Toscana Colliverdi

I’ll set the scene.

We were young lovers and it was our first holiday. We were carefree and thirsty for adventure.

We threw the tent and our bags in the back of the car and set off into the dark night. Destination Italy. We had no places to stay, no itinerary. We followed our noses, the scent of adventure and home cooked Italian food wafting in the air.

Approaching Italy we decided to head over the mountains into the country rather than through the tunnel. Who wants to see wall to wall concrete when you can experience mountains and lakes? And what a welcome! Morning broke and our eyes were met with mint green lakes and white chalky mountains. We found our first campsite in a forest by Lago Maggiore. Our requirement was simple, picturesque with a spot for our tent and 2 trees sturdy enough to hold our 2 persons hammock (with us snuggled inside).

We are explorers. We have always been able to follow our instincts and discover the most beautiful, remote, interesting places. We always try the flaky painted door slightly ajar or the impossible little dirt track, just to see where it will take us. Sometimes it takes us horribly, horribly wrong (Remember going in search of that deserted beach and ending up having to reverse up a really, scarily steep cliff, thinking this was possibly our last adventure, babe? Me too.) But so often it takes us very right and we find a beautiful deserted monastery or secluded beach as a reward.

Our days were spent exploring San Giminiano, Pisa, Lucca, Volterra, Florence and the surrounding countryside. Our nights, chilling in the hammock watching an inky black sky peppered with stars and listening to the cricket chorus. I’m not sure how we managed to escape the crowds (of other campers, if there were any) or if it just felt like it was just us on the earth.

We moved from camping to camping every 2 days, finding little hidden gems along the way. Hill top sites overlooking the valleys filled with cypress trees, clear streams to swim in, dilapidated houses that we dreamed of making our own. We also stumbled across the best restaurant we have ever eaten in (and we’ve tried quite a few) in a tiny old church with 4 tables. We ate a 5 course meal of the finest Italian food and wine and received a bill at the end for 30 euros! Make that best AND cheapest meal I have ever eaten.

This was my first trip to Italy and the one that made me fall in love with everything Italian, the language, the culture, the food, the people. It was also the trip that made me fall in love with my (now) husband. Fast forward 10 years and we are a family of 3. I’m so looking forward to taking littlelish on her very own adventure this summer.

Now we are 3

This blog post is my entry to the Tots100/Al Fresco Holidays competition who are giving away a holiday for one lucky family with ( Wish me luck :)  x

I love being a mum. It is the most entertaining job I’ve ever had, where being silly and cuddling is what it takes to be the best. Littlelish is now 2.5 years old and I have been at home with her since she was born that long, hot, summers night. I tried to go back to my marketing job (the second best job I’ve ever had) when she was 5 months old but with no luck. She refused bottles (she had always been breastfed) and therefore wouldn’t eat all day. It made the choice a pretty easy one…

It turned out to be the best decision I have ever made. Sure we had to make sacrifices, without 2 full time jobs we had fewer holidays, shopping sprees and what not… but we survived, heck it even taught us a lesson or two! And in return I got to be there while this beautiful little person grows up a little more every day.

Although I throw myself wholeheartedly into being mum, littlelish hardly watches television and we are always playing, cooking or creating something, I noticed myself having the occasional wobble. Sure I was mum but what else was I? I was also the girl (I am still a girl at 30 alright!) who loved challenges, business and the satisfaction of achieving. Sure I was achieving as mummy but I kind of had that covered… Was it time for another challenge?

We decided that littlelish should start going to preschool (because it was good for her rather than because we needed her to go) and for the first time in a very long time I had some time to myself again. What now? Well I’ve started up a new business. I thought long and hard about what I want to do because returning to work was not really an option. All jobs that would be suitable for me are fulltime and neither of us are ready for that. So I turned to what I love. What I always complain I don’t have enough time for. Art and crafts. Would I make the time for it if I saw it as a business goal? And the answer is yes!

