Literature and laundry at the Lakes

After our delightful stop in Wales, we next headed to the Lakes District. I had only booked two nights here, and mainly as a stop to break up the journey to Skye, with the added bonus of seeing Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm. In hindsight, however, I should have booked another night – especially as I lost half a day to getting laundry done! I loved the Lakes, actually more than the Cotswolds, which really surprised me. The scenery is stunning of course, and Lake Windermere is beautiful, and the little town that winds along the lakes is full of interesting and quaint shops filled with eclectic arts, food and memorabilia. Here’s what we loved about our short stay.

Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm

I had looked forward to visiting Beatrix Potter’s home since planning the trip a year ago, and it was so wonderful to finally be here. The scenery of Near Sawrey is just so pretty:

Surrounded by scenery like this, it's not hard to see why Beatrix Potter was inspired to write Peter Rabbit.
Surrounded by scenery like this, it’s not hard to see why Beatrix Potter was inspired to write Peter Rabbit.

And Hill Top Farm is gorgeous.

The front door to Hill Top Farm.
The front door to Hill Top Farm.
Beatrix Potter's garden, which I just loved. Rambling and overgrown, this is my perfect kind of garden.
Beatrix Potter’s garden, which I just loved. Rambling and overgrown, this is my perfect kind of garden.

It was so delightful to walk through the house and see many rooms and scenes which have been recreated in her stories. The house has been maintained exactly as she left it, and so you are able to get a real sense of Beatrix Potter as you walk through.

Beatrix's writing desk.
Beatrix’s writing desk.

Lake Windermere

After defeating the piles of laundry, we headed down to Lake Windermere for a stroll and a swim. After pottering about in the town, the kids were dying to find somewhere they could cool off (it was actually quite hot!) Despite the pebbly riverbed, they really enjoyed themselves.

As the kids were swimming a family of Swans floated by!
As the kids were swimming a family of Swans floated by!
Little Miss cooling off.
Little Miss cooling off.

And after that our time in the Lakes was done! It really was too short, and next time I’ll be definitely staying longer.

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Enjoying Koh Lipe with kids

Sometimes when travelling, the anticipation of a place can be more rewarding than the destination itself – I remember as a kid I was really excited about seeing a black sand beach, only to be pretty disappointed when I actually got to see one. A friend of mine had the same reaction upon finally viewing Stonehenge – she didn’t realise it would be next to a highway, and so protected it couldn’t really be enjoyed. Sometimes the reality doesn’t live up to the postcards, or the hype. I had a lot of hype in my head about Koh Lipe. One of my favourite things to do is research beautiful islands to visit, and Koh Lipe trumps many of those “Top 10” lists you find on the internet. When I realized how easy it was to get to from Langkawi (a short ferry ride away) I was really excited, but couldn’t help wonder – would it really be as beautiful as those possibly photo-shopped pictures on the internet?

The answer, my friends, is yes. Koh Lipe is EXACTLY how it looks in the pictures. Here are some of my snaps (completely untouched!)

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The two orange spots in the water are Souljourneyboy and Bookworm snorkelling, while Little Miss and Picasso built sandcastles on the shore. Here’s a couple more:

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It is basically paradise on earth. Powder-white beaches, and the clearest water I’ve ever seen, rivalled only by the Whitsundays – that stunning, breathtaking turquoise. My only regret was that we came for just three days – next time we visit Koh Lipe we will make sure we stay for at least a week. Here are some things we enjoyed:

Pattaya Beach

The main stretch of beach, lined with most of the island’s resorts, bungalows, cafes and bars . The beach is beautiful, and the vibe is just so wonderfully chilled. There are fancy resorts, but there are charming little bars with bean bags and sofas stretching out onto the beach, and in the evenings, there’s music and people milling around and sandcastles with candles and fire dancing and its just fantastic.

Walking street

There aren’t very many streets on Koh Lipe, and Walking Street is the main stretch of concrete road bordered by little shops, cafes, restaurants, massage lounges, juice bars and tourist spots. Little Miss got her hair braided, island-style, and we spent each night exploring. Lots of fun.

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Sita Resort

We stayed at the Sita, which fronts directly into Pattaya Beach. With lovely rooms, a decent breakfast buffet and two pools, we loved it here. We lazed by the pool reading, then swam when we got too hot, then ordered freshly squeezed juice, then walked five metres to swim in the sea, and then did it all over again. It was also in a nice spot for a family– close to Walking Street, but far enough away from bars and restaurants so the rooms were very peaceful at night. And we met a lovely Australian couple here too! I do love that I have met so many great people on our trip.

Sunset Beach

We found this delightful cove hidden behind the Sit Resort and spent the day here. You can snorkel about 1 metre into the ocean, the water is just that pristine. Bookworm and Souljourneyboy snorkeled for hours. It was practically deserted – nothing here except a few tents, and a cute shack that doubles as a cocktail bar/café. It was fabulous.

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The cocktail bar on Sunset Beach. You can order food too – they jump on their motorbike, head over to Walking Street an buy whatever thou want, then deliver it back here. What else could anyone want?

