a north-eastern holiday.

Forget the middle-east…Dubai can wait! The north-east is where it’s at for a family holiday these days!

Now, don’t get me wrong, put me on a plane to Dubai and face me with seven star service and uninterrupted sunshine for a week and I would probably choose that over Alnwick, Northumberland, BUT – we have just returned from a wonderful five days of family time and I can honestly say we would highly recommend it.

We booked a little house called Red Door via cottages.com – a website we use quite regularly, especially since having the children.

It wasn’t the best, being totally honest. But it was clean and a good base from which to travel around Northumberland. And since it took us almost a month to decide what we wanted to do and finally get round to booking something, we were lucky to find anything at all that didn’t cost us a month’s mortgage payment!

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Mr O’s family are from Northumberland, and he spent much of his childhood holidaying in the area – something that prompted him to want to take our children up there. So we tootled on up the A1 and found ourselves in Alnwick – a beautiful little market town on the South Bank of the River Aln.

If you’ve never been to Northumberland, you could probably be forgiven for wondering what the fuss is all about. Why would you head so close to Scotland and not cross the border? What is there up there but old coal mines? And you probably think it’s all just about Lindisfarne?

You would be wrong!

We spent the whole week cooing over scenery (OK, I spent the whole week cooing over scenery), enjoying miles of glorious beaches, walking through picturesque little fishing villages, eating the most amazing seafood and discovering history we never even knew existed – it was just fabulous.

The best day by far, in my opinion, was the day that we spent at Alnwick Castle and The Alnwick Garden.

Mr O would disagree – he would say it was the day spent on the beach at Seahouses…but since I HATE sand (see previous post here for more info!) I will not agree with him, even though I felt myself the most relaxed I’ve been in a while on that beach.

It was, actually, if I dare admit it, blissful.

The Alnwick Castle and Garden experience, whilst quite expensive, was a full day of brilliant family fun. We spent hours and hours outdoors (yep, the small ones slept well that night!!) exploring gardens, finding out names for plants, wading through fallen blossom with Ruby taking the opportunity to throw it at us at every turn of the path, and laughing our socks off at the silly court jester who threw fire and genuinely made Ruby fear for her safety – hilarious to see!!

I quite fancied the ‘On Location’ tour, which showed you all the bits of the castle that had been used in films such as Harry Potter and Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves – but since that took place at 3.30pm and Ruby had had all of her fun already, she deemed it “too boring” and so we hot footed it out of there before a huge wobbly/major embarrassment kicked in.

That evening we ate out at a place called The Jolly Fisherman in a teeny little village called Crastor. We tried Oysters for the very first time (and we weren’t sick!) and enjoyed gorgeous fresh fish and lobster in beautiful surroundings – with lashings of Alnwick Gin!

We saved money where we could by making sandwiches for lunch and we ate in the house a couple of evenings, which actually worked out quite well all in all.

If you’ve seen my Instagram feed you will know I’ve already said that I need another holiday to get over this one though.

Whilst my brain switched from overdrive to relax, my body is shattered. We didn’t sleep very well at all with Henry in our room – and not at all most nights as he decided that he couldn’t be without me and clung to me like a limpet (an after-effect of his operation?).

Still – it was a brilliant holiday, and we crammed in enough to make the memories last for some time, I hope.

Worn out but very happy.

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A good summary for a lovely time with the family.

Roll on the next staycation…Devon in July!

Speak soon,
K x

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spring fling. 

Last Sunday I did something I’ve been very excited about for a very long time…

I visited the Fabulous Places Spring Home, Food & Gift Market. 

Child free. 

And with a lovely friend. 

It was awesome. 

I’ve followed Deb at Fabulous Places for quite a while now (on Instagram, not actually followed her, that would be beyond weird) and have always wanted to go to one of the markets she organises. 

So when my lovely friend Michelle (of delicious cake company Pea Bakes Cakes), who lives in Derby where the market is held, said she fancied coming along with me I was over the moon. 

We weren’t disappointed! 

