“Was this in the plan?” How often have you said that or something like it when life did not follow that path you expected when you were a child or young adult?
For a fair few years now that saying has meant something different to me and many bloggers. It is the title of an inspirational blog by the very lovely Steph Nimmo. I was very honoured when she kindly asked me to read and review her book of the same name.
When the book arrived, I hesitated to start it. I thought I already knew what it was about and certainly had an idea of how it would end. No rushing to the back page this time then, Kate!
Let’s put some context on this. I met the beautiful Hayley from DownsSideUp at a blogging event many years ago. We connected at a heartfelt level very quickly perhaps aided by a wine or two. It was Hayley who introduced me to Steph in an insistent way as if it was vital we met. My first impressions of Steph were that she was warm and friendly but also stunningly beautiful and well-groomed. Those impressions have stayed the same although of course I feel I know her a little better having read the book.
It seems to me that like myself and many of us Steph identified as a career girl and hard worker first and foremost. The along came a husband and children as they will. Steph’s last pregnancy was challenging and there was a sense that all was not quite well confirmed when her second daughter Daisy was born with multiple special needs.
There’s a fair amount of medical terminology in this book because there has to be. Steph and her husband Andy and their children entered that world where things are not quite clear, where decisions have to be made about procedures often quickly and where blue-lighting becomes a common feature of life.
I defy you not to fall a little in love with the family as you read. They are not saints. They are rocked many times by twists in the road. They are human and inspirational not by choice but by what life throws at them and how they handle it.
I was interested to learn how Steph sometimes finds the learning issues of her boys far more difficult to contend with that the huge physical issues experienced by Daisy. It was also so lovely how Steph realises that her other daughter had special needs of her own as the “normal” child in the family.
It was wonderful to see that Steph could draw on the support of family and friends. Thank goodness she had a support network already in place.
What came out very strongly was how many magical memories Steph creates with her family perhaps all too aware that life can be too short. There are three huge losses in this book the first being the loss of Steph’s Dad and that was the first point when I cried as it brought back memories of losing my own father.
So what do I take away from the book?
It has made me want to be more proactive about living fully with my children making memories. This was already important to me but it is so easy to have a lazy day when we should be actively relishing our family moments.
It has made me want to encourage Steph to write more as I feel she has other valuable lessons to share perhaps with the children involved in the new book/s if they were interested in doing that.
When my Mum died she said she was OK with dying as she had visited all the places she wanted to and done all the things she had hoped to. Very few of us can claim that but we can work proactively on making it happen and/or cherish the blessings that have come our way as Steph’s husband does.
I went to the bar the night after reading the book and “Starman” by David Bowie was played. There is more to this life (and the next) than we know. Read the book and you will know why I end my review with this.
Highly recommended and might just shake up your life a bit!
Britain is home to some of the most beautiful gardens – from The Alnwick Garden (including the Poison Garden) to the grounds of Kensington Palace. For this article, we’ve teamed up with Oldrids and Downtown, retailers of stunning conservatory furniture to highlight some of the most beautiful gardens in the country. We hope they will inspire you to inject something new to your outside space as the sunnier days arrive now that spring has sprung.
Kensington Palace Gardens
Whisk yourself off to the world of Neverland by visiting the incredible Kensington Palace Gardens, which was the key inspiration behind the famous children’s book series Peter Pan. This is such a magical garden and I have fond memories of walking around it with my brother on a very happy white Christmas many years ago.
As well as being home to some royals, the palace is world renowned for its spectacular garden space. The Sunken Garden will make for an intimate experience and allow you to develop your peace of mind during your stroll. It’s the very place where Prince Harry introduced the world to his bride-to-be this year.
The palace prides itself on its gardens, and keeps up with historic traditions when it comes to planting. In the spring, tulips, pansies and wallflowers bloom, whilst during summer, you will see geraniums, cannas and begonias pop out with colour. This is why it is great to visit at different times of year for a whole new experience each time.
Check out the marble Queen Victoria Statue that sits in the East entrance of Kensington Palace. Celebrate children in the Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground.
According to ALVA, Kensington Palace had a 4% increase in visits during 2016 — with 397,285 visits in total.
