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Our Holiday to Rhodes 2015- Mark Warner Levante Beach Hotel- Part One...

on Thursday, 02 July 2015.

As the bus pulled away from Levante Beach Hotel after our week long holiday to Rhodes, my eyes pricked with tears behind my sunglasses. Mainly I was feeling emotional because I just felt so thankful to have experienced such an incredible week with my little family, but there was also a part of me that felt truly sad and a little sentimental to be saying goodbye to such a special place. But all good stories start at the beginning...

Last year we were really lucky to have been chosen to be Mark Warner ambassadors. We chose Levante in Rhodes as our place to go and off we went last June for our first foreign sunshine holiday as a family. (Check out all our posts here)  It was truly amazing and we had the time of our lives, so much so that pretty much as soon as we got home we booked to go again. As our departure date approached, I must admit to starting to feel a little nervous. What if I had built it up so much that it wouldn't be as good as I remembered it? What if we didn't have as an amazing time as last year?

I can honestly say that I have never been to the same place twice. I love to travel, I love to experience new places, but however much we love a place we will usually try somewhere else, even if it's a different hotel in the same country. But there was just something about Levante last year- so many happy little pieces fitting together to make it a perfect family holiday. Perfect isn't a word I use lightly, but it's true. The place, the staff- both the local Greek staff and the Mark Warner crew, the Mark Warner ethos, the magic of it all just completely sucked us in. But it didn't necessarily mean that coming back would be the same...

The girls were really good on the flight out there and again it was a nice treat to fly with British Airways, who were a pleasure to fly with. On arrival at Levante Beach it all just slotted back into place straight away, it was great to know exactly what we were doing, where we were going and we were delighted to find they had put us in the exact same room. There was no awkwardness of trying to find our way, we were straight back into the same routine as last year. We also were thrilled to find that a lot of the staff were the same as last year, especially in childcare and they remembered us which was really nice. We had booked the girls into morning childcare sessions again, something which was all completely new to us last year, but actually made the holiday for us. To be able to have a bit of time, just for a couple of hours in the morning is just fantastic as it gave us some time to relax and to spend together. The childcare team are truly amazing and I really could talk about them all day, but instead here is the first part of the story of our holiday in many many photos...

 

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We arrived at Levante in the afternoon on the Saturday and headed down to the beach. (To collect stones obviously!)

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We had a little routine last year of going down to the beach after dinner and before the evening mini club. (MW offer a evening childcare service where you drop them off in their PJ's and they watch a film and then snuggle up in little beds and either go to sleep/chill out until you pick them up) We tried to do this again, but on a few of the nights it was quite windy (but still boiling hot) and so we decided to give the beach a miss. The girl's loved going down there when we did though.

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Waking up to this on our first morning certainly beat waking up to grey skies. 

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If you asked Mads what she remembered about her holiday last year she would always say 'pancakes, waffles and mini club'. As strange as it sounds we all remember the waffles so well! They are delicious and definitely a highlight of the breakfasts. We were pleased to see that the same Greek man was there making them each morning, he was really nice and welcoming. And we were even more pleased to see they were just as tasty as we reemembered. 

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On our first day I decided to go SUP, that's Stand Up Paddleboarding to you and I, on one of the organised group activities down on the waterfront. levante 2015 g

There are loads of activities- sailing, kayaking, tennis etc, you name it and all are included in the price of your holiday unless you want private tuition. 

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I suprised myself on actually being able to stand up quite well, but steering was a bit of an issue!

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Every afternoon was spent in one of the various pools, there are five in total. Then after a big swim the girl's would go down for a long nap which was fantastic as it gave us a chance to relax again. I love it when a holiday routine just seems to work really well.levante 2015 zu

Splash!

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So lucky to have this man in our lives. He is so good to us. 

 

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Looking very grown up. Of course Baa had to come everywhere with us as usual. For a split second as we boarded the plane to head to Rhodes I thought we had lost him in the airport. I was absolutely scared for a moment, she would be devastated if she lost it and so would I - he is definitely part of the family.

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This little lady loves the sand.

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My beautiful ladies. And that beautiful golden light which is by far my favourite thing to photograph. 

