Monthly Round Ups
A Year in Review | 2020
Where do I even start?!
2020 was a year that will be forever etched in my memories. For better or for worse, and probably even a bittersweet merge of the two. It had promised to be one of my best years yet, with many beautiful weddings in the diary, but they just weren’t to be. Despite not being able to plan or celebrate any of those weddings, the last 12 months hold some truly fond memories as we were given the precious gift of time that so many of us often long for.
We started off the year by decorating the children’s bedrooms. A DIY trend which, unbeknown to us, would then become the theme of 2020! In Bella’s room, we went for some beautiful Dalmatian spot wallpaper by Sandberg, paired with pink and grey accessories, and the loveliest blush canopy filled with cushions for a reading nook. In Leo’s room we created an asymmetric paint effect on two walls, and added some Anthropologie animal heads and a mid-grey tipi for reading.
We celebrated a friends 40th birthday in Nottingham, sketched out our garden design plans and ordered some new trees to be planted along our fence line. We celebrated Valentines Day at home, and for my husbands birthday we saw Jimmy Carr live in Oxford. I enjoyed dinner and drinks with a friend in Reading, and I visited the beautiful new venue, The Compton Gallery in the Cotswolds which I absolutely fell in love with as an intimate wedding setting.
We were lucky enough to escape to the Maldives for a week child-free. I still cannot believe our luck with the timing as we had no idea that would be our last holiday for over a year. It’s a trip we’d booked at Christmas, and had been so desperately looking forward to, so I’ll be forever grateful that we were able to go and for the memories we created there. It truly is the most wonderful place; heaven on earth.
We stayed at the Lux South Ari Atoll after a recommendation from a friend, and it couldn’t have been more perfect. Flying over the islands by seaplane is a view I’ll never ever forget – it was just spectacular. We decided to spend the first half of our trip staying in a Beach Villa, with a pool and outdoor bath & shower, and the second half in an Overwater Villa. Both were totally dreamy, and I’m so pleased we decided to stay in both to get the experience of each. The Overwater villa is just like we imagined it to be – with nothing but turquoise waters for miles. I’m not a Diver, but we spent time snorkelling and kayaking on the water. The clarity of the water was just unreal, with the most beautiful coloured fish. Truly a trip of a lifetime that neither of us will ever forget!
News of Coronavirus was beginning to spread fast, and it was turning into something serious. A week or so after our return from the Maldives, the UK was put into a national lockdown. In all honesty, I thought it would last a month or so and then life would return to normal. Looking back, that seems totally crazy – but this was something none of us had ever experienced before, and could never have foreseen coming. We returned to empty supermarket shelves and half hour queues to even get in. The national shortage of toilet rolls, pasta and tinned goods became all too real. Like many other pivotal life moments or world-shifts, I’ll always remember where I was when COVID took hold, as we watched in disbelief as our Prime Minister announced a national lockdown.
Shock aside, the next few weeks actually felt enjoyable, with the weather improving and the kids off school – we spent endless time outside – in the garden mostly, but we also discovered a rope swing over the river in the next village, which provided weeks of joy! We spent hours playing games, creating assault courses, as well as starting work on our garden designs a little earlier than planned.
This was interspersed with homeschooling – a skill I never thought I’d develop. I’d met another mum a year or so earlier who homeschooled her two children permanently, and I remember thinking to myself that she was incredibly brave and I wouldn’t have the patience for that. It turns out I actually do have the patience for it, but it’s certainly not something I could see myself doing long term. There are definitely elements of having the children at home that I loved, and we embraced the challenge – spending most mornings on school work and PE with Joe, and the afternoons for time in the garden or baking. As the next few months of lockdown continued, we completed many puzzles, clocked up 442km on the bikes, and I took up running – starting with the Couch to 5K app. I have endless photos in my camera roll from our adventures and delighting in nature which I treasure and plan to put together into a memory book this year.