Koh Lipe is definitely a place I will visit again. It’s obviously a tourist island, but not dominated by huge, characterless all-inclusive resorts – its beauty is as yet unspoiled by overdevelopment. I hope this lasts. Apparently the military coup that happened in Thailand last year resulted in the new government cracking down on hawkers approaching sunbathers, and hotels scattering sunbeds all over their beachfronts to claim them as “private”. I was glad of both. Part of me worries what the former hawkers are now doing for money (although there seemed to be five people employed to do one job in the Immigration Office, so maybe they’re all working there), but after Vietnam it was nice to just enjoy the beach without being asked to buy things every five minutes. And I liked that the beaches are being kept clear of the hotel sunbeds – these beautiful beaches should be public, not just for guests of specific hotels . All in all, Koh Lipe really is the perfect place to chill out. We cannot wait to go there again – and the kids have made me promise we’ll stay at least one week 🙂

 

Why I will take my daughter shopping

There’s been a raft of blog posts lately about bringing up girls (and boys) in an overtly sexualised society where the “porn pop star” reigns supreme. I am totally on board with all these concerns – which is why I don’t let my kids watch music videos or sexualised shows like “Big Bang Theory” or “How I Met Your Mother”. It’s why I closely monitor what’s on the radio when my kids are in the car and why they will not have a Facebook account until they’re at least 13 – and then both myself and Souljourneyboy  will be their Facebook friends/stalkers 🙂

However I read one such post recently and it kind of bugged me. This mother was saying she would never take her daughter shopping for a “girly day” or ever comment on what she wears because it sends the wrong message.

I understood where she was coming from, but I found that I just couldn’t agree. I wondered if it was because I actually like shopping and I have many great memories of going shopping with my Mum when I was young where we just had the best time. Then I worried it was because I am actually addicted to consumerism and am betraying the feminist sisterhood with my illicit love for fun jewellery and pretty scarves.

But today, I realised what it was that I couldn’t agree with. This moment of clarity came about because Souljourneyboy has taken Bookworm and Picasso away on a CEBS camp for the weekend and Little Miss and I are getting to spend lots of time together. We have both been very excited by the idea of “just the girls” for a few weeks now, and so today after the boys had left early, we went out for breakfast and then hit the shops for a few things we need before our trip to Hamilton Island. We gathered up some things to try on and headed for the change rooms, where we tried on – swimming costumes. Yes, the most hateful of all the shopping expeditions for women, particularly after you’ve had multiple children and are staring at the downhill run to your 40th birthday.

But right there in front of those dreadfully large multiple mirrors, I realised why this was actually a really important moment for us. Because I tried on swimmers in front of my daughter, and I didn’t mention my stretch marks or my cellulite. We talked about spots and stripes and what colours we liked. She didn’t catch me staring mournfully at my once-trim waist or wondering aloud if one style made me look fatter than another. I didn’t mention the fact that I’d just eaten pancakes and was possibly now regretting the calorie overload. We decided we liked pink and black, and we had fun looking forward to our holiday and all the swimming and snorkelling we will do in our snazzy new costumes. And I told her she was beautiful.

So, that’s why I will take my daughter shopping. Because I want her to know that she doesn’t need to be worried about what she sees in the mirror. As the most significant female role model in her life, I want to set a benchmark for her that says bodies aren’t perfect and that it doesn’t matter. I want her to spend more time thinking about the fun she will have in her clothes than the clothes themselves. And I want her to know she’s beautiful, because I don’t want a 17-year-old boy to be the first person to ever tell her that. But I want her to know that it’s just not the most important thing. The fact is that our daughters will go shopping, and watch Video Hits and have Facebook accounts eventually. I hope to be on this journey with my Little Miss as she grows, and help her make smart choices that lead to her becoming a wonderful woman.

 

Fun in the sun

So I’m back!

I have been on a technology hiatus for the last week and a half as we went camping at the beach with wonderful friends, and there was no phone or internet reception to speak of. It was lovely to completely unplug for a while, and with 11 kids between us, we all had such a fun time. I thought I’d share…

The highlights

  • Amazing friends. Sitting around chatting, eating and playing board games into the wee sma’s once the kids are asleep makes you remember what life was like before you had them.
  • That deliciously exhausted feeling you get when you’ve divided your time between the beach, pool and park in one day.
  • Really good fish and chips.
  • Being surprised by my children – in particular, Little Miss’s determination. While she loves the water, up until now she has needed a back bubble in the pool. On the first day at the campsite pool, she was perturbed to see that none of the older kids were using back bubbles anymore.  Her solution? Well, learn to swim, of course. Within 2 hours she could dog paddle and dive, and after a few days she was swimming from one side of the pool to the other, sitting on the bottom, and learning backstroke. Amazing that a bit of self motivation could achieve what thousands of swimming lessons could not.
  • Coming home to a tidy linen closet after my Mum took pity on me and rearranged it while we were gone. Just wonderful!

And of course I should also share…

The lowlights

  • Finding a dead mouse in the washing up bucket.  It must have drowned overnight and Souljourneyboy accidentally grabbed it the next day as he was washing up the breakfast things. He said it was squishy. Gross.
  • The fact my healthy eating plan completely flew out the window by the time we were about five minutes into the holiday. I fear it’s celery sticks and rice crackers for me for a few weeks.
  • Putting sleeping bags back in their little drawstring bags. There is always just so much sleeping bag, and just a little itty bit of drawstring bag.

Aren’t holidays wonderful??? I always come back from beach camping trips convinced I should move to a small coastal community and take up subsistence farming.

Hope you are enjoying a break too 🙂