. 
  • Photography - the new locations have got me excited about photography again and I've taken a ridiculous amount of pictures I need to go through and edit. 
  • Sweet and savoury summer salads. When the heat wave was at its worst, I didn't feel like eating anything other than salads, so I made my old favourite - a strawberry-feta salad. It is amazing, seriously, and you should try it. I also tried a new version with raspberry and goat cheese, and am planning to test melon salads too.  
  • The end of nursery. It really is an end of an era and it feels like such a big step, and I loved to look back on the year and see how far my little girl has grown. 

Wave to Mummy family at lavender fields

My daughter Aili has loved:
  • Having a headteachers award for her good learning in phonics!
  • Drawing lots and lots and lots.
  • Going to the lavender fields and playing with lavender twigs.
  • Pretending to get married to daddy. 
  • Her new sand and water table, and burying her toys in the sand. 
  • Galloping with hew hobby horse and pretending to be a cow girl. She also likes to dress the hobby horse in a nice dress. 
  • Starting a swimming course and a theatre summer school!

Parents kissing and a child face-palming

My husband has loved:
  • Rugby. He has joined a rugby club so a night or two a week he is getting his mud on. There have been many many shopping trips to get appropriate gear now! 
  • Painting finishing touches in our house - it is nice to see the final bits and bobs being tidied up here!
  • Cooking with our daughter, and trying to get her to try new things. So far, she has had a half an orange and a small bite of a corn cob!
  • Completing a couple of bigger design projects, like building websites for his clients. 
  • And also going to the lavender fields, and pick your own farm!

What have you loved this month?

29 July 2017

The end of an era: the nursery year

I cannot believe my child is old enough to go to school now. Just a moment ago she was a little baby, learning to walk, learning to talk, babbling... And now she has been through nursery, and going to school. Gosh, it makes me feel really old. 

The first day she just skipped through the nursery doors without a backwards glance, leaving me feeling a bit distraught. In fact, the whole journey to school she was pulling us along saying she wanted to go there quicker, she wanted to get there already. She was so excited about starting at the nursery and finally making and playing with friends, rather than boring old mummy and daddy. 

The second day she banged her head and we had to fill an incident report. The school photos were taken on the third or the fourth day, with a little dent and a bruise in her forehead. We have a permanent reminder of the incident now, as it left a small scar in her hairline.  

School picture of a girl

After the first week I asked her what did they do at the nursery. She responded: "Playing and playing and painting and cooking". 

And so the weeks went by, playing, and painting, and cooking. We were told that she especially enjoyed dress-up and outdoors play. She also loved playing with the water and sand tables, but never have the nursery teachers seen a child that disliked getting her clothes mucky or wet as much as she did. She loved doing crafts as well, and we have a huge haul of paintings and drawings that have been given to us. 

This past year has been a a whirlwind of growth for her, both physical and emotional. She started as a little girl, excited to go to nursery. She went to the school nursery Monday to Friday mornings, and then to a Montessori nursery on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. She made many many new friends, and loved her time in both nurseries. At the end of the year, she was a big girl, as she likes to remind us constantly. "Do-a by myself! I'm a big girl" is a regular phrase we hear now.  

girl with a medal at school sports day

girl smiling to the camera

She has done so well this past year. She made many many friends, and was apparently quite the popular girl. She was particularly kind and gentle with younger children, and many times would try and comfort her friends if they were upset over something. 

She learned to write her name early on, and could identify all the letters. She learned her phonics so well she could sound out and write three-letter words, like dog or bag. This earned her a headteacher's award at the end of the year. We parents got a special invitation to attend the assembly, and at the assembly she got a golden certificate from the head. 

Her Montessori teachers were also very impressed with her learning and told us that there were things she had learned that wouldn't be learning goals until she would be in her first year in school. Her teacher told us she had learned about geometry too, understanding what cones, cylinders and rectangles were, something also quite advanced. 