The venue, The Roundhouse, was fantastic. It’s a glorious old building that used to be used as a turning house for choo choo’s (sorry, I can’t actually use the word train anymore. Henry won’t let me!) and is now the perfect place for events like this. 

I loved the atmosphere, it was bustling but not too busy, and everyone just seemed super pleased to be there. 
The stalls were laid out beautifully. 

All independent, owner/maker managed and all so friendly and nice. I could have chatted to each and every single one of them for days, they were all so passionate about their product. 

I fell in love with a few in particular:

The Thomas-Coles

Handmade in Lancashire (Darwen to be exact…the next town over from where I’m from!) by a lovely couple who are passionate about fragrance. 

I bought a Pomello candle. 

Can’t. Stop. Smelling. It. 

Florence & Bow 

I could have bought everything on this stall. They have a shop in Leicestershire as well as an online presence. Look them up for lovely wall hangings, toptastic telephones and awesome trinkets for your house! 

Little Paperie
I love stationery. I just do. Always have done. Always will. 

And this stationery is the best I think I have ever seen. Seriously gorgeous little shop based in Ashbourne selling the most quirky, beautiful stationery and cards. They also offer Annie Sloan Chalk Paint workshops and are so lovely. I have tried and failed a few times to get to their shop (my fault entirely!) so getting to meet the girls behind #flamingofridays at the market was fab! 

As well as the most lovely home and gift stalls there were so many good food stalls. Pies. Bread. Ice Cream. Artisanal Toasties. 

#nom 

I couldn’t get near any of the cakes to take good enough pics, but if weight was gained by just looking at cake I wouldn’t have fit back in the car at the end of the day that’s for sure! 

It was a great day, and I’m so glad that we found the time to get there. Life is often hectic and we usually put the children first, so it was nice to do something just for me for a change. 

There’s a Summer market on 2nd July, again at The Roundhouse. 

I will be going. 

Oh yes I will. 

Have you ever been to a Fabulous Places market? What did you think? Would you like to know more? 

Share your thoughts in the comments! 

oh happy day. 

Supposedly it’s #internationaldayofhappiness today. 

Yes, some person somewhere chose a Monday in what seems like the longest month ever, to declare a day of forced happiness. 

You really wouldn’t know it from the number of horns I heard blaring on the way to work this morning. Or the number of miserable faces I encountered as I trekked through the rain to get lunch. 

But still, in a bid to embrace this most marvellous of days…here are 21 very special things you may not already have known about me. 

21 things that make me HAPPY! 

1. My children…of course! When they aren’t making me want to pull my ears off, or hide in a cupboard that is

2. The husband. Kind of have to say that. Feel’s like it would be wrong to leave him off the list! 

3. Hendricks gin…most marvellous


4. Talking to my mum…last year they went away on a cruise for pretty much a month, and I couldn’t speak to her. I couldn’t even text her. It was awful. She makes me rage quite often, but she’s fabulous and I can’t be without her. 

5. Summer…mainly for the ice creams


6. Hot dogs. With ketchup AND mustard. Oh yes. 

7. Fireworks. No matter what time of year. But woe betide anyone who lets off fireworks that wake my children! 


8. Memories of our wedding day. Including dancing the night away, kissing before we were supposed to and time alone spent watching our guests…

9. Friendship. The most wonderful thing on the planet

10. Tulips

11. Milkshakes, especially super thick strawberry ice cream ones – Ed’s Diner seems to be the best place  for these at the moment 
12. New York. Or more like memories of New York and films/books/TV shows featuring this amazing city 

13. Harry Potter. Just that. Love it! 


14. Home. 

15. Parties. Big ones, small ones, discos, boozy…I just love a gathering. 

16. Seeing other people happy


17. Fearne Cotton’s cook book…not that I am super keen on all the different ingredients she uses, but for the Spag Bol alone it’s worth it #nom


18. Love

19. Typography. I just love seeing it, searching out new fonts, fiddling around with lettering, reading old quotes in new and interesting formats! 


20. Interior design. Not in a pretentious Kelly Hoppen, yas daaahling way, but Pinteresting the heck out of a Monday evening to get some inspiration for doing up the utility room type stuff…and spending money I don’t have building new kitchens in my head! 