I joined the Instagram bandwagon and baked many banana breads, muffins and Easter treats with the children. I actually really enjoyed the extra free time we had together to be creative. Once the Garden Centres re-opened, I made a few trips to begin filling our newly dug flower beds. I planted new trees and cutting flowers. We created some vegetable beds for the children and planted tomatoes, cucumbers, courgettes, strawberries, peas and herbs – some were successful, some weren’t. But we were learning, and it was brilliant for the kids as they loved watching them grow and picking them off as they ripened! I remember excitedly checking on my flowers each day as they grew buds and flowered. The mindfulness of walking around the garden each morning with a cup of tea was refreshing and a great start to our new routine. We had picnics or BBQs in the garden almost daily, and we felt super grateful for being able to spend so much time outdoors living in the countryside. I think April is one of my favourite months of the year; when nature really wakes up and everything looks so fresh and bright!
My weddings for 2020 had now taken the difficult decision to postpone, so I spent many hours on phone calls with clients and suppliers to find suitable new dates for 2021. I then offered complimentary crisis calls for Brides without a Wedding Planner, to help guide and advise them if they were struggling with what to do.
We begun work on our decking area in the garden – a project which my husband took on single handedly, and which I’m so proud of him for. It was a much more ambitious plan than our previous garden, but we knew we wanted a little more from the setup this time, so it needed to be larger. We built a framework for the decking to sit on, and included sections for built-in seating and a food prep area. We plan to add a Morso pizza oven this year, as well a new dining table.
We celebrated Bella’s 7th birthday with a trip to the beach as a family, which was a wonderful trip – our first full day out of the house since lockdown began. It was 30 degrees, and we built sandcastles, splashed in the sea, and escaped from everything else for a day which was just what we all needed.
I continued with my Couch to 5K journey, and was really starting to enjoy running by this stage. Those early evenings with the sun setting over the green fields was my absolute favourite time to run – feeling inspired and motivated by the sunlight bouncing off the fields and mottled light through the trees. It certainly made my runs manageable! I’d also now discovered podcasts for listening to whilst running, which were much better motivationally for my running. I found that listening to music made me count down how long I had left to run by the number of songs I’d listened to, so podcasts helped me with the feeling of time passing faster as I was engrossed in the podcast episode.
We saw Grandparents for the first time, and the children’s Great Grandma which was emotional. We saw some school friends for an outdoor picnic in the park, I completed the Couch to 5K app – which was a HUGE achievement for 2020. I used to get a stitch whenever I tried to run, and I honestly thought I wouldn’t be able to do this. Yet I was feeling so much fitter, stronger and incredibly proud of myself. I also seeked help from a Nutritional Therapist, and begun working through a diet and lifestyle plan, which although was tough, gave me amazing results!
We grew some caterpillars into butterflies and released them in our garden. It’s something we did a few years ago and Bella had really loved, so we thought this would be the perfect time to do again as it needs to be a time when you’ll be at home for a few weeks to make sure they’re cared for before you release them into the wild, and now Leo is old enough to get involved too!
We finally finished work on our decking project, and bought a firepit and cushions for the built-in seating. Perfect timing for us to be able to enjoy for the rest of the Summer. We also decorated our Master Bedroom, with a dark charcoal wall behind our bed, and our favourite Cornforth White on the rest of the walls. “Feature Walls” might be an old trend, but I love it in our bedroom, and I didn’t want the whole room to be dark as it has lots of windows and the light in that room is incredible!
We spent many hours riding the bikes, almost daily, and many more hours building lego sets from Bella’s birthday. I met a friend for a walk, which was pure joy after not seeing each other for so long! However, our favourite day out was a trip to the beach again for Leo’s birthday. We’d enjoyed it so much when we went for Bella’s birthday in May that we desperately wanted to go again. We took a picnic and snacks so we could completely socially distance from anyone, and packed the windbreaks so we could create almost our own den on the beach! The kids had the most wonderful day splashing in the rock pools and building sandcastles.
At the end of the month, I launched the new website and branding for Vanilla Rose Weddings. I’d been working on this project with Nicki at Just Brand You and Ceri at Candour and Polish for a number of months so it was really exciting to finally share our hard work. My brand has evolved since I started planning weddings almost a decade ago, so I felt that my branding was ready to move onto the next level and stage. It now feels so much more like me. Ceri was wonderful in understanding me and my brand to be able to put everything so beautifully into words, in a way that I never would be able to!