Biddulph Grange Garden
If you’re looking for a garden that will open your eyes to different cultures, a trip to Biddulph will do just this. The 15-acre land is split into different sections that represent different countries across the globe, with Chinese, Egyptian and multiple themes running throughout. It will give you a greater perspective to gardening features around the world. I love this idea and have yet to visit certain that my children and I would learn so much.
The Egyptian landscape includes towering square hedges and a grand temple protected by two pairs of sphinxes. The temple has detailed stonework with bright colours that accompany the golden yews that were planted within this area. A mysterious passageway that leads to the temple is lit by red lights and there’s also stained-glass window which allows you to see the detail of the monkey-god sculptures and more. If you can’t afford a trip to Egypt, this will give you a good feel for the country.
The beauty of The China Garden is that it brings the entire Chinese culture to one place. Using colour to its advantage, bright reds, yellows and greens are featured on all of the structures within the garden — from pond bridges to pagoda’s. The garden also includes a pagoda tree, paulownia tomentosa, azaleas, bamboos, hostas and more, as well as plants from Japan, Britain and America.
There is so much to see at the Biddulph Grange Garden, so remember to take your smartphone because there will be plenty of aesthetically pleasing photo opportunities! Your Instagram feed will rock after a visit to this special place.
The Alnwick Garden
Visiting The Alnwick Garden is like stepping into another world. Home to famous fountains, poison gardens and one of the biggest treehouses in the world — this place has it all. The 14-acre site has a history of plant growth, as the 3rd Duke of Northumberland brought seeds from all over the world to populate the garden with blooming flowers and generate a unique spark within the community. Now, the site has over 200 species of plants — including some which are deadly so watch out!
What makes this location different to any other on our list is that they have a Poison Garden. But the question is, are you brave enough to enter? Locked by cast-iron gates with skull plaques saying “These Plants Can Kill”, the garden includes strychnos nux-vomica, hemlock, Ricinus communis and more deadly plants. However, the garden stands for a much greater purpose as it aims to educate people on drugs by featuring cannabis, coca and papaver smniferum.
If you love an adventure, the treehouse that has been built from sustainable Canadian cedar, Scandinavian redwood as well as English and Scots pine is the place you should be going. The wobbly rope bridges will lead you to the treehouse café and restaurant, where trunks power through the flooring and make for a remarkable experience.
Carole Ann Rice has 30 years’ experience in PR, TV, radio and print media and is the author of two career-change books. Drawing on her own success, Carole Ann uses humour, compassion and inspiration to make the process easy and fun for her clients. So as Spring arrives, I am delighted to share my interview with her including some thoughts on why our New Year Resolutions might have gone a bit wrong.
Tell us a little about your childhood and teenage years.
I was brought up in a council house in Northolt, dad had served in the Navy in WW2 – we always had great music on, dad bought a record shop and we got out of housing estate hell. I was a punk in 1976 (one of first in West London) and I went to art college when I was 17.
What was your first job?
I have waitressed, done soul- annihilating administration work on industrial estates in Perivale, was an assistant puppeteer on a TV programme, had my own kid’s network cookery show in the 80s (2 series) which I produced and presented and have been a self-taught journalist for 30 years
What do you do now?
I am a life coach, columnist, author and I have a coaching academy where I train people to become world class life coaches
What would you say to someone who is despairing that they did not stick to their New Year resolutions?
It is still possible to make positive changes. When setting a goal, make it achievable, don’t set the bar too high, be realistic and take small steps. Consistency is key to success and be patient. Don’t expect overnight results.
What is visualisation and how can women harness it to improve their lives positively?
Having a clear idea of what you want is all. If you have clarity you don’t need therapy. Energy follows intention. Create a vision board or day dream regularly. Deep down we all know what we want but we don’t trust themselves.
What is peer support and how can it help women in their lives?
You need people who really “get” you. Find your tribe. Network or create online groups of likeminded people.
Who has supported you at your most challenging times?
