I have always been so proud of the routine that we have in our home. I have always persevered to achieve the perfect bedtime routine. In bed by seven, in own bed, through the night!!!!! Dinner times have run like clockwork, again persevering with fussy eating phases so those tummies are full. I’ve always declared myself as firm but fair and I have needed the naughty step for those terrible two’s and threenager explosions. As much as I know that I am not a perfect mother, I try my best! I try my best to raise good people, so that they understand that life comes with its boundaries and rules and so that they can grow up happy and safe in their decision making.

Chasing Sunsets

I was twenty two years old when I had Noah and I was up against it. The judgement from people around me, from people expecting me to struggle and from the fear that I held inside, wondering if they would be right. So I tried very hard to be good at this, motherhood I mean. I tried really hard to get it right! I wanted to be a perfect mama to my little loves, have a wonderful relationship with them and for there to be so much love between us, it hurts!

I think I did get it right, thankfully! Noah, Ellenah and I are so close and we love each other very much, unconditionally. But I am certainly NOT perfect, no parent can be. Much like no person is.

Now that I am older, I have come to realise that striving for perfection is not at all important and within reason, neither is bedtime routines and meal times. Obviously, we want our children to get a good nights sleep. That is when they grow and heal! Obviously, we want our children to eat. That is how they will grow and develop with the right diet! Obviously we want our children to grow up understanding that there are boundaries and rules. This is how they will fit in to society, right?

Well, I have come to realise that I don’t simply want them to ‘fit in’ for the worlds approval. I want them to stand out for their own! I don’t want them to remember me when they are older and say ‘Mama always had us in bed by seven, dinner was always on time, Mama persevered a lot and now I really like peas!’… I don’t want them to say ‘Mama always had a plan, mama had all of the answers, mama was never wrong!’

I want them to grow up allowing little snippets of ‘perfect’ fall where they may. I want them to notice them, appreciate them but never expect them. I want them to ask questions, trust their instincts, know themselves well enough to know their own boundaries, I want them to express themselves in the way that they see fit and to understand that they are on their own journey… nobody else’s. I want them to strive for the highest expectations that they have set for themselves. I want them to figure out exactly what ‘success’ means to them, not everybody sees it the same way and I want them to know that, that is absolutely fine. I want them to stand up for what they believe in and of course I want them to know what matters to them but most importantly, why it does. I want them to be inspired, free and understanding and accepting to everything that the world would label ‘different’.

If they can do this is they grow, I trust that they will be good people.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a mad person. I will still advise a bedtime and encourage one more mouthful at dinner time because I am their mama and that comes from a place of nurture and love. But it’s so easy to forget that even though we are parents, we do not own our children. They are people in their own right and have to find their own way. They have every right to do this when they are small. It isn’t as simple as flipping a switch when they are eighteen years old and saying, ‘you’re grown now, what are you going to do with it?’… How scary does that sound? Almost as scary as hearing, ‘You know all of your life, we have been teaching you how to fit in, blend in…well actually, to get the career you want or the life you desire, you now need to learn to stand out, be unique, be a bit different! Good luck kid!’.

It is our job to raise them…YES! We should guide them, teach them about consequences sure…otherwise the world would be chaos… but we should believe in them more! Believe in who they are, what they are capable of. Believe in the innocence in their hearts (something we should all endeavour to learn from them really!) and believe that they have got the tools to just be who they are, and those people are going to be the natural and best versions of themselves. We don’t have the right to raise and define them around the people we want them to be, do we? Because we love them unconditionally!

And… I have to say, if we cared too much about bedtimes and routines all of the time. A few weeks ago when we stayed out pretty late, chasing the beauty of a sunset. Noah and Ellenah would never have seen how beautiful the sky could be that night. They would never have been searching for shells as the last of the sun beamed over their fresh little faces, looking around in awe of such an unforgettable night. They went to sleep really content that evening, I watched them for a while. I saw their little faces twitch every now and again when they were dreaming. The corner of Ellenah’s mouth kept twitching upwards in to dreamy smiles and before Noah rolled over to sleep, he said ‘I love the beach at night with you mama!’

Sunset From Whitstable, Kent

Sunset Chasing

And that is how I would want them to remember me!

With Love,




Sunday is my absolute favourite day of the whole week. There is something about waving off the week just past and the sense of new beginnings in the week ahead. It has its own scent, full of optimism but calm. If Sunday were a scented candle, it would be made up of Rosemary, Peppermint and a little Lavender… and it would be awesome!

A Beautiful Day With My Family

Sunday is family day. A day for adventuring, making memories, exploring and feeling free from the chaos of every day life. A day that we are more relaxed with routine and tend to wing it sometimes when it comes to parenting.

