Okay so we are actually in November now and I am only just getting around to our family update! It’s been a little bit of fail with getting a family pic for this month as we’ve had another packed one with outings and celebrations. I hoped weeks ago to have a lovely Autumnal shoot, but instead here we are on the 5th of November, with thoughts of bonfires and fireworks, and wondering where the heck the time has gone?!

I have had the details of this post written out for well over a week in preparation for the 31st of October, but couldn’t hit publish as we had no pics with it. So instead of wasting more time, waiting to get some decent shots, I give you some rather chaotic (and shocking quality) selfies reflecting both the joy and pure madness of life with these lot!

October was a wonderful month for us, and I have been so happy that with it came half term and some chilled time with the kids. It was wonderful that the end of October coincided with both half term and Halloween as it has meant that October 2017 has gone out with a bang!

In previous years, and since losing Poppy, I have avoided making a thing of Halloween. I just found it uncomfortable and distasteful, but I knew like everything with life after loss, there would come a time I would need overcome that and make it something for the kids to enjoy. With both the kids getting older and moving to a lovely community spirited village, it seemed that time was now. Yes, Halloween has suddenly become a thing and something (dare I say it) also quite enjoyable. On the last night of October we carved pumpkins, decorated the front door and took the kids trick or treating!

It was so lovely to see their excitement over it. Their first time experiencing the spooky houses of others and getting bags of sweeties and then answering the door to each of their new friends as they made the rounds. I enjoyed creating new family traditions and I realised whilst the whole death thing still makes me uncomfortable, there are many more fun things we can take from it to join in the fun and have a good time! I am grateful we could turn this awkward season round into something more fun. I look forward to more Halloweens, costumes, parties and trick or treating with the kids!

The rest of October, I have to say has also being very good to us too. The beginning was all about counting down to Ethan turning 7, followed quickly by our 8th Wedding Anniversary. I really love this time of year where we have an opportunity to celebrate the day it all began, and our first born child the following year. I love Octobers for remembering the wonderful blessing that is us. Its always lovely to reflect on those joyous and life changing occasions for our family and have a night away as a couple – kid free!

November is another exciting time with bonfires and my birthday (yup I’m 33 this week), and we are so very much looking forward to this new month with many more exciting things already pencilled in on the calendar. We hope to get some more rooms decorated and get organised for December and the countdown to Christmas – I cannot believe how little of 2017 we have left to enjoy and create memories! Seriously…How are we only a matter of weeks away from the end of the year?

In October we are grateful for

*First time trick or treaters
*A positive Halloween experience
*A lovely neighbourhood
*Pumpkin Balls at school and a first school disco
*8 years of marriage
*Ethan in our family
*Williams Den being so close
*Each other!

 

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I can’t believe I am already thinking about, and talking about Christmas cards, but hey ho – here we are in October doing just that. I personally blame school…you see, just last week our school sent out the annual “get your kids artwork made into Christmas cards” forms, accompanied with some rather lovely work from the kids, and whilst I find it a lovely idea (and want to support the school), I was thinking that perhaps this year we might opt for something a little different! Of course with saying that I do feel slightly guilty that they won’t be getting a £1.50 donation from us, (or that my kids can’t hand over an overpriced card with their art work on) but I look forward to giving something a little classier from The Smiths, and have instead been checking out the holiday cards available from Basic Invite.

Being Christians I find Christmas the perfect opportunity to spread the true spirit of Christmas to friends, family and neighbours. Although my kids art work is most lovely, it doesn’t quite share the message from our family to others about what Christmas means to us, and what well wishes we hope for them.

With this in mind I especially loved the “Peace on Earth” foil invites with a lovely message. I like the idea of friends and family having an up to date picture of us all looking half decent, looking joyful and making the most of life! I like the idea of personalising that with a heartfelt message of love in a season where hope, Joy and peace ring true.

Their Foil holiday cards are available in gold, silver, and rose gold, and you can choose flat or raised foil on all of the Basic Invite’s foil designs. I find them so beautiful, unique and Christmassy!

I also loved the fold out ones where you can send a little synopsis of each season and what you’ve all been up to. Time flies so quick, and the kids are forever changing… what a beautiful way to capture the moments of the year and share them with relatives and friends we don’t see too much.

The more I think about it though, I am rather tempted to dress the kids up in a Nativity scene with the card saying “O Holy Night” or something similar (wouldn’t that be fun?)!!! My mind is basically buzzing with ideas, and I think when Mr Smith gets wind of it, he may just have to reign me in a little!