Spring has officially arrived even if the weather needs to catch up. Dark days are going and sunshine is just around the corner. Spring is a time of new life so here is a quote to get us started.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive and go do it. Because what the world needs is more people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman
Now typically I would ask you to reflect on that quote but today I am actually asking you (and me) to get out of our heads and to really spring into action. Your challenge this week is to DO something and here are some ideas.
Make something you have never made before. It might be arts and craft, cookery, a vision board or something else entirely.
Share the results with us in words and/or pictures and I bet you learn something along the way too. If you are like me it will be something like you should have tried something simpler, followed instructions or made sure you had all the ingredients/tools for the job!
2. Style yourself for Spring. Inject a colour you would not usually wear. Do it your way and share a pic with us. Express yourself and all that!
“Life isn’t about finding yourself. It’s about creating yourself.” – George Bernard Shaw
3. Write a poem to celebrate the new season. Now who immediately thought “I can’t write poetry!” and such negative self-talk. You don’t know what you can do until you try!
“The heaviness of being successful was replaced by the lightness of being a beginner again, less sure about everything. It freed me to enter one of the most creative periods of my life.” Steve Jobs
We can all blossom with the support of Best Boot Forward so this week let’s take a leap into creativity and see where it takes us.
Don’t forget to join our fabulous Facebook Community too for every day conversation and support. In a nutshell, Best Boot Forward is all about making positive, achievable changes to our lives together, offering support to other women and having some fun along the way.
#BESTBOOTFORWARD LINKY RULES:
1. Link back to us! New badge coming soon but in the meantime a backlink to this post is super.
2. Please comment on this post and the one from Chloe over at Indigo Wilderness and at least one other. Obviously the more you comment, the better and it is a super way to get to know other people and to interest them in your blog.
3. Link up to 3 posts per week.
4. The linky is open for a week so there is plenty of time to link up, but the earlier you get in the more visitors you are likely to get.
At this time of year, it’s impossible to walk into a supermarket without being confronted by aisles full of chocolate Easter eggs. From tiny milk chocolate Easter eggs, all the way to large decadent dark chocolate eggs accompanied by melt-in-your-mouth truffles – hard to resist these delectable treats, even when you’re trying to be healthy.
But just where did chocolate eggs come from? And why are they associated with Easter? The puzzle has been solved – how egg-cellent!
Welcoming the Spring
It may surprise you, but the idea of Easter – in one form or another – has been around since the Medieval period. There’s references to Easter eggs in Anglo-Saxon culture, Persian society, and Pagan rituals.
Eggs have long been associated with spring, symbolising the transition from winter to summer. Anglo-Saxons celebrated the reawakening of nature, fertility and the goddess of spring (called Eostre), by burying eggs. Persians, on the other hand, displayed decorated eggs on Iranian New Year (known as Nowruz). While Pagans viewed celebrated the Sun God, representing new life – it’s believed Christianity absorbed this custom and the egg became a symbol of the resurrection.
It wasn’t until centuries later that eggs began being given as gifts and looked more like the Easter eggs that we’d recognise today.
As far back as 13th century England, people gave eggs as gifts to the church on Good Friday. Fast forward a few centuries and dyed eggs were frequently given as presents.
There were also more extravagant egg offerings. During Henry VIII’s reign, he was gifted a silver encased egg from the Vatican. While in the 19th century, Carl Fabergé designed his famous Fabergé eggs for the Russian Czar.
It wasn’t until the 17th and 18th centuries that the modern idea of the Easter egg arose. Crafted as toys and bought by the wealthy, eggs were filled with treats were gifted. But it was the Victorians who truly cemented the idea – those clever Victorians! They would fill an egg-shaped object with chocolates, paving the way for chocolate Easter eggs.
Delicious Chocolate Eggs
The very first chocolate Easter eggs were made in Germany in the early 18th century and became popular throughout Europe, spreading to France and the UK. Then, as family-time and traditions became more important, the Victorians embraced the chocolate egg, gifting them to children.
It wasn’t until after WWII and the end of rationing that chocolate Easter eggs really egg-sploded, and the market became saturated, creating the Easter tradition we all know and love, with brands like Thorntons producing millions of eggs every year.
And there you have it! Enjoy your delicious Easter treats!