The World According to Izzie

Mum of twin daughters - nothing else scares me

Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Majorelle Gardens

Back in the summer of 2013, we travelled to Morocco for a family holiday. During our time here, we visited the Majorelle Gardens - to this day it's number one on my list of things to see in Marrakech.

Located in the Gueliz district, the Majorelle Gardens offer peace and tranqulity amidst the hubbub of this vibrant city. When the souks and the crowds and the dust overwhelm you - find a little solitude in this serene garden away from the chaos. Surrounded by high earthen walls - the gardens are a majestic labyrinth of pools, architectural-inspired planting and shady spots to relax and unwind in the all-encompassing heat. 

Reflections in a pool
Originally laid out by the artist, Jacques Majorelle when Morocco was still a French colony, the gardens took over forty years to create. During this time, Majorelle continued to add new varieties of plants from all five continents to create a 'cathedral of shapes and colours.' He was forced to open the gardens to the public in 1947 due to spiralling costs.

Following the death of Majorelle in 1962, the gardens remained open to the public but fell into disrepair. Purchased by Yves Saint Laurent and Pierre Bergé in 1980, the gardens were saved from becoming a hotel complex and fully restored respecting Majorelle's original vision. 

The gardens feature a bamboo forest, Mediterranean oasis and a cactus garden.

The cobalt (Majorelle) blue and vibrant yellow buildings provide the perfect backdrop to the lush green of the gardens.

We stopped at the Café Bousafsaf to replenish much-needed water supplies. Sadly, it was too expensive to warrant further purchases, I have a suspicion that everyone else was thinking the same as the place was deserted.

We loved the striking combination of blue, yellow and orange pots along the walkway.

Here, you'll also find the Galerie Love - a collection of posters designed by Yves Saint Laurent. Starting in the 1970s, these were sent as New Year greetings to friends and clients.

Following his death  in 2008, Yves Saint Laurent's ashes were sprinkled in the rose garden of the Villa Oasis and a memorial built in the Majorelle Gardens.

If you're ever in Marrakech and thinking of paying a visit, I'd recommend going early in the morning or late afternoon as it's a popular tourist haunt and can become crowded.

My daughters making the most of the shade

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton
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Sunday, 12 April 2015

Wine Tasting for Beginners...

Back in February I was lucky enough to win six bottles of Furlan Prosecco from Just Perfect Wines in association with Glass of Bubbly magazine.

I promised to share the wine with my daughters and managed to leave five bottles abandoned in the wine rack for a number of weeks while I eagerly awaited their return from university. For those of you who are astute, you'll have noticed I said five and not six - I may have consumed a bottle on my birthday and not felt bad about it. Life at home with grown-up daughters who are partial to the odd glass bottle of wine can be infuriating as it means that the wine rack is emptied in no time at all.

I'm not going to pretend that I know a lot about wine. During the past few years I've developed a preference for Prosecco over Champagne as I find it a cheaper and lighter alternative. I usually buy a bottle (or two) if there's anything to celebrate and it's interesting that sales of Prosecco have overtaken Champagne since 2013.

My only experience of actual wine tasting was a Twitter party with Mumsnet in association with Knackered Mother's Wine Club and a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet. Obviously breaking the first rule of Twitter, 'Don't Tweet after wine.' Somehow amidst the chaos I managed to find the only other Picpoul drinker and between us we came up with similar tasting notes - hints of lemon and rather delicious if memory serves.

Although I wasn't asked to write a post about my prize - I thought it would be a nice gesture as a) I absolutely love wine and b) isn't blogging all about sharing what you love?

I received two bottles of each of the following wines - which gave the three of us the perfect opportunity to celebrate over the Easter holidays.

The Furlan Winery
Founded in 1930 by Nonno Amado. Today, it's run by Nonno's grandchildren: Amedeo, Alberto and Moreno and is a modern and innovative winery producing a range of wines with a unique flavour and fine aroma.

1. Furlan Prosecco Conegliano Valdobbiadene D.O.C.G Superiore Millesimato Extra Dry - 2013 (11.5%)
Made from 85% Glera (Prosecco grape) and 15% Chardonnay, the Millesimato is pale straw in colour and is fresh and crisp with hints of green apple.

