Life Lately | September 2019

Saturday 28 September 2019

Well, what a month. The last, extremely brief golden flare of summer came and went, and we’ve now slipped into a chilly grey autumn full of torrential downpours.

Despite the gloom, this time of year always feels quite energising for me. It's usually a time I refocus on my personal goals and there’s something quite optimistic about it, in spite of the darker evenings.

Usually, it's this time of year that I make big changes to my life - getting married, moving house or jobs, getting pregnant - they’ve all happened at this time of year for me. At the moment, there’s way too much on our plates as it is though!

Here’s what we’ve been up to lately…

Postcards From Italy

So the blog has been awash with my Italian Style Diaries series, sharing the outfits I wore to live la dolce vita over in Italy with Mr A-F and the kids.

It really felt like the trip we’d been waiting for - one of the most enjoyable holidays we’ve ever had. Italy is a place which is truly special to both of us - his family used to live out there, and we took our very first trip away together to Rome.

Over the years, we’ve kept on returning, and the country just seems to hold a special magic for us. To me, it's somewhere I feel very at ease, especially with the kids as the culture is very family-centric. The history and culture keep us fascinated, the scenery is beyond beautiful, the weather and the food are just perfect - I honestly think we’d be happy living there.

Italy is still so regional, so every time we travel to a new part of the country there’s so much to discover that it never loses its allure.

This time we stayed in a small village called Montaione, chosen for its location about halfway between Florence and Siena. Our destination was a villa in an ‘agriturismo’ - part of a farmhouse complex. The place couldn’t have been more stunning - surrounded by rolling Tuscan hills and beautifully quiet -  the perfect place to relax.

The pool was especially beautiful and the kids were in love with the place. We were surrounded by a vineyard (and were given several complementary bottles while we stayed) and rolling sunflower fields.

We went with my mother in law and her partner, which was brilliant -  we all relaxed a bit more, and it was so much nicer having extra eyes on the kids, especially now Romilly is walking a bit. We like exploring on holiday, so we visited so many different places.

I was dying to see Florence, which I’ve wanted to visit for ages, but it was actually Siena that proved to be my favourite place. 

We also had a day at the beach in Marina Di Pisa, which was really lovely. But it was the bits of downtime that were most lovely - playing with the kids in the pool, or night swimming after they had gone to sleep. 

Sitting outside with a glass of the local wine reading a book, enjoying long lazy al fresco lunches and exploring beautiful little hilltop villages. It was a great break that made me pine for a different pace of life. 

Both children were also beautifully behaved on the flights, which was a huge relief. Theo was so excited and fascinated with flying, he behaved perfectly and Romilly promptly fell asleep both ways.

They were so settled and happy during the trip and the fact they also got so much from it meant the world to us - Theo even learned to ask for his favourite gelato flavour in Italian!

Theodore Is Four

Forgive me yet another cliche about time flying, but there’s something truly terrifying in the fact that I now have a four year old! Theo’s birthday happened a week after we got back from Italy, and he was soooo ready for it. Birthday parties are a form of currency at nursery, and he was absolutely desperate for his. 

We rented out the tiny village hall where we live and got in a bouncy castle and some racing scooters. All his little friends from preschool came along, including his ‘girlfriend’, Anoushka! It was very simple, but it was exactly what he wanted and he really enjoyed himself. 

Theo is so wonderful at the moment, and I feel like I’m so enjoying him right now. He’s a sensitive child, but so patient, loving and kind to his little sister. He still adores cars and robots, is getting into Lego, and is fascinated with how things work. His memory and recall is incredible and I’m always amazed by how much he remembers, even from a year ago. He’s quite precise and not really into mess - in fact, he’s often to be found lining up his cars in orderly rows.

He’s also very funny - he’s starting to tell genuinely amusing jokes or ham things up for comic effect. He’s very caring and affectionate and loves a cuddle. His face has lost the baby cheeks and I can now see how he’ll look as a young man.

Of course, I’m wildly biased but I think he’s absolutely beautiful with his big green eyes and wavy dark brown hair.

Theo’s birthday falling mid-September meant that he missed the cut off point to start school this year, so it's been quite an adjustment for him watching his friends go off and having to stay behind at preschool. I do think it may do him good to be the big fish in a small pond for a while, as he can occasionally be quite shy, especially with bigger children. This way he gets to be one of the big ones for a while at least!

One of the most amazing things for me has been seeing his bond with Romilly develop as he grows into his big brother role. He’s very patient with her and will try his best to share toys (she’s way more bolshy and will just snatch things!).

He often wants to defend her - we recently re-read a favourite book, which features a hand puppet crocodile. When the croc ‘snapped’ at Romilly, he tried to punch it! We are so in love with our little boy and I really wish I could just bottle him up and keep him like this forever.

8 Years In The Making

While we were away in Italy, it was our eighth wedding anniversary, which felt incredible. We snuck off to the swimming pool once the kids were in bed and watched the sunset over the Tuscan hills with some wine from the vineyard around us -  a pretty great way to spend it.

It felt really good to reach this ‘bronze’ milestone. We’ve been through a lot together, from our days raving and misbehaving in our twenties to building a career and family together. Anyone who says things are always rosy is lying, but we have a lovely life together and he inspires me to do better and be better, which is just what I need.

Mr A-F is a wonderful friend, husband and father who really does share life equally and always wants the very best for us. He still makes me laugh and he’s my absolute rock. It’s not often I gush about him (because it's more fun to keep him in line!), but there are very few people in the world I wouldn’t have gotten bored with by now, where he continues to be interesting.

Here’s to the next eight years, wherever it takes us.

