When I think of Tuscany I cannot help but smile. It is such an idyllic place to holiday and I fell in love with it last year when we took the kids for a week for our Summer adventures. Rich in breathtaking views, stunning coastlines, quaint little streets, Iconic architecture and Cities you want to wander all day and get lost in – I couldn’t imagine a more culturally rich and splendid place to escape to! It is relaxing and yet so invigorating to all of your senses. It offers delicious foods, great weather, and I could quite happily return again and again!

When we visited last year, we stayed in a small village outside of Pisa known as Buti. Surrounded by olive groves and nestled in the mountains, it was the perfect spot to overlook impressive landscapes and yet be in easy reach of all that Tuscany has to offer. We enjoyed watching the sun set on an evening, listening to the crickets and seeing pomegranates, limes and olives growing in their natural environment. We watched the locals farm, ate plenty of pasta and dipped breads in oil. A short 10 minute walk, wandering up the hill we discovered a local 14th century church filled with stories and oozing with local history and culture. We loved everything about our stay as it was super dreamy, but next time I would love to stay in another part of Tuscany – perhaps with a pool, maybe coastal but charming and quiet all the same. To Tuscany have some enchanting and beautiful places to stay throughout Tuscany, that to look at would be the icing on the cake for a beautiful Tuscan trip!

So, if you too would like to escape to such a magnificent part of the world this Summer (or in a another season), then let me share with you our favourite places that invite you to really experience the well-preserved culture of Tuscany. Visit for the day or stay in and around any of them and you will not be disappointed – your heart will be full and I expect your bellies also!

Florence

Florence has always been a hotspot for artists, being home to so many famous masterpieces and oozing with Renaissance art and architecture. Whilst not my favourite Tuscan City, I still loved the day we spent there as it was both beautiful and impressive. The Cathedral was more incredible than I expected, with all of its grandeur and intricate sculpting and paintings. And I loved seeing the City squares, bridges and “posh shops.

Whilst not an artist I could appreciate what it has to offer it;s visitors and the amazing history that has been preserved. If you don’t mind spending to see things then you will really have an opportunity to get up close to famous arts and sculptures. Either way you can’t not visit and you can’t not be blown away by the many beautiful buildings and statues that line it’s streets.

If you choose to visit in September, you may have the opportunity to see their annual lantern festival, which sounds brilliant!

Pisa

Pisa is a fantastic little City that I simply loved exploring – so much so we had a couple of days there. The obvious attractions of Pisa are the iconic leaning tower, Pisa Cathedral and Piazza dei Miracoli. We decided not to go in the tower on this occasion as with 3 kids in tow it seemed risky, but we did go in the Cathedral. The Cathedral is free and most certainly worth a visit and setting aside time to explore. There was a little wait (obviously – it’s free and Pisa!) but I loved the scenes of the bible carved into the huge metal doors as we entered and the whole beauty of the building. The ceiling was breathtaking and we all (from oldest to almost youngest) enjoyed wandering around it.

When I first stepped foot in to the square where these famous landmarks are located, I had one of those moments of complete awe and it being such a surreal experience – I couldn’t believe i was actually there! We spent a little while exploring and snapping all of the “must take” pictures (who doesn’t want a snapshot of them holding up the leaning tower?) and it was such a joyful hour or 2! But for me Pisa was far more – Yes I loved all of that side of it, how could I not? But for me Pisa really captured my heart.

I loved wandering its little streets, crossing huge stone bridges over the river and strolling through its parks. I liked that around every corner there were new and equally charming sights to see (including buildings and a statue of Garibaldi) and we had some of the best Gelato here too! I thoroughly enjoyed seeing horses pulling carriages, little fountains and beautiful colourful buildings. Not far away from the City centre are lovely beaches and parks, but the City itself has so wonderful I simply enjoyed strolling round and feeling it’s spirit!

Yes Pisa truly is a splendid city.

Lake Bilancino

Beautiful, clear, turquoise warm waters; Lake Bilancino is a lovely spot to go for the day for water sports, and shopping at the local outlet. It is a man made lake not far from Florence and is a great place to see a different, less historic (but equally enriching) view of Tuscany. We enjoyed paddling and soaking up the outdoors, and of course the drive to and from was such a pleasurable experience also.

Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is quite possibly one my favourites in Tuscany and yet as we visited late at night, I have no decent images to show you (google it). It is a well preserved part of the coastline and is made up of quaint little fishing villages lined with colorful houses that cling to steep mountain sides. We wandered through Vernazza late one night and swam in the harbour whilst inhaling the rich smells of garlic and muscles – In that very moment my heart felt happy and full and we agreed we would return by train and spend at least a day and a night there to soak up more of its charm and beauty. I wanted to sit for hours on that harbour wall, admiring the little boats and dipping my toes in the med, it really is one of the most beautiful places I have been to! It is a spectacular part of Tuscany and all 5 little villages are worth exploring and will truly capture your heart!

Tuscany is an incredibly beautiful part of the world – The food, the coast line, the cities and views – there is more than enough to fill your schedule for a week or even 2! I can’t wait to return; this time to hopefully catch a glimpse of the miles of sunflower fields or beautiful Poppy fields, to visit Volterra and see where Twilight was filmed and immerse myself in the beauty of Vernazza once more!

Tuscany is a great place for couples, kids, best friends and lonesome travellers alike. Wander it’s streets, admire it’s views, fill up on its delights, and I dare you not to fall in love!

This post is written as an entry to a blogger competition hosted by To Tuscany. I have not been compensated for it and it is not sponsored. All images and thoughts are my own, and I am keeping my fingers and toes firmly crossed that I might have the opportunity to return to Tuscany with them and Mr Smith! 

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It’s rather Ironic that this post is all about “finding the words” and yet I have had it on my “to do” list for most of the month now – because I just could not find the words!

June is SANDS awareness month – A time of year to raise awareness on Stillbirth and Neonatal death. Their campaign this year “Finding the words”, aims to break the silence around stillbirth and neonatal death by encouraging everyone to sensitively start a conversation with someone whose baby has died, however long ago.

But where do you start? What exactly do you say to someone whose baby has died? What do you say when the unimaginable has happened? And if it was a long time ago, is that not going to be awkward to bring it up now?

The truth for most will be no. In my experience on both a personal level of having my baby be stillborn and with others I have met that have had babies die, they just want to talk about them. To have their name spoken is a wonderful thing. To be asked how we are when we are working daily against grief, is extremely touching. When that person is genuine and really wants to know, that is one big sense of relief and makes you feel happy and accepted in your loss.

My biggest fear has always been that Poppy will be forgotten. Not just that but that she will become replaced or overshadowed. I have already seen in life how very different we view her life and loss to others and this has been hard to terms with, but we are always hopeful that some people in life will still acknowledge her and be interested in how I feel about it or are coping with each passing year.

Every day in the UK 15 babies die before, during, or shortly after they are born – this is the beginning of a lifetime of coping and navigating life with loss in your heart for all of these individuals and families.

Talking about the death of a baby can feel very difficult – baby death is an horrendous thing to even think about in our day, but finding the right words at the right time can really help to support bereaved parents or families when they need it the most. At times this is often following the loss, but at other times it can also be the anniversaries or just a random day or period that it has hit them again and they are not quite themselves.

No one grieving after the death of their baby should have to do so in isolation, especially when surrounded by so many. And I would say too as a word of caution, that no one grieving should have time limits placed upon them. I cannot stress enough how important this one is and how really it is no one else’s business to inflict or put on them YOUR opinions on how they should be feeling about or viewing the death of THEIR baby at any given time. One of the worst things I have experienced is being compared to those who have had miscarriage or compared to how they would behave if they hypothetically lost a baby too!

I wish in these moments I had the self awareness and confidence to say plainly “Well you know what – it wasn’t and isn’t you”! I wish I could tell people to count their lucky stars because unless you have specifically had a baby die shortly before, during or after birth you have absolutely no idea how that would make you feel or how it would affect your future. You don’t know how it changes you or how you would want to have them remembered.

Birthing a full term baby that had died crushed me and changed me! Burying our baby in her tiny grave broke us. Crushed and broken people do not need opinions or judgements. They need genuine friends and people that can give them them the space to open up and speak their babies names. They need genuine conversations to explore what they are experiencing. Conversations that say it’s okay to feel what you feel, It’s normal to miss them and its natural to want to talk about each of your kids! When we overcome the desire to judge a person in their grief or how they handle their loss, we overcome barriers and we begin to break the silence!

