With us being away in Tuscany at the end of October/beginning of November, I missed doing our October family update. I really love reflecting back on the month and seeing what has happened in our little family and seeing what we have done. I enjoy capturing the family and seeing us change and grow throughout the year!

Because so many lovely things happen for us both in October and November, I felt the need to write about both months for our family update here in this one, as November 2018 draws to a close! All of the pictures are from our recent holiday and I love looking back on the adventures!

October 2018 

October 2018 not only saw us take a great family adventure with grandma to Tuscany for half term, but it was also a month that will long be remembered as being the one that saw Mr Smith finally get a job closer to home! It was certainly one of the best pieces of news for our family this year, and felt so exciting. Since moving to our lovely village in East Yorkshire last year, it has been hard for us all having him still working in Leeds, but in 2 weeks we all all finally be over here together and begin to experience our lives in the way we hoped and imagined when moving. We will have him home for longer on a morning and earlier on some evenings, and especially in the Summer it will be great to have evening country walks or dinner at the beach. We are so excited that October gave us this and excited to be starting the new year with us all over here and living our new lives together.

Ethan also made the choice to be Baptised in October. He turned 8 (which feels so big) and decided he wanted to be baptised! His birthday weekend was another lovely one that month and seeing him take what was such a huge milestone in his life, was really lovely. It was a special occasion to share with all of our family and friends and one I am thankful for. I only wish we had taken a family pic that day!!

October also marked 9 years of marriage for Mr Smith and I (which we still need to celebrate properly ha!) and Baby loss awareness week. We had some great weekends with a trip to the fair, a family walk to Wharram Percy (a forgotten medieval village) and also some time to get cracking with the decorating. I had some great theatre review opps that I experienced with friends and we of course saw many wonderful places in Italy. We didn’t do our usual halloween things to wrap it all up, but being in Italy, it didn’t seem to matter at all as we were having our own beautiful (and very wet) adventures!

For sure October 2018 was filled with many things to celebrate and many wonderful adventures that I hope we will long remember.

November 2018

And now to November – This last month seems to have just flown by (which I seem to say so often) but I cannot believe that we only have 31 more days of 2018 left – it’s mad! It was a scary end to the month, which saw me and Alice and the hospital last night after a bad fall. Thankfully it wasn’t anything too bad… just some grazing and bad bruising, but boy was it a worrying ans stressful end to the month!

Aside from toddler accidents, this month has seen a lot of prep for Christmas, my birthday and more family moments! It began with us being away in Italy (we got back on the 3rd on November) and during those last few days we went to Florence and Pisa. They were great adventures and days out, and very warm too (which felt so funny to be all “summery” when we knew it was already November)! It was great to start the month off with so much fun and adventure together.

When we landed we headed straight up to Stamford to stay with Nath’s Sister. She recently had a baby and that first weekend of November was his blessing day. We had a lovely weekend with family and a lovely walk around Rutland waters before we all headed back North to our homes! It was of course Bonfire night the following day, but after travelling and a busy weekend, we didn’t (for the first year ever) do anything for it!

The following week I turned 34 and had a lovely birthday with friends and family. I spent the day with my sister in laws and mother in law, had a date night with Mr Smith, a take out with my sisters and a hot tub party with my pals! Turning 34 felt great, as I feel I am in a pretty good place in life and am really loving and knowing myself now. I like my roles and I am confident in my path! I received some lovely gifts too and I am just so thankful for that fun couple of weeks and getting a little bit older (and hopefully wiser too!).

Our weekends have been mostly chilled, but it has been great to chill together and get the house nearer to looking how we would like it!

Megan has moved up another reading level and Ethan has started to take trumpet lessons (heaven help my ears!). It is great to see them both enjoying going to school and doing their little extra curricular things. I love to see their interests evolve and see them enjoying things and spending time together too.

Today we will decorate for Christmas, and get cracking on doing good as a family leading up to it. We have many more Christmas movies to watch (we already made a start in November!) and family things to look forward to. I feel like this December is going to be a good one for us, as we are all in a better place and I certainly feel more excited than I have in a while! We are looking forward to Christmas meals, Christmas plays, carol singing and doing good to bring Joy to others. We hope your December is filled with treats and lovely moments to treasure too, so I guess all that is left to say now is – Let the festivities commence!!!