 

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I love this one. This girl made us the proudest on holiday. She was so confident going to mini club, she adored our afternoons of swimming and she just generally thrived on our holiday fun. Look at that happy smile!

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I absolutely love this photo of the three of us. We rarely get photos like this so I will treasure this one. I think it might be my new favourite. 

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Walking back to our hotel room. It's a shame the sun doesn't set over the sea in Levante, but we won't hold anything against it when it produces such a gorgeous light.

Here is the first of two little videos I have made of our holiday to Rhodes...

 

 

Part two of our holiday coming up soon..

 

 

 

NB: Mark Warner were really fantastic and gave us a discount off our holiday as we were their ambassadors last year, but they haven't asked me to write about our holiday, although of course I would have done anyway. (thank you MW!) They are also offering a discount to any of my readers who are interested in booking a holiday with them. It will run for two weeks and you need to quote KatieBlog50 when booking- the offer entitles you to a £50 discount per person excluding free child places. It can't be used in conjunction with any other offer and Mark Warner booking conditions apply. You can find out more about amazing Levante and their other properties here.  

 

Me and Mine: A Family Portrait Project 2015- June.

on Tuesday, 30 June 2015.

Yet again it's time for me to type those same old words that I say every single month, and that's that I truly can't believe how fast June has whizzed by. But it's true, just when we seem to have gotten over how fast the previous month has gone, the following one passes us by just as quickly. I know I sound like a broken record but it's scary how quickly the time seems to go. 

June has been a fantastic month, although I must admit that as I sit writing this post I do feel a little down in the dumps and I can't even blame it on the post holiday blues, although I am staring wistfully out my window wishing I was looking out at the blue crystal clear swimming pool of our hotel Levante. I have written before how I have a tendency to wear my heart on my sleeve and also get anxious quite easily, and for some reason since arriving home from our wonderful holiday to Rhodes I have been feeling a little on edge. Most of this stems from the fact that I, like so many others, am struggling to comprehend what has happened to innocent tourists in Tunisia, but it has been made worse by the fact that my little sister is in Tunisia at the moment and was there at the time of the attack. She is safe and well and will hopefully be on a flight today, but I keep watching the news and feeling so sad that our girls are growing up in a world where we can feel so unsafe. It makes me anxious, which I am sure it does to lots of others as well. Sometimes I just feel a little overwhelmed with the cruelness of it all.

Slightly negative thoughts aside, this month has been truly lovely. The weather has been a little hit and miss, but we have had some sunny days and enjoyed a trip to Legoland and a few picnics at home. I also had a weekend away in London for the Blogtacular conference which was lovely, and I really enjoyed some 'me time' with some great friends. We finally found out and confirmed Mads place at her new school for September, which is so exciting and I feel like we can now relax and enjoy the Summer together.

Just before we went to Rhodes, I also went for a brunch in London with the lovely ladies from Mark Warner and some other bloggers, and as the Brit Mums BIB awards were that evening I ended up staying which I wasn't going to do. I am glad I did because the travel blog I run with three other ladies 'Space In Your Case' won Best Travel Blog- I have never been so shocked when they called out our name. That was a truly lovely suprise just before our holiday.

Which brings me to the best part of June- our aforementioned holiday to Rhodes. It was incredible and we had the most amazing time together as a family. In fact it was so special that it almost seems like a distant dream that didn't happen, except for the fact that I have photos and videos to prove it really did. No doubt I will share them on here soon but in the meantime my 'Me and Mine' photos for the month were taken while we were away. For the first time ever I actually took our tripod with us on holiday, Mr E didn't look too impressed with me when I mentioned the idea, although not huge it's bulky enough to take up a bit of space in the case, but I am so glad we did end up taking it.

These photos were taken on the last night of our holiday. We had wanted to go down to the beach but it was really windy and we were worried about sand getting in our eyes and/or the camera, so we decided to sit down at this nice little spot just outside our hotel room. I really love these photos, firstly because of that gorgeous golden light I am obsessed with (again!), secondly because we look happy, and thirdly because I love that we will be able to treasure them forever and the memories that are now associated with them. Just ignore the fact that Mr E has a sore leg (he fell off his bike on a organised bike ride while on holiday and went into a tree- ouch!) and the fact that we both have really bad sunglasses marks. Panda eyes anyone!