2. Furlan Conegliano Valdobbiane D.O.C.G Prosecco Frizzante Extra Dry - 2013 (11%)
Made from 100% Glera grapes, the Frizzante is aromatic and fruity with hints of green apple and scents of acacia blossom and wisteria.

3.Furlan Spumante Rosé - 2013 (12%)
Despite being made with 70% Glera, 27% Menzoni Bianco and 3% Cabernet Sauvignon (for colour), Prosecco is made from a white grape and current Italian law will not allow a Prosecco blend of the two colours of grape - hence this cannot technically be called Prosecco. Pale salmon pink with hints of fresh strawberries - this was my favourite out of the three.

Huge thanks to Just Perfect Wines and Glass of Bubbly for the fabulous prize. The wine carrier is going to come in useful to replenish the wine rack now that the girls have returned to uni.

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton
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Thursday, 9 April 2015

Six Lessons I've Learnt After Two Years of Blogging...

I've been blogging for a little over two years now. My first post went live on 5th January 2013 just days after leaving my job in the NHS where I'd worked for the past 26 years. I'd written for a couple of blogging sites prior to this - but never been brave enough to have my own domain name until last year.

This is what I've learnt so far...

1. There's no place I'd rather be
I'm so happy I decided to start blogging as it's given me more confidence as well as some great opportunities. Most of the time I'm astounded by how much talent there is out there in the blogging world and how kind and generous fellow bloggers can be. If you're thinking about starting a blog, I'd definitely recommend it.

2.Your blog is your space on the Internet
Write about issues that are important to you and remember to be yourself. Not everyone will appreciate your unique view of the world - we're all different after all. And it's OK to say, 'No,' to a sponsored post or review that doesn't feel right. A short, but polite email to the PR company concerned will leave the door open for potential opportunities that might work for you at a later date.

3. Blogging is a journey
I may have been blogging for a couple of years, but I still have a lot to learn. The blogging world is constantly changing and that means you have to change too. There's a wealth of information on the Internet about almost anything you need to know, but I suspect I've mostly made it up as I've gone along. I know I've made a few mistakes along the way. Whenever you need help there's always someone out there who's willing to offer advice. Some things (for me) are never going to be easy - like changing the design of a blog!

(Image: Pixabay)
4. Photography
Blogging is all about the writing and that's the most important part of all. However I think the reader can become a little intimidated by vast amounts of text with nothing to capture their imagination in-between. I try to have at least one photo in every post - sometimes I go a little crazy and add as many as fifteen. If you're not a fan of taking pictures or don't have anything relevant, there are some fabulous websites with free stock photos. One of my favourites is Pixabay.

5. Promote on social media
You may have written a post you're desperate to share with your readers, but how are they going to find it exactly? From experience - I've learnt that it's essential to promote posts on social media in addition to hitting the publish button. There's a knack to doing this in moderation however. It's also important to interact with fellow bloggers by leaving comments on their blogs and sharing any posts that inspire you. And, if you join in with linkies - remember to share the love by commenting on several posts.

I may have saved the most important tip of all for last...

6. Time away from the laptop is always time well spent
It's easy to spend all day creating content for your blog and replying to emails, but it's also important to interact in the real world as that's where most of the inspiration for great content will come from. If you're feeling a bit meh about blogging, there's nothing more inspiring than taking a couple of days away from the laptop to recharge, come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes and hopefully, some fabulous new ideas for posts.

So there you have it, those are my thoughts after two years of blogging. I'd love to hear any tips you've learnt along the way.

Until next time...

 Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton
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Monday, 6 April 2015

The Top Three Travel Bucket List

For those of you who are regular readers of my blog, you'll know that I love travelling. So, when I spotted the chance to win a trip to see the Northern Lights over at Transun, I was inspired to have a go.

My Top Three Travel Destinations are...

Route 66
I've been lucky enough to visit the US on several occasions, but the trip that's eluded me so far is Route 66. How awesome would it be to ride on the back of a Harley Davidson for over 2200 miles? I've never ridden a motorbike before - but the chance to ride from Chicago to Santa Monica on open roads is most definitely at the top of my list. Note to self: book a few lessons with a qualified instructor before even thinking about booking this trip.