We finally made it out for a lunch with friends from Bella’s school at our local pub on the river, which was an absolute dream! This was our first real outing with friends and just the loveliest afternoon. It felt really surreal being able to enjoy a meal with friends – something we’ve definitely taken for granted in the past, but now we were so appreciative of having the opportunity to do that.
We took a camping trip for the weekend to a local campsite, which is just 15 minutes away from us. We didn’t want to venture too far, and I’m not the most natural camper, so I felt safe knowing that we could always go home if it was a total disaster! I couldn’t have been more wrong, and although it was freezing on the first night, we had the most relaxing weekend kayaking along the river, walking to the closest village for a pub lunch, and cooking every other meal on our fire-pit. Everything tastes so much better when it’s cooked outside on an open flame doesn’t it?!
My first hairdresser’s appointment was an experience, with having to wear a mask for 3 hours – but it was worthwhile as I’d been so desperate for a colour and cut – my roots were growing by the day and it was in need of some attention!
We celebrated my birthday with some friends in the garden, for a BBQ – which was a true highlight of my whole year. Being able to see friends we hadn’t seen for months was just the dream. Friendships are so important, and 2020 really highlighted that to me. I missed my friends desperately, and it was amazing to be able to see them and enjoy a slightly normal feeling afternoon, especially as two of them were heavily pregnant and I hadn’t seen them at all with a bump! Chris and I also enjoyed a date night at a restaurant in Oxford. A slight cheat on my nutritional plan with lots of carbs, dairy and sugar-laced cocktails – but it was so worth it for one night!!
We managed to get away to Devon with some friends for a week. We were due to go to Greece in October, but by this point we’d already postponed that trip until 2021, so we really appreciated the UK holiday – just to be away from home for a short while for a change of scenery, and a break from the chores and everyday life at our house! We stayed near Exmouth, and enjoyed fun-filled days out at Paignton Zoo and Salcombe, as well as lazy days at the apartment and in the pool.
I worked on my first work project since Coronavirus began, with a mini branding shoot for some lovely small business owners. Alongside Laura Martha Photography, I had a really great day styling each of their beautiful stationery, florals and headpieces for Laura to photograph with them. It was honestly one of the warmest days of the year, and we were a hot mess by the end of the day, but it was wonderful to be creative again.
We also spent a day with friends at Daylesford and enjoyed lunch at The Wild Rabbit, which is truly one of my favourite places to be.
We took a trip to the South East coast with my parents-in-law, which was a lovely few days of splashing about on the beach, long walks along the coast, and a date night for Chris and I.
Bella then went back to school, which was a monumental moment. After 6 months of homeschooling and being at home 90% of the time, we were all very excited! Although we’d really enjoyed much of our time together, Bella was desperately missing her friends and the structure of school days, so she was really looking forward to going back. It felt super quiet in the house without her, but we hoped this was the beginning of a return to some normality for us all.
We went on another mini camping trip to the New Forest with some friends, which has been postponed from July when it wasn’t possible to go due to restrictions at the time. The kids had the best time at Moors Valley Country Park – climbing trees, riding bikes, on the high-wire ropes, and exploring the forest. Such a memorable weekend laughing and enjoying the beauty of our countryside!
For the previous few months I’d been working on an editorial project alongside the lovely and incredibly talented Jacqui of Peonies & Paperclips, which we both got to express our creativity with. We had the most wonderful team of collaborators at Bourton Hall in Warwickshire, to tell a three-part love story. It felt so special to be creating something like this, after a year without any real weddings.
I accompanied some of my clients to a number of venue viewings for their 2021 celebration, including Coworth Park and Monkey Island Estate in Berkshire. Both absolutely delightful venues, with incredible gardens. We also had Heckfield Place in Hampshire on our shortlist, but weren’t able to visit just yet due to it being occupied for private hire until late November.
We decorated our hallway and office, and begun ordering Pasta Evangelists for a treat each week! I went to London for a very mini baby shower brunch for one of my best friends, and we had the most delicious pancakes at Where The Pancakes Are near Borough Market. The food market is one of my favourite places to visit when I’m in London, so it was really sad to see it empty. Chris & I enjoyed a date night for London Cocktail Month where my new Chanel handbag had it’s first outing. I think I was more excited about that than the cocktails!
