I followed my heart: a summary of 2016

Twenty sixteen has been a tough year for many.  It’s also been an awesome year for many.  To be fair, I think most years are both tough and awesome one way or another, with a whole lot of ordinary, mediocre stuff in between.  It would be a very rare thing to come across someone who had twelve months consisting of only either negative or positive events – there is always going to be a mixture.

I want this post to be a genuine reflection of the last twelve months.  My little family has experienced it’s fair share of tough moments this year – nothing major in the grand scheme of things, but big enough to wobble us a bit.  We put off a trip of a lifetime to Disney World in Florida in favour of the decision to move house, only to then backtrack and decide to stay put where we are.  End result? No holiday and no lovely new house either.  I know, I know, first world problems right?  There have also been recurring bouts of depression and anxiety; various pretty intense challenges with all four of the girls; the kitten needed several significant operations; high levels of work stress for both my husband and I and a distinct lack of communication in our relationship that really took it’s toll for a while.  There have been times where I’ve doubted every single decision I’ve made about parenting, work, love and life in general.

We’ve also had plenty of absolutely awesome moments to counterbalance it all (the highlights of which you can read all about below) and overall I’m pretty sure that the ups far outweigh the downs.  I’m choosing to focus on the most positive parts of our year in this post because, while I’m certainly not ignoring the stuff that wasn’t so great, I don’t want to dwell on it and I think choosing to look for the rainbows amongst the clouds is much healthier in the long run.

I firmly believe that the downs, no matter how challenging or difficult, are there for us to learn and grow from.  I also believe that the actions we choose to take as a result of the things that take a different direction from the one we hoped for is what determines how happy we ultimately feel.  The tough things we have experienced this year have strengthened our marriage, helped me understand our children more (and hopefully be a better parent as a result!), taught me a lot about my own resilience and made me see more clearly what direction I want to head in.

At the end of 2015 – my Dad’s death made it one of the hardest years of my life – I chose to set the intention of following my heart in 2016.  It’s not been easy by any means and there have been plenty of moments when the sensible, rational voice in my head has screamed at me “What the f*** are you DOING?!”, but I’ve stuck to it and tried to make decisions and choices based on what my heart was telling me to do.  I think I’ve done ok.

So, without further ado, here is a summary of the best bits of 2016 – the experiences we’ve shared, the adventures we’ve had and the love we’ve given and received…

JANUARY

Our littlest girl, Lola, celebrated her sixth birthday and we managed to get out for some gorgeous Winter walks as a family.  I also launched Project Love, a year-long personal Photography project.

Lola, our littlest, turned six

A Winter walk on Milford Common

 

FEBRUARY

Ella, my eldest, and I attended a Harry Potter Party at our local Waterstones book store.  Needless to say she went dressed as Hermione (of course!), got to stay up waaaay past her bedtime and we had an awesome time together.  We had plenty of fun at home during half term and squeezed in a visit to Trentham Gardens.

Ella as Hermione at the Harry Potter party

One of the gorgeous fairies at Trentham Gardens

 

MARCH

I listened to what my heart and soul was telling me and I launched this blog!  It’s something I’d been wanting to do for a long time and I finally found the courage to do it.  I’m so glad that I did – my passion for photography has grown exponentially and my head is constantly filled with ideas for posts and words that I want to share with the world.  I can’t wait to see how I can grow it further in 2017.

We also celebrated my Stepdad’s 70th birthday, attended the Quidditch World Cup (yes, really!) and held our annual Easter Egg hunt.

The cake we made for my Stepdad’s birthday

At the Quidditch World Cup!

Reading a clue from the Easter Egg hunt

 

APRIL

We had a week long holiday at The Beach Haven in Bude, North Cornwall during the Easter holidays.  It was our third time staying there and it really does feel like a home from home now.  So much so that we’re going back again in 2017!  Sophie came with us, we explored some new places as well as revisiting old favourites, made wonderful new memories and had a thoroughly wonderful time.  You can read all about our adventures here and here.