21. Hot chocolate. For the win. Always. 


So there’s my list…

There’s plenty more (I missed chorizo, generally eating, sleep, hot baths and cuddles to name just a few) but why go whole hog on #internationalhappinessday?! Too much of a good thing is bad for you, right?! 

What makes you happy?! Share folks, share! 

the struggle.

Hi. My name is Kathryn. And it has been exactly four months since my last blog.

Oops.

You see, I started oliphantum way back in March 2016 with the intention of blogging regularly and creating a little world through which I could get back a bit of “me”. Find my humour and get my creativity going again after having two children and spending a lot of time being poorly and at home.

But it wasn’t always that easy.

Two children is hard.

And why is it that, just like with birth and the first baby, no one actually bothers to tell you exactly how hard!?

No one tells you that sleep deprivation from two small people that don’t sleep feels like pins being consistently stuck into your eyes.

No one tells you that your first born will, at some stage, turn into a miniature Tasmanian devil and try to smother your newborn baby either with love or a pillow!

No one tells you that whilst you thought keeping up with laundry for three people was hell on earth, that doing it for four people will nearly kill you.

No one tells you that what little you had left of your former intelligence will most definitely stick two fingers up at you and leave at the first chance it gets, leaving you a blithering idiot that can only do one thing at a time and talk about nappies for approximately 19 months (I am at this point now – I may be wrong, and I may still be a blithering idiot!).

No one tells you that you will cry more after your second child. Perhaps because no one likes to talk about that part – but they should!!

Then there was my eldest starting school, me starting a new job AND a big house move…just because life didn’t seem hard enough!

Yep, the second half of 2016 was pretty much a disaster.
A really big struggle.

This isn’t a pity party. I’m not looking for sympathy. It just sometimes helps to actually tell people that it’s been hard work.

And that I haven’t coped very well with it.

At times I coped pretty darn badly to be honest.
Craaaaaaaazy woman would be a good name for me, and I’m sure that Mr O would agree.

Thankfully all the poorly in the world, all the stress, upheaval and general ridiculousness has helped me to see things a bit more clearly.

Two children is still going to be hard throughout 2017. Especially because Henry has now turned into a beast that likes to scream at me whenever I even suggest his nappy needs changing and Ruby has decided that she knows everything in the whole world and that I, actually, know nothing.

I don’t do resolutions as a rule. I am never going to give up chocolate and running is alright, but only in summer. So for 2017, here is my annual List of Stuff To Remember:

  • My children are not trying to (purposefully) drive me insane
  • I’ve had a toddler before and survived unscathed
  • Chocolate is good, but in moderation
  • My four year old is the most loving, kind and clever girl – everything we wished she would be
  • Siblings fight and argue, it’s normal
  • Gin and Tonic is my friend
  • Work, although important, is not the be all and end all
  • Find the time to write my blog, because it’s fun and I enjoy it

But mostly I think I need to remember to count my blessings.

I need to remember that I am loved and that I love my family and friends so much. Nothing is worth forgetting that for. Not ever.

Here’s to a fantastic 2017.
Let me know what’s on your Stuff to Remember list in the comments!

Speak soon x

itchy.

Before you start, don’t worry…this isn’t a post about some grotty skin complaint or a post about nits  (although now Ruby has started school this could well be a topic at some point, blurgh!).

Tomorrow marks seven years since Mr O and me were married and so, by rights and if all the old wives tales surrounding marriage are to be believed then we should start feeling it.

The Seven Year Itch.

“Seven years?!” I hear you shout. “How can it possibly have been seven years already” and “you’re not old enough to have been married for so long”! Well, I was quite obviously a child bride (pffft!)…and seven years has flown by in the blink of an eye.

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So much has happened in the last seven years…two homes, a nice selection of awesome holidays, too many cars to mention (naughty husband), some brilliant meals out at some of the best restaurants, LOTS of arguments, the arrival of a kitty cat, the loss of loved ones, too many strops to mention (and those are just his!), oh and the small matter of two children.

