snow days.

What do you think of snow? Personally, I am not sure. I never have been really.

I love it the first day it falls – the day that you can get out and have a snowball fight, go sledging, make snow angels or just snuggle up inside with a hot chocolate and watch it fall magically to the ground.

But the day after? When the stark reality hits and you have to actually leave the house and DO STUFF?

Then I start to absolutely hate the stuff!

We had our first snowfall of the year this week, and I can’t honestly remember the last time I saw so much of the stuff. It was ankle deep here in Lichfield, and I don’t even think Ruby remembers seeing it like that before. I however, remember vividly trying to shove her pram through the fields to get to a baby group when on maternity leave (yes, I was one of those idiots!), so perhaps it’s around 4 years since we last had so much?

School was closed.

And we had to do the thing that everyone loves, but dreads on days like this – work from home!

Yep, both of us, and two children. In the house. Together. All day.

It was interesting.

Not least because Mr O scarpered upstairs at the very first opportunity and spent most of the day on conference calls…Henry dragging up memories of that bloke on the TV whose kids barged in on his television interview when he escaped my clutches as I used the loo and made his way upstairs to declare to Daddy that the “Christmas tree lights are on!” Thankfully that particular conference call was with just one person who totally understood!

The people that heard me shouting about yet another spilled drink probably weren’t so perky about it…oops!

Though I loath to admit it, our children spent pretty much the entire day watching the TV. Something that they never, ever get to do – so much against brain rot are we (usually!).

However, when you’re a working parent, you don’t have an endless supply of holiday days, you don’t have alternative childcare on-hand (aka Grandparents!) and you can’t afford to take the day unpaid – what else are you supposed to do?

There was no way either of us could get into work, and so we were incredibly lucky that we have such understanding workplaces. Not everyone is so lucky.

The anxiety, stress and worry that a day like this puts onto a working parent who doesn’t have the “luxury” of flexible working is palpable. And it shouldn’t be like that. Just because we’re parents doesn’t mean that we stop caring about work – far from it for most people. It makes us even more determined. Makes us want to achieve great things to provide for our children and to prove that we’re so much more than just a parent (although why we feel we have to do that is a different story completely!).

And that’s why I think we should all be supporting Mother Pukka’s #flexappeal campaign, speaking to employers about and requesting flexible working – for all actually, not just parents! To make sure that everyone can comfortably avoid perilous journeys into work on a UK snow day! And not feel bad about having to look after their children and still being able to work!

And then I think maybe, just maybe, even with all the nightmares that it brings, snow isn’t such a bad thing after all?

It got us out into the fresh (bl**dy freezing!) air, spending time together as a family. It was fun and something completely new for both our little ones…

…And snow angels are the most fun thing in the world (when you’re five and you don’t care about getting freezing cold and wet through)!

**Disclaimer – these images were taken on the Sunday before the ‘Working from Home’ Monday. We did work. All day. And didn’t spend the day playing in the snow with the kids! I promise!

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oh christmas tree.

I’ve been obsessed with Christmas trees and decorations for as long as I can remember – but I’m not one of those that puts theirs up in November and feels that Christmas should be all year round (you know who you are!).

Nope.

Christmas is special. And from getting so excited whenever the pink ladders came out and my dad carried our tree down from the loft to unwrapping my mum’s glass baubles and placing them ever so carefully exactly where she told me to (yep – she’s one of those mums!) I have always, always enjoyed the decorating side of things.

Mr O’s family always had a real tree when he was growing up, so as part of our new family tradition we head to Cannock Chase and choose a real tree to bring home.

This year was particularly special for the children (note I say the children – much like sand, I also quite dislike snow!) and I managed not to be the grumpiest Grinch in the forest – until Henry came out from behind a tree covered in mud from digging!

The tree was selected quite quickly this year to my amazement – a 6ft fir just bushy enough to look awesome but not too bushy that we wouldn’t be able to hang anything off it!

And then the decorating fun began!

We bought our first tree from Focus DIY (remember that!), along with the star that we still use every year – long after that artificial bundle of brilliance has gone.

The baubles were bought from B&Q because, well, they just were!

We still use them now, but as the years have gone by (and as the children have come along) our collection of special ornaments has massively increased – so much so that now our tree is pretty much full of personal, individual to us baubles and trinkets that each have a meaning.

Most are from my mum. My wonderful, brilliant mum who buys me a special bauble each year either from a trip we have been on together or one that she has been on with my dad. And so putting them on this year, now that the children can ask questions about where they come from or what they mean, took pretty much a whole afternoon!!

Here’s a glimpse at some of the most special ones…

This is Henry’s. It was on a gift from my parents for his first Christmas. Whenever it comes out I wonder if one day I will give them their baubles – but then I think, nope. They are staying on our tree until the day I pop my clogs…then they can have them!

Father Christmas comes from Villeroy & Boch and was bought for us by Graeme’s Grandma Sylvia. He’s our only ‘traditional’ bauble, and is very special for that reason.

We have eight of these stars scattered around our tree each year. They are from The White Company and were bought for us by Graeme’s Auntie Eileen. She has a knack for finding fantastic gifts – and the fact that you can spritz these with their ‘Winter’ room spray makes them even more special. They make the house smell wonderful.

A personal favourite of mine, this is a Limited Edition Swarovski Christmas bell from 2015 (the year Henry was born). My mum bought it for me. I have to admit, this is the first year I have put it up – simply because I have been too scared to get it out before! The children know not to touch this one!

You can just see Ruby’s 1st Christmas bauble in the background of this shot – she hung this herself this year, it was the first to go on the tree and I love how bright and colourful it is…just like her personality, it really shines through.

Two very different baubles now…a glass hand decorated one from Gisela Graham bought in Liberty London the year that I was pregnant with Ruby and a hand painted bauble from Germany that I love because, when you hang it in front of a light, it looks like the village is all lit up and cosy.

This is my brand new for 2017 bauble! It’s gorgeous isn’t it. Handpainted and all the way from Russia – my mum and dad bought it for me whilst they were on their cruise. Mum said that some of the baubles were so intricate that she couldn’t believe her eyes. I love the way this one twinkles and glistens in the light.

Another of Henry’s baubles – his first Christmas one, bought for him by Graeme’s parents. I love that it has his name, birth weight (shudder!) and his date of birth. The snowman’s cheeky face always makes me laugh too!

Another Gisela Graham number – this time from Fortnum & Mason when me and my mum were on one of our trips to London. And a cheeky Santa dangling behind! This one came from our next door neighbours at our old house. They gave us a number of interesting decorations…this one and a cracker are the ones that made it through to the tree!

Another gorgeous Swarovski bauble from my mum. This one is so pretty and my camera doesn’t do it justice – but it shines and shimmers and with the snow outside today it has really made me feel so totally Christmas-sy!

We’ve also got so many of the children’s handmade decorations on the tree this year, which I just love. They were so proud, getting them out of the box and putting them on the tree.

And once it’s decorated…it is Ruby’s job to put the star on top!
With Daddy’s help of course!

Letting go of control of the decorating, and watching the smiles on their faces was 100% worth it.

And the tree looks pretty darn awesome!

Do you have any special ornaments? How do you decorate your tree? I’d love to know.

Speak soon,
K

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

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.