 Harley Davidson - Sportster (Image: Pixabay)

Desert Road - Route 66 (Image: Pixabay)

I'd plan on taking in the kitsch roadside museums, the majestic landscapes that define the American West, the ghost town of Calico and maybe take a slight detour to see the Grand Canyon before journey's end on the beach in Santa Monica. I have a sneaky suspicion that my hair would be the wildest it's ever been, but I'm certain that the trip would be filled with a sense of freedom and nostalgia.

Calico - Route 66 (Image: Pixabay)

General Store, Arizona (Image: Pixabay)
Santa Monica - Route 66 (Image: Pixabay)

For a holiday filled with unspoilt and natural beauty, my second choice would be Norway. I'm a huge fan of the great outdoors and I'd want to experience the awe-inspiring Fjords and gaze upon nature's own spectacular light show - the Northern Lights.

Voss, Norway (Image: Pixabay)

Northern Lights (Image: Pixabay)

I'd love to try a sled ride with huskies as this would be a new and exhilarating experience. And, as the opportunity to see some of the largest marine mammals isn't something I've ever had the chance to do previously, a whale watching trip would be high on my itinerary.

Husky Sled (Image: Pixabay)

Humpback Whale (Image: Pixabay)

 Finally, as I like to cram as much variety as possible into any holiday - I'd love the opportunity to visit Oslo and enjoy the world-class museums and galleries.

Oslo (Image: Pixabay)

New Zealand
My parents considered emigrating to Auckland back in the 1960s and I've always wondered how life might have turned out if I'd grown up there. I'd love to take a tour of the North Island all the way from Auckland to Wellington. Along the way I'd stop at Cathedral Cove Marine Reserve for a spot of snorkelling and enjoy the reef systems and diverse marine life.

Auckland Skyline (Image: Pixabay)

Cathedral Cove (Image: Pixabay)

I'd also visit Rotorua - a volcanic wonderland featuring extraordinary landscapes and geothermal attractions - each with their own unique features. And, as no trip would be complete without a little bit of adrenaline, I'd book a trip on the Hukafalls Jet to experience the exhilaration of an 80 km/ hour ride on the white water of Huka Falls. Finally, I'd head to Wellington and make the most of the vibrant culture before heading home.

Rotorua, Geyser (Image: Pixabay)

Hukafalls Jet Boat (Image: Pixabay)

Wellington (Image: Pixabay)
So, there you have it - my top three travel bucket destinations. What would be your top three destinations?

To enter all you have to do is:

1. Write a blog post about your top three travel bucket list destinations and explain why you'd like to visit them.

2. Tweet your blog post to @Transun using the hashtag #TransunLights

The competition closes on 30th April 2015 at 23:59 so don't forget to Tweet your entry before then.

Good luck everyone x

Until next time...

 Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton
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Friday, 3 April 2015

How I met my husband

A few weeks ago I found myself chatting to a friend who belongs to an online dating site. She was deliberating whether (or not) to go on a date with someone she wasn't convinced would be a good match and after listening to what she had to say about him, I was also sceptical. She's so lovely and deserves to be happy - so why is it that she can't seem to find - The One?

Along with a mutual friend, we've offered to personally vet anyone she's thinking of dating. I like to think that between us we could weed out the needy, the judgemental, the troublesome, the ones who never grew up - and find someone who's perfect for our friend.

I cast my mind back 26 years and realised that dating today is not what it used to be. I met Mr A on a blind date; only he wasn't supposed to be my date - he was what can only be described as a gooseberry. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term, its definition is: a third person in the company of two people, often on a date.

Incredibly, Mr A and my actual date shared the same first name and thought it hilarious to not share this information with me. It was an interesting evening and certainly one of the most perplexing dates I've ever been on. Mr A drove me home afterwards, and the following day we bumped into one another in town. Was it fate? I like to think so. The rest, as they say, is history.

I think I'd be pretty rubbish at dating now to be honest. After 22 years of marriage Mr A and myself get along pretty well most of the time. We trust one another implicitly, have learnt how to diffuse difficult situations and share a similar outlook on life.

The other evening, after a bottle of wine we were discussing the merits of trading one another in for a younger model. I like to think this is a reflection of how comfortable we are talking about absolutely anything after so many years together - rather than an open invitation.