Looking for shipwrecks on Northcott Mouth Beach

Exploring the Eden Project

Out for dinner at our favourite restaurant in Bude

 

MAY

May was an incredibly busy month – my birthday;  Mimi’s 8th birthday; a visit from an old travel buddy that I haven’t seen for twelve years; plus one of my best friends got engaged so I headed down to London for their party to celebrate their news!  I launched my ’40 Things Before I’m 40′ list (and started working my way slowly through it over the following months) AND we managed two day trips – one to the Bluebell Woods at Rode Hall and another to Stratford-Upon-Avon.

Surrounded by my little tribe (and wearing a crown handmade with love) on my birthday

Mimi celebrated her 8th birthday!

Learning all about Shakespeare’s plays in Stratford

The stunning bluebell woods at Rode Hall

 

JUNE

June was fun.  We headed up to Tatton Park to see the Roald Dahl related activities being held as part of his 100th birthday celebrations.  I also attended my first ever blogging conference, ‘Blogtacular’, the highlights of which for me were attending Laura-Jane Williams’ brilliantly funny, inspiring and thought-provoking writing workshop and meeting one of my favourite bloggers – Lucy from Capture By Lucy!  I think I went a little bit, erm, fangirl, but honestly, I was so thrilled to be able to chat with her and she gave me some great advice that I’m keeping in mind for when I start wanting to work with brands in the not-too-distant future.

Having fun at Tatton Park

Blogtacular 2016, image credit Will Ireland/Mollie Makes

 

JULY

July was one of my favourite months of the year.  The end of the school year approaching meant that we had six whole weeks of fun ahead of us in the form of the summer holidays and the anticipation was too much to bear so we got started early, spending our weekends getting into the spirit of summer.  We headed to Arley Hall and Gardens for their ‘Fairytales and Minibeasts Trail’, which was brilliant fun – the grounds were beautiful and absolutely huge, and there was absolutely tons for the girls to get involved in.  We also ticked something off of my ’40 Things Before 40′ list – my husband and I went to see James Bay play live in the utterly gorgeous setting of Cannock Chase Forest.  It was hands down one of the best evenings we’ve had together.  Finally, the first week of the summer holidays saw us heading to Jersey for a week-long family holday.  None of us had ever been before and it surpassed all of our expectations – the scenery was beautiful, we stayed in a fantastic converted barn with a hot tub and there was plenty for us to do – I think we could have stayed an extra week and still not seen everything, which, considering its only 9 miles by 5 miles, is really saying something.  You can read about our adventures here, here, here and here.

Doing the ‘Fairytales and minibeasts trail’ at Arley Hall and Gardens

 

Watching James Bay play live as the sun set in Cannock Chase Forest

Possibly one of my favourite photos from the whole year! Watching the world go by at one of the gorgeous beaches in Jersey – Greve de Lecq

A photo of me that I actually like! I really love this actually – one of the few photos I have of me with the girls. Taken at Jersey Lavender Farm

 

AUGUST

August was also a fantastic month and we had lots of outings and day trips over the summer holidays: Cheshire Ice Cream Farm and Trentham Gardens being two examples.  We climbed to the summit of The Wrekin in Telford, which I’m determined to back and do again in the Autumn as I think the colours would be beautiful.  The girls and I discovered somewhere new to explore in a neighbouring village and we also went strawberry picking for the first time – some of my photos will soon be up on their website which is rather exciting!  And finally my best friend and her husband came to visit for a weekend – we hadn’t seen them for over a year so it was wonderful to catch up on each other’s news and spend some time together.

The ice cream at Cheshire Ice Cream Farm is absolutely delicious

 

At the wildflower meadows in Trentham Gardens – one of my favourite places to visit

The summit of The Wrekin – it was a bit windy up there!

 

On the canalside walk in Great Haywood – we visited again and again over the following months as we enjoyed it so much

Strawberry picking at Canalside Farm

The girls with my best friend and her husband – I love this photo! She’s the closest thing I’ve got to a sister and the girls call them auntie and uncle even though we’re not really related.