On Sunday 4th October, my little bunch and I headed out early, when the sun was shining brightly over our quiet market town. We went for a spot of breakfast. While we were there we pulled a plan together for the day ahead. Matt suggested ‘Shorne Woods Country Park’ which isn’t too far from us. I had never heard of it but considering it was a beautiful Autumn day, I didn’t need much convincing to spend some time roaming around outside.

Matt absolutely got it right. The country park is incredible to walk around and I was sold as soon as I came across the sensory garden. It was quiet and very pretty, even this time of year when natures colours darken to the reds, browns and yellowy greens. It felt like there was still so much life here. And most of it was still covered in a beautiful morning dew. It was just lovely to be a part of it.

Morning Dew

Feeling Posey

It was so lovely to come across some sculptures and art dotted around. It was good to have something unique to look at, marvel at really. I especially liked the spider one, I thought it was pretty amazing and I’m sure I read that it was by a local artist, although…don’t quote me on that! The children enjoyed looking at these too, especially Noah who really enjoys learning about art at school. It’s good to be able to get outside and for him to see something with his own eyes and to identify why it is art, a creation. And he could touch some. He could decide which materials were used and allow himself to be fascinated.

Sensory Park

My Beautiful Boy

Local Art


Ellenah enjoyed using these resources as part of her games and they fuelled her imagination to create many stories from our day out exploring.


There was a pretty epic park. Lots of wood and happy faces. The play area was big, not like some parks where you get the standard set of swings and a climbing frame. Here there were children frantically climbing, changing direction , swinging around like monkeys and really laughing. Our two were no exception! Although, they were ready to set off quite quickly once we told them that we were going off of the beaten track and we soon disappeared through t he trees.

Fun On The Swings

I Really Am Blessed

Eventually we came across some fishing lakes which looked so calming and peaceful. It was nice to see Dads fishing with their sons and making the most of a lovely day. Our little pickles threw in a few stones to make the water ripple. So, sorry to anyone trying to catch a fish in that moment… our stop there was very brief. Not only to stop them both ruining your fishing experience but I feared that if we didn’t move quickly, they were going to get in the water with them. It looked that lovely.

Beautiful Walks

Little legs grew quite tired then and bellies rumbled as we neared the end of our walk. So we sat on a little wooden bench just past the lakes and had a little rest. It was  a sun trap there so I let the sun beat down on me for five minutes as I watched the world go by. It was also the perfect place to set up a tripod and attempt some family photographs (because I never feel like I have enough!). But, It’s always the way isn’t it, the natural ones are always the best. I love this one below. I can imagine that when Ellenah is older, maybe with a daughter of her own.. .she might whip this picture out from a dusty old memory box and she might say ‘ Ah, this is me and my mama when I was a little girl!’…

Mama & Ellenah

And then there’s me and this one. It’s been a hard time of late. Growing up, being adults, being the best parents we can be and trying to stay on the same path has been really hard. It can be exhausting and sometimes painful but you know what they say ‘life’s problems wouldn’t be called hurdles if there wasn’t a way to get over them!’…

And because ‘every cloud has a silver lining’… lately, we have been busy making the most wonderful memories, for us and the children… and somewhere in between, we have been finding our way back to each other…

Just A Girl

With Love




Faversham Hop Festival is so special to me. I have grown up with it. It is a strong link to my childhood and many happy memories. Some of my earliest memories actually. I have a photograph of a young, blonde girl standing in the crowds of people singing, morris dancers jigging, stalls of wonder and joy. The girl was nervous to the core because she was holding a baby owl… that girl was me! I remember feeling so worried at the time, that it might not like me… it may fly away…scratch me even! I felt unnerved about many things back then- weary, unsure…shy! Thankfully the owl didn’t do any of those things, it was actually lovely. I remember treasuring that photograph for such a long time after that day, like it was a huge achievement, a reminder that I could be brave… And honestly, I have loved woodland creatures ever since.

A Little Ria (Aged 6)


Over the years, Faversham Hop Festival changed for me. It changed from a family day out where I could spend my pocket money, choose friendship bracelets and beads from the hippie stalls and somewhere that I would search out old, musty, second-hand books that I would escape in. A place that I would awkwardly bop along to the bands and tunes that would cascade over my oldie-worldie home town… somewhere that I would hold baby owls!