In October & November we are Grateful for:

*A family Holiday to Tuscany with To Tuscany
*Seeing many more new and Beautiful places in Italy
*Safety when we have travelled
*Mr Smiths New Job that means he can be closer to home
*Help to get our home looking lovely
*Megan’s reading improving so much
*Ethan being in our family and celebrating him
*Seeing Ethan be Baptised
*Mummy’s Birthday
*Date night to the Cinema
*Time with Family
*Country Living and Lovely friends around us
*Alice being okay after a bad fall

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October half term is not usually a time of year that we go away on holiday. We tend to just enjoy hanging around locally – embracing Autumn and prepping for Halloween. This year however was vastly different, because when “To Tuscany” invited us to visit Tuscany again and stay in one of their villas, seeing Italy in Autumn and catching some last minute sunshine seemed like an Idyllic half term break for us all. And so, a few weeks ago we enjoyed a lovely little family adventure (with Grandma) in the Chianti region of Tuscany in a quaint little villa tucked in the midst of vineyards. The views were incredible, the weather was wetter than anticiptaed, but it was a beautiful week together.

We have been to Italy twice before, but always in the Summer and with the intention to swim in lakes or hit the beach.This time however we were excited to see it clothed in Autumn and do things a little differently. Our Villa was in a teeny place called Montebuoni which is on the hill above Lecchi in Chianti and about 40 minutes north of Siena. This is a region we have never been to before and so there were lots of new places to explore and memories to make. I did some research beforehand and Grandma also had some great ideas too, but in the end the things we did and the places we explored were super interesting, very beautiful and a lot of fun for us all.

Here is our week in a nutshell, with the highlights and useful things to be aware of when visiting southern Tuscany with kids (whatever the season).

Siena 

Siena has never really been on my radar as a must see Italian City, however now we have been I would most definitely suggest it as a family day out whilst travelling/on holiday. It is easy to explore as it is smaller than other Italian cities we have been to, and it has lots of interesting things for the kids too.

To begin with we parked at the bottom of the hill (it was 12 euro for the day) and took about 6 (possibly more) sets of escalators up the hill to get into the city – the kids loved it! We explored a smaller cathedral before walking up into the city and down to the Piazza del Campo – the famous fan shaped main square. It was such a pretty place full of interesting facts and info. The kids loved running around it and seeing the fountain, but the highlight was climbing over 600 steps with daddy to the top of the Torre del Mangia (famous tower). It cost about 9 euro as children under 11 are FREE! Nath said it was a lot of fun and the views were brilliant!

Next we walked up to the Siena Cathedral – a beautiful black and white building that is famous to Siena and again the kids were free here too. Inside it was incredibly beautiful and its history very interesting. It took longer than planned to build as the onset of the plague took many of Siena’s residents, meaning the man power wasn’t there! Now it stands as an Iconic building, ornate and beautiful for tourists and those who worship!

Finally, after lunch we enjoyed a FREE visit to Siena’s Natural History Museum. Whilst small it is jam packed with animals (stuffed), geology and an underground exhibit. It is housed in the old monastery, which in itself is a beautiful place to wander. The kids really loved this part of our day and it was a lovely end to a lovely day.

Siena was a very family friendly place and we loved our day out there.

Pitigliano 

One of our favourite visits was to Pitigliano with it’s quaint old town known as “little Jerusalem”. It was a good hour and 45 mins away from where we were staying, but it was most definitely worth the drive. We decided to go here after Grandma had seen it on Jamie Oliver’s Italian tour. It is carved out of the hillside and has a long Jewish history which is both sad and fascinating. On the way we passed through another hillside town which was equally exciting to look at.

We parked near the new town (3 euro) and walked 5 minutes across the road and over a bridge into the old part. It was such an exciting and beautiful place to explore,with lovely views across the valley and a quiet chilled vibe.