Building Work Begins

At long last, work has begun on phase one of our home transformation, so it's chaotic but exciting times.

About five years ago, we were living in our first house, a little two bedroom cottage and looking for a family home. After almost two years of searching and a lot of disappointments, we finally managed to buy the house we live in now.

Certain things about it were perfect. It was a high ceilinged five-bedroom Victorian building with a long garden sloping down to the river, in a neighbourhood we absolutely loved - next door to a country park but less than a ten minute drive to the city, and with a great school, lovely local independent shops, good restaurants and even it's own brewery. However, the house itself needed a huge amount of TLC.

It had been subdivided into three bedsit flats, and was all yellowing woodchip wallpaper, heavy fire doors and a kitchen that I usually describe as the last word in 90s Ikea chic. We had a strong vision for what the house could be and decided we were up for a project.

Since then, progress has been slow, mainly down to having two babies in that time and also realising how expensive what we wanted to do really was. We finally got things together last year, but then we had an agonising battle to get planning permission, due to a number of very technical things about the site that we couldn’t have known when we bought it.

At times, it definitely seemed easier to move and I even went to see a couple of properties. But oddly, viewing other houses just reminded me how much I liked ours and wanted to realise its potential.

Finally, we got granted the go-ahead and after a bit of an extra delay, the builders are finally on site and things are really starting to change.

Phase one of the project is works to turn our existing third floor - which was home to two bedrooms used as a general dumping ground - into a master suite with a bedroom, bathroom and dressing room.

Phase two is a ground floor extension with a glass apex wall which will turn our existing tired old kitchen into a downstairs toilet, utility room and open plan kitchen/dining/family room.  We’ll still keep our living room and dining room, so it creates a whole lot of extra space and means we’ll finally have a decent kitchen.

So far, things have had an interesting start. Initial progress was really quick, but this torrential rain while we have a massive hole in the roof and a huge gap where an oversized window will be has been far from ideal - we had a few impromptu ‘water features’, and there has been some damage to the floor below.

It being an old house, there have also been a few issues along the way that tend to get discovered once you start knocking things down. But the frame is there now and we can see what the space is like and what we have to work with.

It's finally gotten exciting again after we’d lost all enthusiasm during our battle to get planning permission. Now we’re at the stage where we’re getting to make some of the softer choices, such as choosing the bathroom for upstairs.

Living with a topsy turvy house where everything is dusty and possessions are crammed into every spare inch of space is a little stressful, but it should be over fairly quickly. Meanwhile, I’m just going to immerse myself in paint and fabric swatches and dream of my new home!

I’m Watching…

Image result for great british bake off 2019

Like most of the nation, I’m hooked on The Great British Bake Off. There’s something so reassuring about it, even if it does make me want to eat cake all the time.

We’ve also been captivated by the latest series of Peaky Blinders - stylish, gritty, far-fetched but ultimately entertaining. And I could stare at Cillian Murphy forever, so it's all good with me! 

I’m also low key obsessed again with the absurdly entertaining Naked and Afraid - it's every bit as strange as it sounds. Two strangers with survival skills are dropped into a hostile territory - sub-Saharan Africa or the Amazon jungle - completely starkers, and have to survive for 20 days. It's weirdly compelling!

In the end, the nakedness isn’t a distraction, it just strips things back in a very literal sense and makes it a really raw struggle.

I'm Reading….

Image result for the french girl lexie elliott

Image result for Annabel Rivkin ‘I'm Absolutely Fine: A Manual For Imperfect Women

I’ve been keeping up with my goal to read more books really well. Pre-kids, I used to smash through four or five novels on holiday, but those days have definitely gone . There was much uninterrupted chilling out with a book this time!

I did manage to get through a couple though. I raced through the thriller The Holiday by T.M Logan - a pacy tale about a group of old friends staying in France together and the secrets and lies which are destroying their group from the outside in. It was actually written by one of the former directors at my work, who left to become a full-time novelist, so it had to be done.

In quick succession, I also read The French Girl by Lexie Elliott, which is along very similar lines - it's about the disappearance of the girl in the title and a group of friends piecing that together years down the line - I really bought in to the characters in both cases.

Then I chose something a little different - Annabel Rivkin’s ‘I’m Absolutely Fine: A Manual For Imperfect Women’. It's sort of a life advice guide that aims to reassure you that you aren’t a hopeless mess. Some parts of it were laugh-out-loud funny, and I even sent a copy to a friend as a present because I knew she’d get a lot out of it.

I’ve now started on ‘Victoria The Queen: An Intimate Biography Of The Woman Who Ruled An Empire’ by Julie Baird. It's wonderfully written and really brings to life a monarch who can often seem dour and humourless. It's a period of history where things changed very rapidly, so it's interesting to learn more about how she navigated that, and how posthumous censorship of her correspondence has really unfairly shaped the public perception of her.

I’m Listening…

Image result for skream

I realised the other day that the way we listen to music has completely changed. When I was younger, pre-streaming, I tended to listen to full albums, whereas now, my listening is very fractured -  I have a few tracks I listen to, and I discover music much more incrementally.  At the moment, my listening is really split. In the car or in the mornings at home I love Lauren Laverne on 6Music. The stuff they play is so wide-ranging and I’ve discovered (or rediscovered) all sorts of things. I’m also currently really into the Hospitality Records playlists on Spotify, which I stream in the bath. It's lots of dubstep and things, but at the smoother end of the spectrum. And when I’m running to my hot spin classes and things, I’ve rediscovered a lot of the older Skream and Magnetic Man tracks that I used adore in my twenties. The Skream version of In For The Kill is on repeat right now!

So that’s my world at the moment! How are you doing? Until next time.

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