It was such a special holiday and I am so glad that I took the tripod so we have some family photos of us while we are away. I am the luckiest girl in the whole world to have these three people to call my family. 

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This month I am sending you over to Fritha's blog- I am sure everyone knows her, but if not she has a gorgeous little boy Wilf and another little person on the way. She's a thoroughly lovely lady too! If you have a family photo to share be sure to link up below! :) 

 

 

{The Ordinary Moments 15} #26 'Home'...

on Sunday, 28 June 2015.

It's 9.30pm on Saturday evening and just ten minutes ago we walked through the door after eight nights away on holiday. The house feels a bit unknown and we don't yet feel comfortable and relaxed in our surroundings, it smells a little musty and looks a little dusty after being neglected for a week. The garden has overgrown in this humid weather the UK has been having and we have a big pile of unopened mail just lying on the floor of our hallway, brushed aside until we get a moment to open it. Our suitcases have been taken upstairs, but most definitely won't be tackled until the morning and we are all a little disorientated. LL is asleep in bed, having fallen asleep in the car on the way back from Heathrow, she woke up for a brief moment, brushed her teeth and then went happily to sleep in her bed, happy to be back with her Peppa books and other various furry friends. Mads is passed out on our bed, for the first time since she was a baby we had to carry her from the car to the house, where we didn't even attempt to get her in her PJ's.

We are home.

Just like that, it all seems like a distant memory. Our week of fun in the sun in Rhodes. It's back to reality, but luckily not with too much of a bang. Mr E has popped to Tescos to make us some fajitas and we have a whole host of TV to catch up on that we have missed. We are exhausted, albeit it not a long flight at just four hours, as any parent knows the travelling starts from the minute you get up in the morning to come home. It's been a very long day, with a transfer bus, an airport with it's immigration and waiting, a plane journey, another airport with it's immigration and waiting, another bus, before finally an hour and a half car journey home from the airport. Coming home, LL ran straight upstairs to her room to check it out and make sure all her toys were in place, a nice sense of familiarity and routine being set back in place. I probably shouldn't have written this, it feels strange getting the laptop out before I have even unpacked a single thing, but I want to get this post out the way so I can relax and enjoy my evening. I feel like I can't miss an Ordinary Moments post, however silly that sounds.

I haven't even really began to process our holiday to Levante in Rhodes yet, let alone even thought about writing it down. We went last year and it was just incredible, and if I am honest I was a little nervous that I had built it up so much that it wouldn't be quite as good as we expected or remembered. But it was. It was all that and more. It was a week of family time, of making memories and of being together. As we left the hotel this morning I felt tears pricking at the back of my eyes, a mixture of feeling incredibly thankful and lucky that were able to go on holiday together and sadness that it was all over so fast. And now as I sit here typing this on my purple rug in my living room, it feels like it was all just a wonderful dream. Tomorrow we wake up to a huge pile of washing, a ridiculous amount of unanswered emails, and a whole host of routines to get back into.

But with the happiest of memories to treasure forever.

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{The Ordinary Moments 15} #25 'Working Together'

on Sunday, 21 June 2015.

Two months ago we made a huge decision that would truly change our family dynamic. That decision was that my husband would give up his full time job and set up a business from home. A business that both of us would work on together. Sometimes I still can't believe it's actually happened, for us it really is living the dream, and I am so glad that we took a risk. It definitely isn't dramatic to say it's completely changed our lives.

It definitely wasn't a decision we made lightly. I have been working freelance on and off for about three years, but took the risk and ended up handing in my notice in my previous travel industry marketing job when LL was 11 months old, after deciding not to return after maternity leave. I have always been career orientated, having a great job before the girls, but for my previous role I had to go away a week of every month and that just wasn't right for me after having my babies. I've been properly working freelance for a year and a half now and it's the best thing I ever did. I work mainly managing social media clients, doing blogger outreach, writing and of course having the odd opportunity that this blog brings. Sometimes it can be scary not knowing what money I could be bringing in each month, but luckily I have some great long term clients now who I hope won't be going anywhere for a while. Mr E is a designer and had been working for a local company for a couple of years, with some freelance work on the side in the evenings, and for ages had been saying he would love to work for himself. However we just didn't dare take the risk, after all we really relied on his full time wage.