We wandered the little streets – taking it all in and enjoying the mild sunshine. We headed down to the Jewish quarter where we toured the old Synagogue and learnt of Jewish tradition, as well as stories of the Jews in this area (specifically in world war 2). It was a great place to explore and we were touched by their stories.

After visiting the Jewish quarter, we did some more exploring before enjoying Bruschetta and “wild boar” lasagne for lunch in a cute little place down the main street.

We all loved Pitigliano and you need it on you wanderlust list for sure!

Hot Springs at Bagni San Fillipo

Thanks to several travel blogs, our research of the Chianti region led us to the natural hot springs of Bagni San Fillipo and I think it’s safe to say that they were the highlight of the trip (especially for the kids). We went late afternoon on our way back from Pitigliano and stayed til dusk – it was so surreal and Idyllic.

We paid a couple of euros to park on the road and then walked 5 minutes into the woods where  we saw several pools and people enjoying them. We all changed in the woods (which was pretty funny) and then walked down into the top pools just next to the bridge. They were shallow enough for the kids to play in safely and Megs enjoyed making the most of the “mud bath”! We couldn’t get over how exciting it all was and laid in those warm sulphurous waters in the middle of the woods till dusk – it was glorious!

I had no idea that Tuscany was so rich in Thermal springs (there are loads if you google them), but what a natural treasure they were (and FREE too!!). Whilst we all stunk a little afterwards, our skin was soft, our bodies relaxed and it really was the ultimate adventure for the kids and us all!

Boboli Gardens – Florence

On our last trip to Italy we had a day in Florence and whilst lovely, it wasn’t my favourite! This time however we had Nath’s mum with us and as an avid gardener we thought it would be nice to find a garden to visit with her. Our research led us to Boboli Gardens in Florence and all I can say is that they were mint!

One again kids were free here and as we went on Nov 1st it was “out of season” so tickets were only about 8 euro for each adult. The gardens were huge and are considered one of the most famous in Italy. Not only are Boboli Gardens beautifully landscaped and home to many lovely trees and plants, but it is also an open air museum full of fountains, statues, sculptures and exciting things to discover! The kids really loved it here – they enjoyed exploring and hiding and loved seeing Neptune, “a giant mento’s” and all of the fountains – I wished we had known about them on our last visit because they are an excellent family day out.

Boboli gardens aren’t flat and in some places incredibly steep. They do however offer hours of fun, great views of florence and beautiful art and landscaping! It was a lovely sunny day in Florence when we visited and I loved the views of it from this side of the city. The Piazza is included in the ticket price (which we didn’t do due to time restraints) but the gardens were certainly the highlight on this day out (as well as the Gelato). Our visit to Florence this time was certainly more enjoyable than the last and was only an hour and 10 from where were staying.

Volterra

I have been intrigued by Volterra ever since reading the Twilight books, and whilst it wasn’t the location for filming new moon (that was Montepulciano near Siena) it was the inspiration for it and it also has a magnificent history dating as far back as 7 B.C. Positioned high on a hill and surrounded by a wall it is a quirky place just waiting to be explored!

We only spent a couple of hours in Volterra as it is small and that is all you need (and because the weather meant it was a bit of a wash out too, but we won’t mention that!). We parked opposite the Roman ruins where it was significantly cheaper than the train station (it only cost us 4.50) and walked up into the town. We visited on the Friday of our holiday which conveniently turned out to be market day; hosting all kinds of local sellers with free samples happy to invite us to try! This made the visit extra exciting and from cheese to honey and chocolate to biscuits, we all embraced sampling and exploring the stalls. I bought some lemon pasta and the kids some mini jars of honey. It felt so lovely wandering the stalls and looking at all of the delicious treats and foods. I love markets, especially when on holiday, and I love looking at local foods and the things people have made.

From here we headed towards the Piazza – home to “The Volturi” in Stephanie Meyers “The Twilight Saga”! The downstairs of the Piazza was free to walk around and so we explored that together (and sheltered from the rain) before enjoying paninis for lunch. I hoped to tour the top of the Piazza too but due to language barriers they couldn’t agree a price for the kids (one said free one said 6 each?!)..Either way Volterra was a beautiful town in a beautiful location and we loved exploring it’s streets and visiting the market and Piazza. I am glad I finally went!