Its such an exciting time of year, and whilst Christmas has been a tough one for us, things like this keep me distracted and are a lovely thing to share with others!

Whatever your style, beliefs or hopes for the “Holidays”, you can send a more personalised message and unique card (or Party invite) to friends and family with the simple and easy to use card editor at Basic invite. They are one of the few websites that enable you to customise with an almost unlimited colour palette, and the option to order a sample to see and feel the quality and design before placing your final order (handy!). As well as this I love that you can chose from 40 different envelopes, and then by linking your social media, can capture friends and families addresses to be printed on the envelopes at no extra cost!

What’s even more exciting (and here’s the thrifty part) is that they currently have 30% off when you use code holi30 (If you are ordering from the UK then check the box in the top right titled “currency” to GBP so you can see the cost of your order in £’s).

It might be a little soon to be talking Christmas/Holiday cards, but with a 30% saving we can make an exception!

*Sponsored Post

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I wanted to get some pictures this month that felt like Autumn and also represented our new life in the country. Whilst not taken in our village, they were taken last Saturday when we visited a fairly local windmill/museusm and I like them because they are the first weekend this month we’ve been out together and felt light and more relaxed after a very intense month.

September has been such a random one; we’ve had the kids back at school, new clubs and hobbies started, baby groups and are all back into the term time routines. Then we’ve had Poppy’s anniversaries, a family wedding and finally managed to squeeze in a family day out and some country walks too. As you read this I am hopefully on my way to London (if I made the 5.30am train) for Britmum’s live 2017 (a blogging conference) where I hope to meet some of you and other blogger friends and influencers…I can’t believe how different the month end feels to 30 days ago when it started. Like I say, its been so random but we have made it, taking with us lots of new memories and friends, whilst having opportunity to reflect and talk about the hard aspects of the month.

September is a month I don’t particularly enjoy anymore and find it to be a tough one for us right from the start really with it holding all of the anniversaries of losing Poppy. I feel like the majority of the month, especially once the kids return to school, is spent preparing ourselves emotionally for them. By the 14th we have her death date, induction was on the 15th and birth date the 16th. A week later on the 22nd its then her funeral/burial date (which in someways is worse as there is nothing to celebrate there). As a result of that for a couple of weeks, the majority of that time just feels incredibly heavy and sad, and even anxious. The build up is hard and then before we know it, its all over again and we’re left felling a little dull and shell shocked.

This year we struggled with the fact that Nathans gorgeous cousin was getting married the same day as Poppy’s birthday and I felt so torn between my love and excitement for them, and my heart ache and one day for my daughter. We talked over it a lot and wondered what the best thing was to do, but in the end we followed our hearts and were glad to have attended with family and friends and celebrate their love and our entire family generally. It felt lovely and was an opportunity to scoff plenty of chocolate and cakes! On the evening we had a meal out with my family and then released balloons on the cliff tops at the light house again, in the morning we decorated her grave.

This year definitely has felt harder for some reason and has thrown us a few curve balls that have been very hard to navigate through grief, so in some ways I am so glad September is finally over… in other ways I can’t believe how fast its gone and how quickly we have moved away from the month that’s mostly about her, it feel weird. Lets just as we enter October I am almost 100% certain I’ve gained a fair few pounds over the last few weeks with all of the rubbish I have indulged in to comfort myself in my sadness and anxiety and will welcome some normality and excitement with Ethan’s birthday and our 8th wedding anniversary!

September has been a funny old month, a very hard month, and a month that has seen us settle into life back at school in the village. I am grateful for the little family we have, and the life we have together now – it feels so much nicer!! I love that in our little home and lives we can each be loved and accepted in our sadness as well as the joys, the highs and the lows and sometimes through the sheer pain that comes with September. I am grateful that whatever happens around us in the month, we have each other and together will always remember our little Poppy and that September meant we got to meet her.

In September we are Grateful for

* Kind friends
*Too many treats
*Time to reflect and remember Poppy
*The people who talk of her and ask of her
*Our new village and lovely neighbourhood
*New school clubs
*Living in the gorgeous countryside and having peaceful things around us

 

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Oxford, I discovered last week, is such an incredibly beautiful place to visit. It’s streets are filled with stunning buildings, and it is a place that oozes with tales of the past (and of course a rich history of educating legends)! Just to wander around it leaves you feeling in awe and a sense of joyfulness! It was so lovely to visit there last weekend for a little family weekend adventure.