I get that talking about loss is hard – it’s emotionally hard for us sometimes too and hard to explain in words how we feel or even what we need. I carry a lot of anger sometimes and at other times I carry only pain and a broken heart. On rare days I have very little of either and speak of her with fondness and a little humour. I suppose it’s hard to know which face of grief you will get?

I know also that it’s hard for you who have never been through it and I often wonder if I would know what to say if I didn’t have this experience behind me to give me the words, understanding and empathy?

But hard things shouldn’t be avoided or ignored just because they are hard. And people shouldn’t not be supported because they are a little tender or frustrated about it all. It will never become easier unless we start doing it and silence will not be broken if we don’t speak the words to try to break it.

Some people need comfort, some need to vent. We do not need to understand to show understanding to someone whose baby has died – however long ago it was!

So what do you say to someone whose baby has died? Where do you start and what possibly can make it better? The truth is – not a whole lot! And this is important to remember – your job is not to make it better but to support them whilst they learn how to live with it better. Perhaps it’s taking them a meal or watching the kids after the funeral has been and gone because real life is awful to try and return to.

Maybe it’s taking them lunch and cleaning for them because you know they cannot face life since all of this happened.

Maybe it’s baking for them and writing them a card, sending flowers, or simply telling them how you acknowledge how crappy it all is and offer whatever you can to them to help cope with life after loss.

Perhaps it’s been a listening ear – Now or months, or years later.

Maybe you invite them for a walk, lunch or a warm drink and let them speak! I had a few good people do this in the early days and it was unbelievably helpful.

There is no reason though to not do or say anything.

I could a write a whole post on the things not to say, and the awful things people have said but this post is about finding the words to say as opposed to what not to say. The most important thing is you start a conversation – you say something general and open that allows the bereaved parent/sibling/grandparent to say as much or as little as they need. If you genuinely want to hear – tell them. Many have been hurt and burned by friends or people just haven’t wanted to know. And so we build barriers and walls as a result to protect ourselves and our babies. These can come down easily if you are genuine.

The first step could be “tell me about your baby” … or maybe “How have you been since losing “Baby’s name” – sit and listen to them and then ask follow up questions as you would with any other friend and follow their lead.

Another thing is to let them know you are thinking of them. If you think of them one day, remember the anniversaries or whatever, then let them know. Send a card, a text, a message, or take it up a notch and call them or invite them out.

One of the greatest things I have had in the last 12 months was a new friend that barely knew me, and certainly never knew me when Poppy died, came over the week of her anniversaires. She laid on my couch and said “I want to hear about it all – how you are and what it’s like now ect”. She stayed for hours and let me say it. I got out a lot of suppressed emotion and I got to tell someone again how utterly unfair it all felt. She didn’t care if I was cross, hurt or frustrated – I didn’t feel judged or an inconvenience, she just wanted to listen and I felt heard and supported.

Yesterday we called by the cemetery on our way home from Grandma’s. WIth it being Fathers day we try to see Poppy and now Nathan’s Dad too. Its hard but we appreciate those moments to reflect on the life and our relationships with those we have lost.

Megan leaned over Poppy’s grave and in a tone like she was speaking to one of her best friends, I heard her say “Hello Poppy – oh how you have been in my heart for such a long time!”. I don’t often cry by her grave because it makes me feel numb more than anything, but yesterday I choked! Oh how our newly turned 6 year old summed up how we all feel in a moment of childhood innocence and play beside her baby sisters grave.

Yes – We carry our babies daily in our hearts instead of our arms. And that feels like such a long time. To you it may seem like ages ago that we lost our baby, but each September and on other random dates throughout the year we remember as though it was yesterday. Most days (if not every day) I will think of Poppy in some light. You will not in anyway bring up the past or cause more grief for speaking the name of our daughter. You will instead offer the gift of supporting her mummy who struggles on. You will offer the gift of validating her life by speaking her name in this world. And you will let us know that she is not forgotten or overlooked, but remembered too.

Living with loss is our present and constant…I am a text away. A facebook message or a phone call. Your friend, sister, colleague, cousin – they are all in easy access. This month you can help by reaching out, starting a conversation, offering a listening ear and breaking the silence on baby loss. Lets hang out, lets talk, lets understand.