Cider Stall

Chutneys + Honey

It became one of the main social events of my year as I grew in to early adulthood. It was there that I bumped in to old friends who I hadn’t seen for ages, fell in love, danced with abandon, laughed until I couldn’t breathe, fell in love…again, discovered vodka, lemonade and lime (my tipple of choice to this day), wore flowers and hops in my hair, stumbled upon ‘Hop Fest After Hours’ when the crowds dispersed… Lock-ins were a must, flame and chain throwers hustled the stragglers gathered in the market place and conversations in to the night were had up on my old school bridge with someone special.

I’m sure grateful for that time, space and freedom to grow and learn. It has mattered somewhat, to the person who I have grown up to be.


Now it has changed again.

Maria Noell

This year, I was a mama in the midst of ‘The Hop Festival’ chaos. I went VERY easy on ‘The Tipple’, appreciated the stalls once again, spent time with friends and people I truly love… I bopped along to the bands and sang along a bit, wore hops in my hair and smiled…much!

Great Friends

Katie + Me

I felt balanced out. Like I was reliving a bit of every phase of growing up, with it ending up exactly as things should be.

Noey Bon Boey

I witnessed the festival secure a firm spot in the children’s hearts and memory banks, as they played hook the duck, adventured in the fun house and ate ice-creams. All while they listened to the tunes and bands cascade over their oldie worldie home town.

They will look back on photographs of themselves and these days…much like I do the one of me and my baby owl. Their faces so innocent, fresh and excited. Their big eyes taking in everything around them and living life without a care in the world in the world.

Els Bels

They may not remember how their soft, little hands clutched mine as we weaved through the crowds or how I smiled at them for smiling at life around them…or how I stroked Ellenah’s bright, blonde hair gently off of her face so that it wouldn’t end up in her ice-cream…or how the sun beamed over Noah’s smile as he flew into the air on the bungee trampoline… But I will! They are my memories, for my memory bank…and more that I will never forget.

Els & Daddy

Springy Noah

I cherish these memories. I flourished in these times of The Hop Festival and I enjoyed them fully for every reason they should be… for that reason, I would never trade in my here and now to do it all over again.

Back then it was exactly as it should be and it was preparing me for this version of my life. And, I wouldn’t change a single thing!


Originally Written On 08/10/2015

And… We survived another night… our final night to be exact!

And when we opened our eyes that morning, it was really sunny… frustratingly so! But, a lot can be said for some sunshine on such little time.

I woke up first and again looked upon my sleeping cherubs. They are so peaceful when they’re sleeping and so very beautiful…well, always really!

Not long after we woke up, all kinds of chaos was going on. With an exit time of 10am (otherwise known as ‘Early O’Clock’), we got ourselves ready and started throwing things in to the back of the car. Once again the beast was rammed of way too many things, although I have to say…not everything made it back home. R.I.P to our gazebo and tents. As much as they homed us in the storms and did an okay job (not the gazebo, that was totally rubbish)…they were incredibly battered by the end of it and honestly, they were NEVER going to see another camping trip again.

With 10am fast approaching, my sister checked our booking sheet to find that we were in fact running two hours early and didn’t really need to leave until 12pm… Nice One! Thankfully looks can’t kill and laughter fixes most things. On the bright side, we were ready, up and early to spend some more quality time with the family before we embarked on our looooong drive home.

So we said our ‘Be Back Soon’s’ to Longthorns Farm, the horse who eats elbows, the alpacas and the honesty shop… and made our way to my sisters lovely, big house again for yet more brews and to start…or attempt to start our goodbyes.

That didn’t last long until we thought ‘Sod it!’ and we made our way to Lulworth Cove instead, with my Nephew, Zack in tow.

It didn’t feel right to give kisses goodbye just yet. Our camping trip was drawing to an end too soon and a void was growing in the pit of my stomach. I’m lucky to live in the same town as the majority of my family and for that reason, it will never feel okay that some are missing and I can’t pop to their house to borrow a DVD, raid the biggest sisters wardrobe, tell her happy news to her face and let her supply me with wine, hugs and advice when I feel lost. I know that I miss something that I have never had. But, I miss it all the same… and I didn’t want to leave her there and drive away.

Anyway… Lulworth Cove!

Looking a little dishevelled but feeling zen

Lulworth Cove was kind of magnificent.

As we drove along the country roads, I was expecting a pretty, little bay where we could collect seashells (which we would later paint and put in mason jars!). As we came to the end of the windy country lanes and the road opened up to our destination… my jaw dropped and I felt a little in awe of this place. Actually, I felt just ‘little’ really! We parked our cars in a field that was overlooked by cliff tops and when I say it was breathtaking… I feel upset with myself that I can’t find a better word. The people walking to the top were tiny like ants and they followed each other in perfect formation. They were so high up, it was like looking at another world.

