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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This last week has quite possibly been up there with one of the best 2018 has given to us. Before we get any further into this current week, I wish to reflect and record all of the wonderful and joyful hearty moments that we have been blessed with from this last week, and the things that have made it so great for us.

For those of you who haven’t seen on my social media, our family have spent our half term break in the Chianti hills of Tuscany. It was absolutely stunning and, whilst we encountered some freak weather conditions whilst there (just our luck!!), we saw many beautiful and lovely Cities, towns and scenes of nature. It was great to be together and chill out away from everyday life, and I just loved our little Italian adventure. We rarely go away at this time of year, but I am glad that we did as it was a lovely adventure. I look forward to sharing it in more detail with you very soon.

Grateful For 

This week I am so unbelievably grateful that Nath has finally got a new job (Hooray!) – it has literally made our lives!! We heard the news on Tuesday whilst away and we all went a bit nuts with excitement (and relief) over it. I loved that Ethan captured me diving on Nath in sheer joy at this great news – it was pretty funny!

Yes, this really is great news for us all, and it means that we will all get to see more of Nath every day. He will have more prospects in his new role and we will also be a little more financially stable. I am excited that very soon he will no longer be having to commute to Leeds every day and this is something we have been hoping and waiting for for what feels like a lifetime now…I really am so relieved he finally bagged a new job working much closer to home in a job that will hopefully open new doors to his career.

When we decided to move last year to East Yorkshire it was a big thing that he still worked in Leeds, but everything just fell into place and we knew it was the right thing at this time for our family. We assumed that his job would soon follow suit, but instead that has been a challenge and has taken well over a year for that part of the puzzle to fit in. It has been really hard hearing so many “no’s” or “almost yes’s” from jobs interview after job interview time and time again, not to mention then having him so late and gone so early to get to and from Leeds. It has been hard on everyone and our lifestyle hasn’t been what we hoped for during the week. So, as you can imagine we are just all so grateful that this new job is on the horizon and we can all fully transition into this new chapter of life in the Village and live life more how we hope to!! Man it is such mint news!

I am also grateful for safety whilst we travelled, good weather in between the crazy storms, time with family over the weekend and generally just time together as a family. It really has been a lovely week.

Succeeded At

Getting back into school runs this week was a little bit of a shock to the system, however the kids have had no trouble getting up early (6am!) and despite needing a lot of reminders to stay on task to be on time (no change there), we aren’t doing too bad… so I would call that a success!

Then of course Nath successfully got a new job and so we are loving that little nugget of joyfulness!

Found Beauty In

There are so many beautiful things and scenes I have been blessed to see this week that have just simply made my soul sing. From the views across the vineyards of Chianti, to quaint little italian streets – my heart has been completely full and content, and I feel incredibly grateful. I have loved exploring Tuscany and its beautiful towns and cities, and I have loved seeing the kids amazed and excited at new adventures. Being together as a family is a beautiful thing in and of itself, and I am pleased we had a whole week together (even if they were a little whiny some days!).

On Sunday we had the pleasure of getting together with Nath’s Family in Stamford to celebrate the blessing day of one of our new nephews. It was a lovely occasions and great to see (and catch up with) the family. It was a beautiful day followed by a beautiful walk around Rutland Waters, where we saw the sun setting and cousins playing – it was so relaxing and Idyllic and I loved spending time with everyone.

Whilst there we took a few family snaps, and I especially love this brilliant selfie I took with my sister-in-laws. Nathan has 6 sisters and I have been fortunate to be friends with them long before Nathan and I even dated. Now, together we are 7 sisters and I love how well we all get along and how much love and laughter there is. This pic makes me so happy and I feel it oozes so much beauty, love and happiness!!!

How thankful I am this week for holidays, family, new jobs, new adventures and a lovely home to come back to! It has been a fab week that has made my heart full.

This week I will be turning 34 and I look forward to hopefully another week of love and laughter with friends and family!

 

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* Collaborative Post

Italy is a fantastic destination when it comes to family holidays, with a great mix of sightseeing and relaxation on offer. The whole family can take advantage of Italy’s beautiful landscapes, delicious food, and more. A great region to consider for your next family trip (that we have fallen in love with) is Tuscany. With some impressive cities to visit including Florence and Siena, there’s plenty of breath-taking sites to admire and it’s the perfect place to switch off.

To make the most of your time there here are our tips on how you can plan the Ideal getaway!

Purchase tours and tickets in advance

If you want to make the most of your time, purchasing your tickets in advance can be a great way to skip the queues and plan your time more efficiently. If you are travelling with younger children, eliminating the need to queue for tickets can be a great way to avoid frustrations or meltdowns. Also, having times allocated for visiting attractions allows you to plan your day to maximise your time enjoying the most that Italy has to offer.

Look out for any offers or family tickets, which obviously could save you some money – especially when purchasing online.

Find the ideal Tuscan hideaway

Renting out a villa is a great way to make your time away from home a little more comfortable. You can really make the place feel like a home away from home and it allows you to create a central base for you to go out and explore from. Picking somewhere with a pool or outside space is great if you have kids to entertain, especially if you plan on having a few relaxing days in between sightseeing. If you’re after somewhere special to stay, Abercrombie & Kent have a range of luxury Italian villas that make for the most exemplary escape!

Make the most of train travel

Taking the train is a great way to get a round Italy; they’re well connected and reasonably priced and we used them last year when travelling from Pisa to Rome, so make the most of them to get around and explore more of what’s in your area and those surrounding it. If you’re staying in the countryside and don’t fancy driving into the cities, then opting for train travel is a nice alternative and lets you explore more without having to worry about parking. You can also pre-book your tickets online, so you don’t have to worry about getting them on the day.

Head off the beaten track

When it comes to exploring the Tuscan countryside, some of the smaller more authentic Italian towns allow you to experience something new. You’ll find some of the best food places when you head outside of the typical tourist traps and towards the local side streets. There are also a lot of historical attractions such as cathedrals, so if your family is into history then you’ll have plenty to keep you occupied. The bigger cities, such as Florence and Siena, are packed full of interesting historical sites including iconic bridges and squares. For the adults, there plenty of world-renowned wines on offer, so be sure to make the most of these!

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