How, then, does it end up flying by so quickly and what is the key to staying happy and (hopefully) not feeling the effects of “the itch”?

We went out last night (that hardly ever happens and so was VERY exciting!) and it was a topic that came up…what keeps us together? Are you happy? Are you going to run off with an exotic dancer named Trixabelle at any point in the future, or is it more likely to be Maureen from Finance?!

Thankfully his answer was, and apparently always will be, no. He’s not going anywhere. And that for me is just wonderful, since I loves him and all that.

We seemed to come to the conclusion that our friendship, the fact that we don’t take each other too seriously and that we still make time to make each other happy are all factors that help us avoid The Itch. We argue (he is a d*ck and so am I!) and we disagree lots, but we always make up and forgive each other. We work hard.

We met in 2004 when we were 20 years old. It was the start of a wonderful friendship…even though at the time he was the most grumpy person I think I’d ever met.

He never smiled. He was super tight with his money. He ate sweets by the bucket load and then couldn’t eat his dinner so we would all have to sit and wait for him to finish before we could have our pudding! He was obsessed with the gym. He wore outfits that consisted mainly of the colour brown. He was safely in the “friend zone”.

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Until he wasn’t anymore.

He sent me an email one day, asking to take me out on a date (how romantic hey!). We went to see ‘Closer’ and I didn’t think I could feel more uncomfortable on a first date. Ever.

But when he kissed me at the end of the evening I knew. Somehow I knew that this friend was actually my one and only. He had been right under my nose all along.

Today I’ve been in bed most of the day after being really sick all night. He has looked after me and the children, entertained my parents, tidied the house and cooked a roast (and only once did I notice a bit of a meltdown!). He’s pretty special.

And I get to keep him.

And I don’t feel itchy at all.

Happy Anniversary husband. Here’s to many more.

the last days of summer.

I was originally planning to be all “I don’t particularly care what people are saying, summer hasn’t ended just yet” and chat about the fact that technically it’s not over until later in the month.

However, having woken up this morning shivering, looking through the window at torrential rain and to a baby literally covered head to toe in poo (I guess the Lactulose has finally worked) I am pretty resigned to the fact that we have probably already had the last few days of summer.

Sigh.

All things considered, the small amount of summer that we have had has included some lovely times, like our holiday to Tenerife, trips out, visits to and from family and friends and our many child related adventures!

But, with Ruby starting school this coming week things have been a bit fractious of late, and so our efforts to make this summer one to remember for her have gone a bit pear-shaped to be honest. Think screaming, curly haired tantrums when daddy drives the car but she wanted mummy to drive and peas being thrown in every direction because she wanted carrots and you’re close to (never really) understanding our four year old and how draining the last few weeks have been.

So, last weekend, spontaneously wanting to “make the most” of those precious last few days of summer we took the children to Calke Abbey, a beautiful National Trust property in Derbyshire.

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It’s dubbed the ‘un-stately home’ as the owners were ruined and simply didnt look after the house because they couldn’t afford to (who could!?). The NT have kept it in its shabby state but work hard to preserve it just as it was left…but I just know this from snatched glimpses at fact sheets and hearing snippets of the video about the house because I’ve never actually been in the place! Nope. Don’t be daft. There’s a playground and sheep to see instead!

I thought it would be a great day…we walked round the parkland spotting deer, but Ruby thought that was boring. We climbed trees and did muddy puddle jumping, but Ruby thought that just wasn’t fun enough. We had a picnic overlooking one of the nicest views in the whole estate, which Ruby actually did enjoy because it included food, and we spent time doing crafts and playing in the play stables…which didn’t last long enough and ended in yet another tantrum.

Everyone suffers the rage of a four year old at some point in time, I know we’re not the only ones. And I know that Ruby is really no different to the other four year olds out there and, whilst it wasnt the idyllic day I had imagined it would be, it was time spent together as a family and, considering the weather this weekend I am glad that we took the opportunity for one last effort at some summer fun.

Carrying Henry round on my back could have been the biggest mistake of the summer yet for me though!

In a nutshell I’m now resigned to the fact that summer is over and that school is just around the corner and so I have taken the (wise or stupid, I’ll decide later!) decision to spend the next few days just with Ruby.