Pisa 

We flew in and out of Pisa, and so it was only natural that our trip to Tuscany would wind up here. It was a 2 hour drive from where we stayed, but armed with snacks for the kids and “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack on repeat, it was fine. The weather was 22 degrees C when we arrived late morning and it was a lush way to end our holiday.

We have obviously been to Pisa before as it wasn’t far from where we stayed last Summer, but Grandma hadn’t and so we enjoyed showing her our favourite spots. We wandered around the cathedral (which is free to look in – you just need a time slot ticket to manage crowds) and posed by the tower again. We then walked along to the river but didn’t have time to go to the park/gardens at the other side. Pisa is such a lovely little City and another kid friendly one too. It was great to spend a couple of hours here again in the sunshine before checking in and flying home to London!

I really love Italy – it is a place full of my favourite foods, and is also a place I never tire of exploring. The weather was pretty nuts whilst we were there (as were the kids) with a couple of big storms and a power cut, but we also had some lovely days of mild sunshine that saw us dipping our feet in the pool and wearing just T-Shirts.

We had a relaxing stay with “To Tuscany” in the Chianti Hills, eating local foods and playing games in front of the wood burner by night. The places we went to and the memories we made, made it a wonderful Autumnal adventure for our half term and we loved it (mostly). Our villa was quaint and ample and the views were breathtaking – I loved waking up every morning and taking them in! With a pool only 2 minutes away from our villa, I can imagine in the Summer it is quite the place to sample foods, wines and sun rays – far away from the ordinary and truly picturesque!

Thank you To Tuscany for a memorable and relaxing Tuscan adventure this Autumn – we had a fab time!

* We received this holiday complimentary from To Tuscany after winning their blogger competition. All images and thoughts are my own and we are incredibly grateful for this adventure. 

 

 

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Summer’s over (already!), which means most of us (myself included) are probably already thinking about the next family holiday – Bring on October half term, I say!

So with that in mind, I thought I’d share a few tips on how to plan your next family adventure in the UK whilst keeping to a budget:

Think About Where to Go and How Long For

Before you start Googling ‘half-term breaks’ and find yourself lost in an indigestible amount of information and pulled into pricey “offers”, just sit back and think of the areas you’d like to go. Perhaps this will be somewhere you’ve never been to before but have heard good things about. Maybe its a place you have had on your “bucket list”, or maybe it is somewhere you’ve been to and want to explore in more depth or return to as an old family favourite spot – either way think about a specific place and stay focused! If the kids are old enough, you could even have a family vote so everyone feels involved in the decision.

Then, once you’ve settled on a place and how long you’re going to go for, start researching places that tick the boxes.

Research Your Costs

In order to start saving for you next trip, it is important to research further than just how much the accommodation will cost you. Consider what attractions you might visit whilst there, where you might eat at night, or if it will be self catered? Also account for how much it will cost you to get to and from the location in fuel or on public tansport (Family and friends rail cards are a great investment to save money on rail fares!).

Having this budget in mind won’t just help you save, but it will prevent things from getting out of hand (as we all know they often can on family holidays!).

Consider Taking the Grandparents

While holidaying with your parents might not necessarily be at the top of your list of things to do (especially if they are elderly), family trips make for lots of quality time that you’ll all treasure, and this is reason enough for us to be taking Nath’s mum with us on our next trip. 

If they aren’t as active as ours are, and are struggling with mobility, you will need to do some extra planning to make sure the accommodation and activities will cater to them too. And you might even want to consider a road scooter to help them get around with ease, and without feeling like they’re a burden to you. Places like Mobility Solutions are ideal for this.

Book Your Accommodation

Now you know who’s coming with you, it’s time to get your accommodation booked. We always like the flexibility of Air BnB, however, hotels are great for short breaks too and ones where you don’t have to do too much. But if there’s a large group of you going, you may find self-catered cottages or homes offer you the flexibility you need.