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I have had a rather sociable week this week, which has been most refreshing. Some weeks I am quite happy to just stay at home, work on things and get organised – you know, kept it chill and wander! But then most weeks I really enjoy seeing people and having some days out and chats with other mums and Friends and this week was more so one of those and I have appreciated time with friends and family.

This week Alice and I have had a picnic at the park with her second cousins, have been to soft play in the neighbouring village and had a shopping trip and lunch with a friend! I have loved that I am one week away from completing my course and I have loved hanging with some of my sisters Friday night for my youngest sisters Birthday!

Grateful For …

This week I am really thankful for good health and feeling well and energized again. Good weather to get out and about and dress Summery. Sisters to have a laugh with and eat Ice cream by the tub with. And for fathers!

With it being Fathers day today it has been lovely to reflect on the blessing it is to have good Dad’s in life and father figures. I have felt grateful firstly for my Dad and for all of the laughs and adventures he has given us over the years. I am grateful for my Granddad and his humour, influence and example in my life. For my Father in Law and his love, humour, trips we’ve been on and guidance also. And finally for Nathan – he is such a kind, gentle and funny person – I love that my kids have a Dad who loves them so much. He is interested in their lives and wants them to succeed. He works hard to provide a safe and loving home for them, gives them lots of laughs and fun, and helps them with all sorts!

Dad’s come in all kinds of forms, and I am thankful that I have known such great, funny and wonderful fathers in my life!

Succeeded At….

Finishing all of my assignments for my college course! It felt absolutely brilliant to walk in to college on Wednesday evening knowing I had done all of my assignments and only had to print them off, arrange my folder and now cross reference it all before handing in the final copy this Wednesday!

Found Beauty In…

The fields on our walk to soft play….Alice asleep with her little hand under her chin… and watching the kids crowd Nathan this morning. It is so lovely to live where we do and have these moments as a family. I love the memories we are building and the moments we are capturing!

 

 

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It’s been a whole 7 days since our epic date night which saw us going to see Taylor Swift live at the Etihad stadium in Manchester.  When going to a concert I always feel like I want to be a bit cool but also comfortable and casual, as obviously there is a lot of sitting and standing (and in my case shaking it)! I also wanted to dress for the season as it was a warm Summer’s evening, and so I decided on my orange shoes, a wide stripe navy and cream shirt, and a pair of high waist skinny jeans. I accessorised with my gold geometric earrings.

My shirt is what one would call vintage. I bought it years ago now in a charity shop for a couple of quid and I don’t know why but it’s just one of those things I find really chill and easy to wear (probably because it’s a linen mix). It’s comfortable and with stripes in clothing being one of my faves, I love the stripes! My jeans are just from primark for like £11 and then my slip on awesome orange shoes are the latest addition to my wardrobe (and this season from Sainsburys), which I picked up when they had 25% off a couple of weeks ago, so were only £12!

I loved the combo of navy and orange… this outfit was easy to wear, travel in, and dance the night away with the hubs!

We bought these Taylor Swift tickets some time around Christmas last year if I remember rightly. Either way it feels like such a long time ago and ages that we have been mega excited about this social event in the calendar! The atmosphere in the stadium was magnificent and not only did we have an amazing time seeing Miss Swift (in some pretty great seats), but we also had the added bonus of a bit of “Havannah”, “Never be the same” and more, by none other than Camila Cabello. Both of them were brilliant live.

The evening was fantastic and quite possibly one of the best concerts I have been to! Taylor Swift songs are really meaningful and generally joyful and fun to dance to. Hearing her live though reminds you of how she is such an incredible artist and performer. I found her to be really passionate, funny and genuine. I love her variety and the attitude behind some of her newer songs, and from start to finish it was filled with surprises, astonishing things and it blew us away.

I think one of my favourite things about it (aside from hearing so many of my faves live), was the infamous wrist bands you receive upon arrival to the stadium. Each person gets one and when Taylor comes on stage it activitiates it. For the remainder of the show our wristbands were flashing in coordination with the stage lighting and music. As you can imagine with so many thousands of people all lighting up and dancing around the stadium, it was spectacular and beautiful.

Going to this concert was such a surreal experience and I was glad to share it with Nath. She had such an incredible set, fireworks, giant snakes and a brilliant band/backing dancers. I loved it so much (we both did) and I hope I always remember the fun we had that night together seeing Taylor Swift Live, in my orange shoes and that old lady stripe shirt!

 

 

 

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