 

SEPTEMBER

September saw the girls going back to school to start a brand new year.  Ella moved up to Year 5 – her penultimate year at primary school.  Mimi moved into Year 4 and Lola to Year 2.  It seems like only yesterday that I was a bit wobbly-bottom-lipped as I ushered her through the door of the Reception classroom – how we’ve suddenly got here I’ll never understand –  I feel like I’ve blinked and missed it all.  We didn’t do much in the way of adventuring this month – it was more about settling back into routine after six weeks of freedom – a shame considering the absolutely gorgeous sunshine and warm weather we were blessed with all month.  I did tick another item off of my ’40 Things Before 40′ list – I climbed a tree!

We managed to re-visit Tatton Park to see the rest of the Roald Dahl birthday celebrations that we’d missed the first time we visited earlier in the year.  We also finally made it to LEGOLAND Windsor after promising the girls we’d go during the summer holidays and not quite finding the time to fit it in.  It added a bit of excitement into the reality of the structured school week and they absolutely loved it.

Our traditional ‘back to school’ pose on the front doorstep

Me, climbing a tree!

 

Hunting for The Enormous Crocodile at Tatton Park

 

My tribe at LEGOLAND Windsor

 

OCTOBER

I make many of my decisions by asking myself the question “Will I regret it if I don’t do it?”.  So when the opportunity to house-sit in Dorset for a few days for an old travel buddy of mine unexpectedly popped up, I didn’t even hesitate.  I’m not normally a particularly spontaneous person (I much prefer plenty of planning and lots of research), but this was a no-brainer and I jumped at the chance.  I’m so glad I followed my heart with this one – our impromptu little mini-break to Dorset ended up creating some of our favourite moments of the year and the girls still talk about it today.

I also did my first ever ‘professional’ photo-shoot, which I loved, and we discovered rope-swings in a secret area only accessible by a hidden path on one of our favourite woodland walks.  I met up with another old travel buddy to see Cheryl Strayed give a talk in London, and ticked off yet another item on my list – meet a celebrity!

And finally we did ALL the Halloween-y/pumpkin related things during half term as per annual tradition.

A family selfie at Durdle Door in Dorset

 

Admiring the view at Corfe Castle in Dorset

My favourite shot from my first photoshoot

Ropeswings in the forest!

Cheryl Strayed, author of ‘Wild’, in London

At the local pumpkin patch

Carving our pumpkins!

 

NOVEMBER

At the start of November we had our scrubby ‘garden’ (basic patio and a patch of grass that had been overtaken by weeds) transformed into something much more pleasing to the eye –  nothing spectacular by any means but the foundations of something I’m going to work really hard on over the Spring to turn into a pretty and relaxing space for us to enjoy – I’ll write a post with the before and after photos once it’s all finished.

I squeezed in two more photo-shoots with some good friends of mine (here and here) and we enjoyed the last of the autumn leaves in more woodland walks.

My second photoshoot – with my friend and her two children

My favourite shot from the third photoshoot I did with my friend and her daughter

 

Refusing to let a bit of rain stop us on a muddy woodland walk

The last of the leaves

DECEMBER

December is always crazy-busy.  We celebrated a bit of a milestone birthday for Ella, who turned ten at the start of the month.  It was also the husband’s birthday towards the end of December as well.  And in between of course is all the madness of Christmas preparation (buying presents, writing cards, visiting Santa, putting up the decorations etc), nativity plays and charity fundraisers at school and trying to get everything done at work so that I can switch off properly over the Christmas holidays.  It’s stressful of course, especially as it’s one of the busiest times at work for Neil so I’m doing a lot of it solo, but I really wouldn’t have it any other way.  Keeping the magic of Christmas alive for the girls is important, and even though it’s hard work I love doing it.

Ella blowing out the candles on her birthday cake

Feeling festive!

Writing Christmas cards for their classmates

Visiting Santa

And that’s it!  2016, summed up in one post.  I’m finding myself really looking forward to 2017 and what adventures we might have.  I feel positive about it.  We’ve got lots of fun things planned, I’m going to work super-hard to create new opportunities for us with this blog and my photography, and I’m open to whatever else comes our way.  I

I hope that the year ahead for you is a happy and healthy one and that it’s everything you want it to be.

 

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