Again, if your kids are older, see what everyone would prefer so no ones left moaning that they ‘didn’t want to stay here.’

Plan Your Activities

Finally, to make sure you’re packing as much as possible into the trip, and the right attire into your cases, start planning the activities you’re going to do.

Staying in the UK means the weather is not alway predictable and so it’s a good idea to leave some flexibility with what you’re doing on what day so you can account for those inevitable changes in the weather. Plus, leaving some room in your itinerary will allow for last-minute changes as well as new things you may discover when you get to the location.

Also looking up voucher offers ahead of time for theme parks and touristy places, will be small steps in saving you loads on days out!

Planning family breaks can be stressful but I absolutely love the excitement of it all and bagging some deals too! Allow yourself enough time and stick to a budget so that you can create the ideal UK family holiday and one that’s completely budgeted for.

* Collaborative post 

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A couple of weeks ago, we enjoyed a lovely 5 days away in the Dumfries & Galloway area of Scotland with Nathan’s family! It was over the August Bank holiday weekend, and whilst we were greeted with cooler/wetter conditions than we have grown accustomed to this Summer, it was nevertheless the ideal way to wrap up the Summer holidays. There were 18 adults and 11 kids (so of course we needed some where big to host us all) and we were fortunate enough to be able to stay self catered at The Dunsky Estate – it was a little spooky at times, but adventurous and very beautiful/Luxurious.

The Dunskey Estate 

Est in 1782 and overlooking the sea, the Dunskey Estate was full of history and grandeur, and was a beautiful spot for us to congregate. We had woodland walks, got lost in the maze and had lovely little ventures down to almost deserted little bays!

Each room was beautifully decorated and comfortable and the kids mostly bunked up with their Aunts, which left most of the married couples in semi peace with the toddlers (except for 2 nights when both Ethan and Megs wanted to sleep on our floor – cheers guys!)! The room we had was lovely. It had a 4 poster bed, ensuite and lovely furniture and design – I especially loved the modern and antique mix!

We chilled out in a large drawing room with open fire, large bookcases and overlooking the sea, and ate/played games in a lovely grand dining room – ideal for the 29 of us each meal time! It really was a lovely place to stay (even if it did feel spooky at night time)!

Family Time 

Prior to our trip, we looked up lots of places to visit and things to do, however once there it naturally just flowed into being time to chill as a family and hang out! We didn’t do very much at all apart from conquering the maze, getting caught in hail storm, a beach day with an inflatable unicorn, and chips at the seaside! We had a lovely visit and an Ice cream in Portpatrick all together too, which was very close to where we were staying. Its so tiny and quaint, and such gorgeous little place! Then on Bank holiday Monday we had way too much fun at the local swimming baths in Stranraer and Nathan and I took a short detour on the way back from that for a quick visit to Killantringan lighthouse – it was cold but gorgeous!

We then spent each of our evenings playing games, eating chocolate, and singing, laughing and dancing together! It was so lovely to see everyone, and hang out. It was great to relax as a family with no pressure to do anything major but provide opportunity for the kids to run around and laugh and play with their cousins!

The Mull of Galloway 

On the way home, whilst most of the family headed straight back to Yorkshire (or the south), we decided to take a 20 mile detour and visit the Mull of Galloway. This is the peninsula on the map that is the southernmost part of Scotland, and it overlooks both Northern Island and The Isle of Man! It was a lovely drive out to it, and the views were gorgeous. It was great little adventure (albeit very blustery)!

When visiting the mull of galloway, there are little walks, an RSPB spot and an exhibition centre. You can eat in the cafe and climb up the lighthouse (both of which we didn’t have time for on this occasion when faced with a 5.5 hr drive home)!

I loved our adventures in Scotland – its always nice to be with everyone! I especially loved all of the beautiful lighthouses we saw and the panoramic views across to Ireland. I loved the cute little bays, beautiful clear seas and beaches, and little teeny harbour towns. We were even privileged to see a piper busking on Bank holiday Monday, and that for me was so exciting!

The Galloway area of Scotland is really lovely and we barely scraped the surface! Such a peaceful and beautiful place for family time and a little break!

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