As you have probably noticed (I make no secret of it) I’ve started a web shop. I’m really only at the very beginning of it because building it up to what I desire is going to take a while! And my goodness it is no walk in the park. Finding the time to craft and create even with my mornings off is difficult. The design and creation process can be long let alone photographing, putting online and marketing it! The housewife in me stops functioning all together and I am only drawn to crafting and making more mess. The ideas pile up, oooh must make this, sew this, paint this – my brain is at bursting point. The things pile up, oooh need this piece of cardboard (and this one and this one), this fabric and soon enough we are living in one of those poor houses that you see on tv where there is a dead cat buried under the piles of stuff :/

I am nowhere near creating a healthy balance yet, hopping between making, networking oh yes and blogging! But last week I made my first 3 sales, all in one day and the feeling of pride that swelled in me when someone had chosen to buy something that I made was phenomenal.

Now I am not only a good mummy but an inspired one with a project of my own to keep my brain cells fresh and buzzing and it feels great!

Custom made ACB posters by nixiepix

This week has been about getting back to normality after all the recent festivities, Christmas, New Year, Birthdays. Littlelish started back at preschool and we’ve been enjoying our afternoons together. She has been an incredibly well behaved, angelic child, it’s amazing! At 2 1/2 I’m starting to wonder (could it be true) if we have escaped the terrible two’s? (Do I hear a faint chorus of mummies laughing?) Ok, well you may be right but we are very much enjoying this little phase of angelic-ness.  Singing, rhyming, creating, imagining, melting my heart with “mummy I love you soooo much”. Long may it continue.

But of course, as every mother knows, our little people go through phases. This angelic phase has emerged after a slightly more difficult phase – a growth spurt. Littlelish seems to go through them every 2 months when she is acquiring new skills and learning more about the world.

Recently I see that she has come on leaps and bounds with her ABC’s! This week she has spent the entire week thinking of words and declaring what letter/sound they start with. She has astounded me with some crackers “r r radiator, l l leek, w w water, p p paint”. Throw almost any word at her and she will be able to tell you what letter it begins with. She now knows the sounds for all the letters which means we are well on the way to reading – so exciting!

I thought I’d share with you some of the things we have used to help promote literacy in our house as well as some tips from her Montessori school teacher.

Reading books has always been one of her favourite things to do from an early age and we have built up a super little library. We all know how important it is to expose our children to good books. Not only is it important for their literacy, vocabulary it is great for their imagination! Books don’t have to be expensive though. I bought her a whole set of alphabet books (from the 70’s) which looked at each letter separately and all the words beginning with that letter. I bought the whole set from a charity shop for 1 pound (I know ridiculous, right?). She has loved reading these and requests them over and over again.

– We bought her some beautiful magnetic letters. We played games with them (kept it light and fun and stopped whenever she got fed up) and through this she learned the shapes and the phonetic sounds.

– We made a very simple alphabet wall freeze. All 26 letters drawn on separate piece of card (about 4″ x 4″) and included the capital letter and the small letter. We hung these up in order on the play room wall. Sure you could get a fancy ABC chart but this was simple and easy to make and best of all FREE! We never drilled her to look at these rather just left them hanging there so she could get used to seeing the letters and shape of them.

– Someone told us about Jolly phonics. This has been particularly helpful as littlelish loves music and singing. So we watched this maybe 3 times until we learned them all (well until mummy learned them all) and then we sang them together over and over again. This is never boring for her as she loves singing.

Some tips we got from the Montessori preschool on learning ABC’s.

– School explained that you should never teach the alphabet as we say it or the alphabet song. Apparently this is confusing for them and pretty much  useless when it come it learning to read. Only problem was little D already knew all her alphabet (the letters not the sounds) AND the whole alphabet song. Oops. We rectified this by teaching her the sounds of the letters. E.g. saying A sound like aaah etc and then to only continue with the sounds. She pretty much left the old alphabet letters behind. Phew.

– You should never say a IS FOR apple. The for is confusing for children as they are also busy with learning numbers and confuse for with the number 4. Always say a a apple, b b ball so they get used to listening to the sounds.

Do you have any good tips for teaching little ones their ABC’s or to read? I’d love to hear them!


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