We’re basically going to do all the fun stuff I wish we’d done earlier in the summer…whether it’s raining or not! 

And we’re also doing the bits and pieces she has wanted to do but that we haven’t had a chance to…including Finding Dory at the cinema, which basically means I’ll be a blubbering mess by 2pm tomorrow.

Great.

Summer, thanks for popping by, you’ve been interesting. Here’s to next year!

Speak soon, x

soft play cafe.

Since Ruby was born in 2012 and all things child-related came onto our radar, it became strikingly obvious that Lichfield was lacking in small people “stuff”.

More often than not you’d get tutted at, stared at or groaned at for trying to squeeze a pram into an already packed cafe so that you could escape the house for a moment and feel like a normal human being after a morning of non-stop screaming from the tiny human you’d just brought into the world (“if in doubt, go out” and all that).

We’ve been concocting plans for a fabulous, not overly pricey, clean, safe, child-friendly cafe with lovely food and brilliant staff ever since…but it’s always been a pipe-dream and we were never actually ever going to be able to realise it and neither was anyone else.

Then, just this week, along came Little Green Frog Cafe!

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Located in the centre of Lichfield as part of Three Spires Shopping Centre and open daily from 8.30am – 4.30pm, the cafe opens officially on Tuesday 30th August but we were treated to a special sneak preview this weekend.

It’s a superb idea, and a wonderful execution by the super friendly owner-managers Ben and Debs and their team. The light, bright and welcoming cafe is a great size…you don’t feel like you’re sitting on top of anyone and the play zones have been carefully planned to cater perfectly for smalls from around 18 months to 5 years.

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Henry snoozed for the majority of our visit this morning, but Ruby was off exploring as soon as we arrived. She headed straight for the activity corner and was found sat in the tipi with an Albert Einstein style wig on her head and a Cinderella dress from the extensive dressing up section! There’s also a lovely quiet-zone full of books and soft seating for those feeling less energetic…plus Ben explained to me that they are planning to introduce a range of baby friendly play things very soon, which will make the activity zone complete in my opinion. And a perfect place for new mums to meet and get out of the house over the winter months without feeling like they are in people’s way all the time!

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Once awake, Henry loved exploring the soft-play area which is fully equipped with slides, a ball pit and lots of soft blocks and rocking ducks for the little ones. The area was supervised by a lovely member of the team today…I’m not sure if this is always going to be the case, but it’s a great touch. The cafe is a perfect size for always knowing where your child is, and even if it’s busy I imagine you will always feel secure there.

The facilities have been well thought out with a large buggy park, booster seats, plenty of high chairs and wonderful baby changing facilities. Extremely clean dinky toilets for those that are nappy-less are a great touch and, along with the cot in the baby change area, just help to make your visit that bit easier!

Our visit was at 10.30am, so we took great delight in ordering from the scrummy breakfast menu. Mr O and I shared a pancakes with bacon and maple syrup and Ruby had a fruit bowl (which was a good size for the price) and a strawberry milkshake. The highlight for me however was the Deluxe Hot Chocolate which came piled with cream and marshmallows and was one of the better hot chocolates I’ve had for a while.

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All in all it was a lovely way to spend an hour and a half, and with the £3.50 for the play side of things being directly added to your bill at the end it is easy to understand what you’re spending without feeling like you’re constantly paying for stuff. The team are lovely – very friendly, professional and happy to answer any questions…and they even cater for special dietary requirements which I know is very important to a lot of parents.

If you have older children then you’re probably better off searching out one of the bigger soft-play centres outside of town – Little Green Frog cafe is perfect for mamas and papas with babes in arms, toddlers or under 5’s. Which is something Lichfield has never had before and, along with the great programme of activities planned on a weekly basis, is why I can see this place going from strength to strength…

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If you’re in Lichfield, pay Little Green Frog cafe a visit (book online if you’re in a large group) and you won’t be disappointed – especially if you manage to snaffle one of their amazing cakes!

Find out more about Little Green Frog cafe by clicking this link.