But then just before Christmas he got given the opportunity to do a short term freelance project on the side in the evenings and at the weekends. That freelance work went really well and the company he was doing it for offered him a full time six month contract. After much discussion we agreed that this seemed like the perfect opportunity to set up on our own as we had the security of six months worth of work and therefore six months worth of pennies coming in. And that's where we are now. We decided on a new business name, set up our company, and created a lovely, motivating little office space for ourselves.

Sometimes I still can't believe we are doing this. It sounds cheesy but I feel like I am utterly living our dream. I didn't know what it would be like at first having him at home constantly, but I genuinely couldn't be happier. In fact we have both commented that our relationship has actually got even stronger as a result of this change in our lives. We are joint parenting our girls, we get to be together so much as a family, and to put it quite simply my best friend is by my side non stop. We have settled into a routine that I work 'properly' on a Tuesday and Thursday when the girls are at nursery all day, but in reality I work a lot more than that in the evenings, nap times and whenever I can squeeze some more time in. If Mr E has got a lot done in a day, he will often finish at 3pm and let me do a couple of hours work for a while- and that's where it's just so fantastic and flexible.

Mr E has always been an incredibly hands on Dad- he gets the girls dressed in the mornings and gives them breakfast, and has done from Day One. Because he worked locally he was home for tea time and he plays a huge part in their lives, he has never been a parent who is frightened to have them on his own, he would have them for a week at a time if he needed to. He has also always been incredibly supportive of me and my work, and now it all seems to have just slotted into place. We both help each other, bounce ideas off each other, but most of all we have fun. There's nothing better than having a 'work mate' you can suddenly stop working and cuddle, or someone who can tell if you are having a bad day and will go and get some chocolate and a diet coke from the shop. We laugh all day long, it's never serious in our little office, and I genuinely do enjoy spending time with him.

Of course I wouldn't want to paint a picture that it's the perfect working life, because of course nothing is rarely perfect. At the moment he is still in this six month contract, but I am sure life will be a little bit more stressful when that ends. After all he will have to find new clients all the time, and we all know that isn't always the easiest when there is so much competition. When Mads was just a few months old Mr E got made redundant and it was such a scary time, I remember at one point crying my eyes out as we couldn't afford to pay our mortage one month. Luckily now we are comfortable, but I don't want it to be like that again. And yes of course we bicker, like most couples, although I wouldn't say working together has made us get sick of the sight of each other and argue more. But some days he can definitely drive me mad and I know he would say the same about me. I also massively struggle with a work/life balance, some weeks I am fine and feel like I switch off, but some weeks I struggle and am up till the early hours catching up, or just generally feeling stressed with what I have to do. I am not good when stressed and sometimes, especially when you factor in this blog and all I like doing for this, I just feel so worked up and on edge.

Above all though, it has been such an amazing time for our family and I couldn't be more thankful. I feel like the luckiest girl in the world to have him at home with me, and helping me raise our children so equally, but at the same time it isn't solely luck- all those years of 2am finishes, years of stressing about money, wondering how we were going to pay the bills, all those cancelled trips away because we had to work, and all those weekends where one of us went to a local hotel to work and missed out on family time have finally reaped rewards. It might not last forever, one day the money might not come in as regularly, and one or both of us may have to return to  other employment as opposed to working for ourselves, but for now I am going to treasure every single minute of having no boss, (Mr E if you are reading this you are not my boss like you like to pretend sometimes!) the fact that we can sneak off for a lunch together, have an impromptu day out as a family, and above all raise our little girls lovingly together.

It's been years and years of very hard work to get to this point, but for now I'm living my work dream. And actually I am living my life dream too.

It's not always perfect, most definitely not. But it's my perfectly imperfect life. And for that I couldn't be more thankful.

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I'm away this week and silly me forgot to ask my lovely friend Donna (hi Donna!) to host it as she usually does, but fear not, I will read the other ordinary moments when I am home!

Have a good week everyone! x

 

 

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