About 16 years ago now, Nathan lived there briefly and since we have been together it’s been on “the list” to take the kids to…we love to take the kids to places where they can get a hands on experience with history and hopefully appreciate our countries culture and sites. An invitation to tour the castle was that perfect excuse to finally go, do all of the aforementioned, and we all loved it.

Oxford Castle Unlocked!

 Oxford castle was the main focus of our day on Saturday, and it has certainly had an impact on the kids since. It is a great attraction of the city and something that really brings its history to life! Just yesterday Megan retold me stories of prisoners “in the tower” with no toilets, and sleeping in a room of wee and poo!(?!). She found it both hilarious and completely disgusting, but mostly very fascinating, and I couldn’t be more pleased. I love to see my kids excited about history as it’s something we both love so much!

Oxford castle is really interesting because it’s less about the Jewels and Royalty (like we saw when we visited Edinburgh), and more about scandal, theft, hard labour and murder! It was great because you see the meeting of medieval and modern crime, and prisoners held for anything from murder and war to a 7 year old stealing a pram! Each story, even those of modern prisoners, is fascinating and adds to the experience.

Built in 1017 it was used as jail as early as the 12th century, in 1531 it was formally constituted as a county Jail and changed briefly over the next couple of hundred years. By the 19th century it was expanded to cope with demand and was used as a prison until as recent as September 1996!! It only opened it’s doors to visitors back in 2006 after a complete refurbishment and restoration in 2004.

As part of it is now also a hotel and restaurants, the part preserved for visitors is small, but ample for a jump into its History and just long enough to hold the attention of kids. The tour took about an hour, and is led in a small group by a character taken from the castles History.  We had “Anne Green” a prisoner from 1650 that survived her own hanging…lets just say it really added to the feel and fun of it all, and certainly grabbed the kids attention!

The tour starts through a creepy metal gate at the bottom of the tower where you meet your guide and hear a brief history of the castle; with tales of hard labour by those sentenced to term there during the Victorian era. Next you can climb the 1o1 steps of the Saxon St George’s tower to a decent sized cell and hear tales of prisoners held there, as well as an Empress’s escape! Continuing up the tower you are greeted with 360 degree panoramic views of Oxford city from the top of it. The kids thought this was marvellous and thoroughly enjoyed looking down on the crowds and feeling on top of the world.

Next we plunged (or rather walked) down into the castle crypts to see where the bodies were stored (spooky!).

The rest of the tour takes you through cells, telling you of key characters from its 1000 years and how they lived, were treated and their doom! It was all super interesting and presented in a way gruesome enough to capture the kids and yet not enough that you couldn’t stomach it!  We had a lovely (and informative) visit and learnt tonnes.

Knight school at The Castle

Knight school is a free added bonus to a visit to the castle, and both Ethan and Megs loved the 20 min sess! It runs as part of their “King of the Castle” event for the school holidays, and takes place twice a day on a weekend only (11.30am & 2.30pm) out in the courtyard by staff trained in Sword fighting! In addition you can try to solve a a “King of the Castle” themed trail or take part in Arts & Crafts at the end of the tour.

knight school was certainly one of the highlights, and something a little different to anything we have done before at museums and castles! It was great to see the kids having an opportunity to not only hold a sword, but practice holds, stances, walks and counter strikes with little wooden swords of their own alongside “a real knight”! The session was informative, interesting and lots of fun, and again just long enough for kids ages 5 & 6.

Oxford Sites…

Following church on Sunday, we spent the afternoon walking around the colleges and checking out the famous buildings one thinks of when you think of Oxford. The sun was shining, and whilst tourists were out in the masses, it was absolutely beautiful. For brief moments I felt like we were in some foreign and far off land, but it was exciting to remember that all of this beauty is just a mornings car ride away!

We loved seeing all of the sites of Oxford and barely spent a penny doing so! There is so much to see and appreciate just wandering it’s streets and we had a lovely weekend there.

Being away from the everyday is always more fun and life is great when filled with some adventures. It was so exciting to have a change of scenery, especially in such a stunning city that’s right here in our country! If you have a chance to visit Oxford this Summer then get yourself there and check out the Castle too…you won’t be disappointed!

*Oxford Castle Unlocked is open daily 10am – 5.30pm. A Family Ticket is just £35 (or Adults £10.95 each / Kids £7.75)!! We are grateful for them for giving us a complimentary visit in return for a review. 

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