Lulworth Cove is incredibly quaint and pretty. There were lots of places to buy ice-creams and buckets and spades. There were idyllic little gardens along the way, lots of foliage and plenty of cute little windmills that caught my eye as well as the breeze.

I felt like I should be walking around barefoot, playing the banjo and singing songs to the passers by. I have always wished that I was a punk rocker with flowers in my hair. Maybe I belong there?!

As we all walked the paths together and the sunshine hit our faces, the salty sea air washed over us and we knew that we were close to something special. We could hear the water hit the shore. There was a calmness in the air and I suddenly realised that nobody was saying a single word to each other. I couldn’t remember the last time I heard ‘Voice’. I think we were all enjoying the peace…the silence… this new place that had welcomed us with open arms.

The word ‘beach’ doesn’t fit the rugged shores of Lulworth Cove. It felt like the immense, white hills and cliffs with their blankets of green, were protecting a precious secret. I don’t want to describe it as the same paradise as you probably would the picturesque beaches of The Caribbean. It would be an unnecessary comparison. It is up on a pedestal for every reason that The Caribbean isn’t. It is jagged and rough, untouched and un maintained but completely beautiful all the same and truly unique.

We walked along, looking for a place to stop and breathe. We practically climbed over the edges of rock and pebbles…and the wind blew us. we dispersed from each other. Some of us sat, closed our eyes and allowed the world to carry on elsewhere…without us for a while.

My Beautiful Free-Spirited Big Sister

The men amongst us threw stones… obviously! They had a pretty smashing time too.

The Fellow

My Gorgeous Nephew

I shimmied around, taking photographs of some of my nearest and dearest in such a stunning setting…making sure to document our beautiful memories.

My Beautiful Son

And every now and again, I would make sure that I was in some of them, ensuring that I too would be a part of this day.

My Boy & Me



It’s a rarity to get a photograph of this young man with a smile on his face. Okay, so we may have had to tickle one out of him but it’s so nice to see anyway. And that is what Auntie’s are for, right? Even though we are all looking a little dishevelled…this perfectly imperfect picture is going in a frame. I adore it.

Perfectly Imperfect

The children explored and did what little children do best…got extremely muddy and soggy. They wore smiles on their faces and danced with freedom. They don’t need much, children. Other than your time and love… pop them on a beach to roam and exercise their imaginations and they still wouldn’t want to leave at the end of the day.





This just felt like such a happy day and one I think that we will all remember for a long, long time.


Alas, our time in lovely Dorset had come to an end. We took a slow walk back to the car, making sure we absorbed everything that we could from this trip. I know that I stole a few glances at my Nephew, hoping to myself that he wouldn’t grow anymore and feeling proud of the person that he has become. Cheering him on in his life decisions and feeling excited for all of the adventures ahead of him. Knowing that it will be hard to leave because I will always wish that I didn’t have to. My little (actually not so little anymore) Zacky… I hope over the next bunch of years, we get to have more days like that one.

We drove Zack home to do the goodbye thing. The egg in my throat. The tears hiding behind my eyes. The hard bit. I bloody hate goodbyes.

When we got there, I sat on the front lawn with my niece, discussing her plans. I watched her talk about her dreams and I watched her smile and I saw the girl under the fabulous, crazy hair and bold lipstick. That girls doesn’t know how beautiful she is. She will. And when she does… she may even conquer the world. I’m excited to see her dreams unfold.

I suggested that maybe we shove the biggest sister in the boot of the car and take her back home… I was only half joking!

A point came I think, that it was now or never so we did the hugging thing and the goodbye kisses and it was hard and it hurt a bit.

And…then we hit the road.

And somewhere between Dorset and home, I realised… we didn’t collect a single shell (that we would later paint and put in mason jars!)



We won!

Sometime before 7am the following morning, I woke up. My eyes were squinting and I was unsure whether I wanted to look around or not. I’m not going to lie, I was a little afraid of the damage. Before I fully commited to opening my eyes, I was already dreading the hassle of finding a B&B or locating a new tent, one that would hold up against the wind and rain, one that would keep us dry and from sleeping on the grass with the stars shining down on us through the night sky.

Still squinting, I touched my pyjama top, sleeping bag and blankets to ease myself in to the damage. I was expecting little puddles of rain or at least some heavy morning dew. I reached out, expecting to feel the cool morning air, result of our tent ripping in the night and leaving us exposed…but…well, nothing!.

I pinged my eyes open to find the tent exactly as I had left it when my eyes eventually closed the night before from pure fatigue… or should I say, at some point in the early hours of the morning. I couldn’t tell you the exact time that I fell asleep, I was quite delirious by that point.