We saw my brother for lunch to celebrate his birthday, and I managed to finally meet my best friends newborn baby; two things I’m super grateful for, as lockdown kicked back in just afterwards.
With lockdown here again for a while, we dusted off the paintbrushes and painted our living room in Neptune’s Ink, as well as selecting a few Desenio prints, and wallpapering our cloakroom with our Aynhoe Park inspired wallpaper! We got married at Aynhoe, so we fell in love with a jungle print wallpaper and felt the cloakroom was the best suited place for it. I baked more banana bread, but also visited the new Barefoot Bakery cafe in Oxford, which is now my favourite pit stop for walks. They make the most scrumptious treats – the gooey raspberry brownies are my favourite, and paired with a Chai Latte, it really feels like an indulgent walk filled with many more calories than I’m burning off – but so worth it!
We took a trip to Burford Garden Company to get us in the festive spirit, and picked up some new decorations for the Christmas tree. When we got home, we felt so festive that we decided to have some mulled wine and put the tree up that afternoon. It was definitely the earliest we’ve ever put our tree up, but I wanted to inject some cheer into what had been a difficult month for us all with the Winter looming and being in lockdown again.
We ate many Sunday Roasts, spent lots of evenings in our hot tub, and we enjoyed all the cosy vibes in our new living room watching The Crown!
Chris & I managed a night away at the beautiful No 38 The Park in Cheltenham at the beginning of the month. We spent an afternoon at the spa, followed by a delicious dinner at the hotel’s sister property No.131 across town. The following morning we had breakfast in bed and had the loveliest morning shopping in Cheltenham before heading back home.
I met a friend in Reading for some last minute Christmas shopping, built a gingerbread house with Bella (which I took way more seriously than I thought possible!), and we decorated my dressing room with a beautiful palm leaf wallpaper from Cole & Son. We went to our local drive-in fireworks display, which had been postponed from November due to the lockdown. It was hands-down the BEST fireworks display we’ve ever been to – absolutely amazing, and we all had such a great evening. We took our own mulled wine in Thermos flasks, a picnic dinner and some chocolate treats. We wrapped up warm, and sat next to our car to watch the display. Such a different experience than we’re used to for fireworks, but I think we actually preferred it that way to being in a crowded space with thousands of people!
I finalised a Venue Proposal for some clients for their 2021 wedding and had lots of catch up calls with my other couples before the Christmas break.
Bella and I filled a Winter box for a local homeless charity, filled with warm gloves, hats, hand-warmers, hot chocolate, and some toiletries. It is something we’ll be continuing into 2021. With my new website and working towards being more sustainable, I launched my Tree Pledge; donating to the World Land Trust for 10 trees to be planted and nurtured through to their establishment as new forest habitat, for every new Full Planning client I take on. I wanted to do something for a local charity too, and I discovered Homeless Oxfordshire, who I’ll be supporting this year.
Sadly, the COVID rules for Christmas were changed at late notice, which meant that we weren’t able to see our family as we’d planned as some of us were put into Tier 4. We still had a wonderful day together, and the children had the best time opening presents and playing with their toys. Having a quieter day than usual felt so different to what we’re used to for Christmas, but we’ve all become so accustomed to the slower pace and our own company over the course of the past year, that actually it was just perfect.
Between Christmas and New Year, we visited the Blenheim Palace Illuminated Light Trail – something we’d done last Christmas and loved, and it didn’t disappoint this year either. A great evening out as a family – we took our own mulled wine and snacks, as none of the catering stalls were able to operate, and spent a lovely few hours wandering through the grounds marvelling at the beautiful lights, before having a hot chocolate stop back at the car with homemade cupcakes and brownies.
If you’re still here, thank you so much for taking the time to read this review of 2020. It’s taken me a lot longer to put together than I thought, but it’s been a really enjoyable recap of a year I previously thought I’d happily forget!
However last year unfolded for you, I hope you’re looking forward to what 2021 will bring, and we all hold positivity and light for the months ahead.