After much deliberation, we concluded that a younger model would be very hard work indeed and weren't convinced we'd ever want to go back to those early love-struck days of a relationship. It was fun while it lasted, but 26 years on, I don't think I'd have the stamina, or the patience to get used to a new partner's irritating habits. And I wouldn't want to feel bad about nodding off on the sofa by 10 pm. Mr A went on to list each and every one of my annoying habits and I may have threatened to set the cat on him (she was sleeping peacefully at the time). And so, we decided that we'd rather stay with the devil we know. Neither of us fancies our chances at online dating, but I'm eternally optimistic for my friend.

So, how did you meet your partner? I'd love to hear about it...

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Monday, 30 March 2015

The Big 5: Life Lessons

I may have had a bit of a giggle when I was tagged by Anya from Older Single Mum for a meme on life lessons we'd like to pass on to our children. Anya's one of my favourite bloggers and obviously I was flattered that she thinks I'm wiser now that my twin daughters are all grown. I remain unconvinced.

Can you instill life lessons into a teenager? Don't they sigh at everything a parent has to say and go on to do the exact opposite? Surely you can only believe wholeheartedly in your scruples and hope that eventually some of it rubs off? As my daughters are no longer teenagers, there is most definitely light at the end of what was a turbulent time in our lives. And I'm optimistic that after 20 years of parenting, my daughters have learnt the following...

1. Be yourself: having spent most of my childhood trying to fit in, I realised my plan was flawed once I'd grown up. Anyone who's a true friend will respect your individuality and never judge. I've always encouraged the girls to do the things they loved and not pretend to like something just because everyone else did. They never did latch onto Big Brother and didn't join Facebook until they were 18. They did however, continue with ballet to grade 6 when all of their friends gave up after grade 2. I'm eternally grateful that my daughters embrace their individuality and aren't afraid to think for themselves.

2. Learn from your mistakes: don't feel bad about making mistakes; life's meant to evolve and if you're not striving to work out what does and doesn't work for you - you're not doing it right. Chances are you're going to make a few mistakes along the way - it's what you learn from the experience that counts. It can feel like the end of the world to realise that you've done something wrong, but what's important is that you pick yourself up, dust yourself down and carry on. Making the same mistakes over and over is going to be what lands you in trouble - so learn and move on.

3. Don't grow up too quickly: from the age of 13 I was desperate to be an adult and leave my childhood behind. I thought that grown-ups had all the answers - only to realise that most of the time they're still making it up as they go along. So make the most of that innocence and freedom for as long as possible. You're a long time grown-up, whereas childhood is relatively short.

4. Don't be afraid to try new things, they may be the things you love: Sophia and Olivia were always encouraged to try anything they were remotely interested in. This came with the proviso that they didn't have to continue if they didn't enjoy it. As a result, they've had lots of great experiences and fathomed out what they truly enjoy. Strangely, both daughters love rowing, although Olivia's only discovered this pastime during the past year. Sophia is Head Cox at her University Rowing Club and Olivia's taken up gig rowing - who'd have thought it?

5. Treat others as you wish to be treated yourself: I'm not sure this one needs any explanation whatsoever, but here goes... try to be a person you'd be happy to talk to in any situation. Be consistent and treat everyone with respect - even when you're not shown the same consideration in return. You'll be remembered for your actions and this will work to your advantage. 

I'm happy to report that my daughters are so grown-up, that I hardly recognise the teenagers we dropped off at university 18 months ago. There are times when I'm astounded by some of the mature comments they come out with. Obviously, there are occasions when the girls revert to type and we all end up a tad grouchy - but there you go, life's not perfect. My daughters are turning into amazing young women and I am one proud mum. I guess all the nagging poignant mother/ daughter conversations we've had over the years are finally paying off. And it's so lovely when they grasp something, although it's important for a mum not to giggle when that happens, as neither daughter finds this amusing. It's as though they have to learn these lessons for themselves and they do, kind of... I like to think that the initial inspiration came from parental beliefs though.

