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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2 weeks ago Alice turned 1 and it’s taken me a little while (what with the move and everything), to sit down and write up about that day! I keep seeing the cute little pictures we snapped of her with her cake, and she looks so scrummy I couldn’t just miss it out. Each one gives me a feeling of gratitude for her in our lives and I had to share when Alice turned 1!

The day was simple and filled with her favourite things, which turned out to be just right. Whilst I toyed with the idea of a little tea party (or even soft play) and mixing things up from our usual traditions on first birthdays, the combination of being in a new place, just moved house, and the fact it is only 1, it seemed best to keep it simple and low key. After taking the kids to school, we caught a train to the coast and met my Mum where we had a little boat ride, shared some fish and chips and ate seafood together. Alice loves fish and loved being spoilt with fresh ocean delicacies, a little sausage and a few sneaky licks of an ice cream at the seaside!

We rounded the day off playing together with bubbles in the garden, and a tacky caterpillar cake (which she devoured in seconds!). She received a new wooden walker and some building blocks, a couple of outfits and lots of love!

With each new major milestone that Alice reaches, our lives are filled with mixed emotions beyond that of the usual “time please slow down” emotions. But mostly she is reminding us how fun life with little kids in it really is. So at 1 year old I want to remember how she claps whenever we say “yay”. How she cries and laughs at the same time when she sees milk! How she laughs her head off when we pretend to do spiders on her arm, and how she smiles so sweetly at us! I want to keep in my heart how she touches our faces and is never short of a cuddle…how she loves megs and Ethan and gets so silly with them. I want to remember how she practices standing in her cot at night tome instead of sleeping (yes I see you Alice).

Alice turning 1 wasn’t easy to lead up to, but having a 1 year old is so much fun and the last couple of weeks have been a blast – Happy (belated) Birthday Little one, we have loved the last 12 months with you in them!

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We just got back late last night from a flying visit to Oxford (post coming soon), and it was both a great start to the Summer Holidays and end to the month of July. We had such a lovely time together there exploring the castle, streets and colleges. It was a fun little trip to a place filled with memories for Mr Smith and a place where the buildings and streets are simply beautiful! I plucked up the courage to ask passer by’s to take a few pics for us (instead of battling to try and get some awkward selfies), and so our family pictures this month are taken in the picturesque city of Oxford!

July for us has been another great month. Very busy, but great too. I can say at long last that our family has officially moved house, and we absolutely love it! Hooray!!! We have more space, more peace and beautiful surroundings. We feel most blessed.

We have been in our new home now for 3 weeks, and are just about all unpacked and settled. There are several more decorating projects I want to do to put our stamp on it – mainly the lounge, entrance hall, the conservatory and finishing off our room, but for now I have neither the time or energy so it will just have to wait until after the kids go back to school. I am just grateful we have our beds up, our stuff in cupboards and that we are all feeling chilled and settled. Our new village is such a lovely place to live and we all feel at home here. The house feels cosy and homely and we are so happy its ours so the decor and little finishing touches I envision are secondary to what we have.

Alice turned one 2 weeks ago (which I’ve yet to write about also) and I have seen some big changes in her and how she seems to want to play more with the other 2 (Megan especially). Its come at a great time as now the kids are into their Summer Holidays, they all seem to enjoy being at home together to play with Alice and each other. I hear and watch them daily, and thoroughly enjoy their little inside jokes and games together. We have all loved many little adventures already, but they love most their new garden, “The Party Shed”, and playing out with their new found friends in the Village.

Life is really good and chilled out at the moment on the family front. Life is ticking along nicely and coming together. We have a whole host of trips, adventures, places and things to do this Summer and are looking forward to a week in Italy too. We thought July was tiring with moving house, but I am guess we are going to be absolutely shattered by the end of August!

In July we are grateful for

* All of the help from friends and family to move us in/Unpack

* A year of Alice in our lives

* Lovely new neighbours and a quiet street

* A trip to Oxford

* The start of the Summer Holidays

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Life this year has been moving along at a steady pace and has felt fine, but then suddenly June seems to have just gone by in a flash, and I can’t quite believe that here we are already in July! We are feeling joyful, blessed and incredibly happy in our new chapter and already seeing many more reasons why it was (and is) a good choice for us!

June for us of course will go down in the family history books – it has been massive (and therefore super busy too)! We sold our first home in Leeds, moved back to East Yorkshire, and moved in with Grandma all in the first weekend. The following Monday the kids started a new school in the village we’re moving to (which they love), we attended the funeral of my awesome Granddad, and then Megs turned 5! Alice sprouted some more teeth and conquered climbing the stairs, and finally somewhere in there we managed to squeeze in a couple of beach trips and Go Ape too!

Despite all of that craziness, sadness, farewells and lots of adventures, we still failed to get a family pic along the way and so this months photos were quickly taken on the lawn at Grandma’s by one of my sister in law’s! I actually really love them though and as they capture this month perfectly – fun, crazy and a new back drop for us!

This isn’t our permanent home, but rather a pit stop along the way whilst we wait to exchange on the new house. Originally the plan was to be here for 2 weeks, which for one reason or another has quickly become 4 (and soon to be more like 6!!). We are of course eager to get to the new house, but we are happy here too and it works just fine! Ethan gardens most mornings before school with Nathan’s mum and we have loved (mostly) school runs on the trains and big family dinners!

Therefore I look at us all in these shots and see that they are ideal despite being last minute, because this is our current home and a view we wake up every morning and look out on. This is where the kids play morning and night, learn from and hang with Grandma, and where we started our chapter in East Yorkshire. They mean we can look back on June 2017 as not only one of craziness (and tiredness for daddy), but the month we lived with Grandma!

We are loving our new chapter though and whilst the move to our new house is taking longer than anticipated and we are still hoping for a new Job for Nath, over all it’s all good. I feel way more relaxed and free, and we all feel happy and content. That sounds weird saying that, and I feel weird writing it as I loved Leeds and my life there too, but I can see that life here is already way better for us all and that we definitely made the right decision.

Things are happening that I never even considered before and just the other weekend as I kicked back in the sea (and again as we drove through the countryside) I realised how much better and free my life felt now. I feel tired still but more relaxed… I even commented to Nathan just last weekend; “is it weird that I feel like we’re always on holiday but this is actually our life now?“, and at that point we realised it was what living the dream felt like. Of course there are still stresses and exhaustion from life, and so many things we need to sort…the days are as mad as always (especially with taking the train most days to school and Nathan still commuting to Leeds), but this is all temporary and the weekends spent on the beach, seeing family lots (both for hang outs and midweeks play dates), lots of lovely scenery, date night picnic’s in the meadows and having the kids even more happy and settled in school, are all worth the trade off!

In just 3 weeks we will have a 1 year old, be in our new home (at last) and the kids will be breaking up for the Summer holiday’s. We have way more craziness (and decorating) ahead, but I am excited to start sprucing up our new home and spending the Summer exploring our new county with the fam!

Goodbye June – you’ve brought huge and wonderful changes to our family and we are enjoying every moment.

In June we are grateful for

* Grandma letting us move in
*Public Transport
*Our lovely new Church family
*Lots of sunshine
*Beach days
*A great new school and Community
*Megan and her presence in our family
*Being blessed with a fabulously brilliant Granddad and having the opportunity to remember his amazing life and example.

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