The year went past so fast, and our little girl thankfully loved nursery and grew so much during the year. And now our intelligent big little girl, girl who loves learning, is waiting to start her big school. 

And she cannot wait to get there. 

How did the nursery years go for you?

22 July 2017

A day out at our new favourite beach

We went to the beach. 

It has taken us quite a while to go to the beach as a family... I've been speaking of wanting to visit one of these beaches near to London ever since our daughter was born, probably even longer than that. The same summer our daughter was born, we were just about to go to one of these beaches, I think the plan was to go to South-end-on-sea, but as the aircon in our car failed and we were not happy to risk being stuck in a hot car in traffic with a new baby, we just dropped it. And every year we were meant to go, but it was always too far, we were too busy, too this, too that. 

But quite recently a friend tipped us off a nice beach near(ish) to London. A non-commercial, lacking in any of the traditionally tacky seaside attractions, not even an overpriced ice cream cone in sight, just sand and the sea (and of course the locals). 

So off we packed our car to go to Frinton-on-sea, clammed right between Clacton-on-sea and Walton-on-sea.

toddler girl at beach with Trunki swim bag

building sandcastles at frinton-on-sea

girl on a beach and a bee

frinton-on-sea seaside

toddler girl running into the sea

dad and daughter splashing in the sea

dad and daughter in the sea with giraffe float

toddler girl by the seaside

Frinton-on-sea - one of best sandy beaches near to London. Taking a family selfie by the seaside and sharing lots of pictures of Frinton beach.

toddler girl in pink flower towel poncho from boots

man throwing a rugby ball

fit flops on sandy beach

A beautiful family friendly beach near London - Frinton-on-Sea. This is our new favourite beach near London - a sandy beach and lack of commercialisation. Have a look at the pictures of Frinton-on-sea beach front and get some tips on what to expect at Frinton seaside.

So off we packed our car full of all the necessary items for the beach and set on our journey. Alongside the normal items like a picnic, plenty of water , towels and sunscreen, I also always pack plastic flipflops and talcum powder. The flipflops because I can't stand sand in my shoes, with the flipflops you can walk towards the waves and let the sea wash the sand off for you. And talcum powder is perfect to get the sand off rest of your limbs - especially handy with kids. 

It was lovely this beach, Frinton-on-sea. The sea was clear, well, as clear as you can get on the English canal, and the air was fresh. It was just a pure traditional beach, with nothing commercial in sight, just beach huts, sand and sea. There were toilets a short walk away, a tap to get water from, and the town where you could go and get some snacks if you needed to. And the best thing of it all... Free parking. All you really need of a beach. 

So we went swimming, and we went splashing and we went wading. At some point our daughter was trying to egg us on to swim to France. She was planning on floating on her giraffe all the way there and daddy could apparently swim next to her. I said I wouldn't mind as long as they brought back a redblochon for me.

frinton on sea bach huts

dad and daughter at beach

frinton on sea beach huts

dad and daughter on beach

mum and daughter on beach

mum and daughter smiling on beach

seashells in hand

seagull flying

mum collecting seashells with daughter

mum showing seashells to daughter

As the day was nearing it's end and after collecting all those seashells, we were salivating at the thought of fish and chips. Well, OK, it was mostly me salivating. If I am at the beach I must have something seasidey to eat.

For some reason we could not find a fish and chips shop open anywhere in Frinton-on-sea in the evening, so we drove up to Walton-on-sea to Yate's Fish and Chips, another tip-off from the friend. And it was oh so good. I had skate, which is quite meaty and chunky in it's texture (would definitely recommend it!) and hubby had his usual favourite, cod. And of course we had mushy peas, and he had a pickled egg, which is pretty much as weird as you could imagine it to be. I tasted it once and it's alright I suppose with fish and chips, but I'm definitely more of a mushy peas type of a girl. 

dad and daughter by the seaside

fish and chips bag

After a long long long day at the beach it felt so good to come back home... Feeling all seasidey and salty, and fresh, and dreaming of another trip to the seaside...

Where is your favourite beach?

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