I'm going to pass the meme baton on to 3 lovely bloggers. First of all Natalie from Plutonium Sox, her blog is a recent find for me and with 2 young daughters, I'm am so looking forward to reading her post. I'm also tagging Lucy from Bottle for 2 after discovering her blog on Vic Welton's Newbie Showcase last week. And finally, just because the dad bloggers often get left out of memes I'm nominating Tim over at Slouching Towards Thatcham, for a dad's point of view.

My thanks to Anya for making me think about the life lessons I've tried to pass on to my daughters. This post was written after chatting to both of them; incredibly we came up with the same five lessons.

And if anyone else would like to join in with the challenge, use the hashtag #Big5meme and share on Twitter. The original idea for this meme came from Mich over at Mummy from the Heart.

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton
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Friday, 27 March 2015

Here and Now

Like many people I find it hard to live in the moment and make the most of what's happening right now. And even on blissful days out with the family I find myself thinking, 'What's next?' rather than focus on our time together. I'm constantly reminding myself to try and relax in an attempt to stop planning the rest of the day to the nth degree.

Is this a modern phenomenon I wonder? And one that's especially a female prerogative? I'm convinced that it is. My daughters are brilliant at savouring the moment, but then they're both at university and having a ball. And Mr A has going with the flow well and truly perfected. I like to think this is something they'll all hold on to.

So I guess it's just me that's always multitasking and maybe I need to add... chill once in a while to the list of tasks that require my attention. I think as women we are incredibly hard on ourselves. Our 21st century lives can be filled with stress and the demands of modern living are not for the faint-hearted. I'd love to be able to switch off and not think about having to remember to pay the credit card bill/ buy toilet roll/ get dinner out of the freezer, (delete as appropriate) but who is going to remember all of this if I don't? Why am I always thinking about so many things at the same time exactly? I'm not convinced it makes me any more productive.

So when was the last time you did just one thing? Like watching TV without checking Twitter? Or enjoying dinner in a restaurant without feeling the need to post a picture on Instagram? Can't remember? No, me neither. Even as I type I'm guilty of having multiple tabs open on the laptop and can feel quite frazzled as I hop from one to another.

I remember in my previous job that I could easily multitask 2 things at once, any more and I'd start to lose focus, become tired more easily and fantasise about a glass of wine (or two) after work if the demands continued for prolonged periods of time. The delight of focusing on one task and doing it well before moving on to something else was for me, idyllic and I always achieved more in a day. I think it's time for me to adopt this philosophy all over again.

Do we get any more achieved by constantly bombarding our brains with so many things? I have my doubts. Maybe it's time to give up on the multitasking myth that if you're not doing at least 3 things at the same time you're simply not doing enough? I'm going to have a go at concentrating on just one thing and maybe achieve more in the process.

I'll keep you posted. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

For the record, this blog post has taken less time to write than usual as I don't have 5 tabs open at the top of the page.

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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Monday, 23 March 2015

The Box

There's a box in my wardrobe filled with treasure from years gone by. It contains concert tickets, random photos and pictures drawn by my daughters when they were little. I sift through its contents about once a year and reminisce about happy times and snapshots of life as a family. I'm guessing that every mum has a box containing cute pics drawn by their offspring. How could anyone bear to part with them?

And so, I thought I'd share a few that make me smile...

If memory serves, I think this was meant to be an alien and probably drawn by Sophia...

Here's an early attempt at a reindeer by Olivia...

Cats were always a theme for Sophia; she pestered us non-stop from the age of 2 until we finally relented and bought her a kitten for her 7th birthday.

And an early attempt at a caterpillar by Olivia...

Here's a picture of our cat from Sophia...

I also came across this...

It's a photo of both daughters at Alton Towers and I'm guessing they were about 3 years of age when this was taken. Don't be deceived by their angelic little faces; they were being rather mischievous and didn't want to sit still. Olivia's on the left.

Sophia always loved to draw and it's no surprise that she's studying illustration at university. Olivia meanwhile, always had her nose in a book and studies English literature. Looking back on their younger years, many of their childhood characteristics have followed them all the way through to adulthood.

Last night as I talked to Olivia via Skype I shared a few treasured drawings and photos with her. She's horrified that I feel the need to hold onto this stuff; I guess when she's a mum she'll understand.

How do you imagine your kids will turn out based on their characteristics now? I'd love to hear your comments...

Until next time...

Copyright©2015 Izzie Anderton

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