I looked around at my sleeping babes, looking so peaceful! I snuggled back down in to the covers and watched the wind soar through the over sheet and I flinched as the sharp glimpses of the morning sun burned through the mesh, in to my sleepy, fragile eyes. Aside from the sound of the wind, it was so quiet. I could really hear myself think…which is something that rarely happens. I’m not going to say that the night was easy, it was really loud and I’m pretty sure I only half slept. Especially as when I finally got to a place where I could dream, I dreamt of the tent flying all around the field with all of us in it. That dream was short and then I spent, what felt like the rest of the darkness checking the children to make sure they were okay. They were. They didn’t hear a single breeze. Oh, to be a kid again!

Before long, we were springing up like daisies and eager to start our day. I love the atmosphere when camping, especially in the morning. Everybody walks around in their pyjamas, fresh faced with content smiles. Everybody sys ‘Hello’ and ‘Good Morning’ and it makes me happy. The smell of fried breakfasts and coffee fills the air and you see families scurrying around with wash bags to cleanse themselves of sleeping on the ground, it doesn’t leave you feeling so fresh when you wake up, that’s for sure! The sound of children laughing and playing drifts over the fields and on the coolest morning, it warms you up inside.

On this particular morning, not long after 7am, I peeled myself from the tent. I inspected the tent which had significantly lost its shape in the night…but, it really could have been worse. My sister’s tent had completely collapsed at the front and even she felt grateful of that being the only damage. These little hiccups weren’t going to ruin our day… and neither was the incredibly gloomy cloud that was situated right above us.

I was on beans duty.

Pans bashed around and breakfast was served. We pretty much ate like savages with plates on our laps or leaning in to our hips whilst standing and holding a plate in one hand. The children ran around and kept popping back to camp for berries and sips of their smoothies. Is is okay that I could live like that? I would go as far to say that I would want to live like that…Except for maybe in winter… I hate feeling cold!

Anyway, we eventually pulled ourselves together and headed out. Our campsite was located right next to Monkey World so it would have been so very rude not to go in and look at the monkeys. We met up with the biggest sister and her bunch and went in for a few hours.

Nicola, Gems and Me x

The Biggest Sister

The O'Briens

It was fab! Honestly such a great day…busy but great! There was so many monkeys to stare at (for way longer than socially acceptable really!) and a fair few play parks dotted around for the little ones to burn off some energy. The sunshine came out on a fair few occasions too and we felt quite lucky.



Nicola & Ellenah xoxo



Family Camping Fun

Els xoxo

The Men xoxo

My Noah xoxo

After a late lunch in one of the cafes, We all took a stroll back to camp. I immediately changed in to my camping gear, warm and cosy and we warmed up some water for a brew. I have to mention the cute little shop on site which my sisters and I hit to get an abundance of cake and biscuits for everyone #campingessentials

And, I have to mention the honesty shop that is available when the shop is closed. It is a little wooden cart with some essentials- butter, shampoo…cake, that kind of thing. There are prices attached and little pots for people to pop their pennies in to so that they don’t get stuck. Just how lovely is that? If only the normal world could be a little more like that! Proud of community, trusting and honest. I was perfectly happy to add my pennies to the pot when we ran out of water and butter that night. It made my heart feel good.

So, after a few giggles, conversations and a random exercise session around camp, we said our ‘See You Tomorrow’s!’ again and the biggest sister set off.

We pulled together to whip up an evening meal- quinoa, vegetables, prawns, mackerel, sausages…It was all going on! There was something for everyone to eat! We filled our tummies, this time in a more civilised manner than the carnage of breakfast time. Then we marched our way across the field to meet up with two lovely girls who worked the farm and we went for a little walk with a little group of alpacas… (p.s. I sadly didn’t get any photographs of this but to see the little cuties in action, check out my YouTube Vlog of our trip HERE!) Mine was called Barny. Barny liked to race the others. Barny was quite strong. Barny liked to nudge me when he wasn’t getting his own way and Barny seemed to have enough of walking up and down the same road every day. I could sense that Barny had a zest for adventure. I can’t lie, I think Barny may have looked down on me a little for calling him ‘Bernie’ for the whole walk until I was corrected at the end of it. Noah had one called Elvis and my Sister’s one only like to eat from a certain patch of grass. Alpacas sure are funny little things but I really enjoyed spending some time with them. It was such a nice little touch to our camping experience.

And the rest of our night went something like this…

Fires, blankets, stars, tired eyes, conversation, peace, family, wondering what tonight would throw at us and tomorrow would bring… goodnights and sleep tights.

To Be Continued…


Originally Written On 10/09/2015