Birds, Bees and Seedlings

We’ve been enjoying a spell of warm, sunny weather lately, which has meant we’ve been spending lots of time out in our garden.

I risked sowing chilli seeds at the start of February, as always tricky to judge when the best time to start them off is as they need a long growing season but seedlings raised on my windowsills tend to go leggy as they stretch towards the sun on East and West facing windows, before transferring them to the greenhouse.

I sowed pumpkin, squash, courgette and sunflower seeds in the middle of April, and I’ll plant them out in June – which will probably bring a month of rain and a plague of slugs knowing my luck. My husband has also started off lots of tomato seedlings, and we spent an afternoon at the weekend pricking out and repotting them. The greenhouse is currently full of seedlings and plants as we’re always ridiculously optimistic about how much we can grow in our garden.

There was blossom on three of our four apple trees, unfortunately the other has grown several water spouts from the trunk, which is usually a sign of stress or a failed root graft. Our plum tree also had two little flowers on it earlier in the spring.

In the flower beds, the tulips and daffodils have died back but the Geum and Thistle have flowered, and I always enjoy counting and identifying the bees that have been crawling all over them.

We got a bird house for Christmas and affixed it to the side of the house, soon after a pair of blue tits moved in and I love watching them flit back and forth to feed their chicks while I’m working in the greenhouse.

May is often a month of anticipation marking the gentle transition from spring to summer, and it’s been lovely to spend so much time outside. Even when we have very little to show for our efforts, gardening brings us a tremendous amount of joy. Have a lovely week. X

High and Low Tide at Lunderston Bay

We’ve had a couple of trips to Lunderston Bay, a little beach in Inverclyde, at high and low tide this spring, and it’s rapidly becoming one of our favourite places to visit.

The first time we visited Lunderston Bay this year, the tide was in and there was a fairly strong breeze that made it ideal for trying out our 3 year old daughter’s new kite.

We spent a lovely afternoon strolling along the shore, splashing in the waves and looking in rock pools for crabs. It’s amazing how much fun and how memorable such simple activities can be. After that we meandered up to the new playpark for swings, slides and climbing fun before heading home at dusk.

Our second trip was on a sunny morning when the tide was low. My husband and oldest daughter wasted no time in making straight for the rock pools to search for crabs and other aquatic critters, and we found lots of little crabs, sea snails, a sea gunnel and even a couple of starfish clinging to rocks. The sea was too cold for a proper paddle but we waded in wearing our wellies and I found a little sea urchin shell to take home as a souvenir.

A trip to the seaside is always one of my favourite ways to spend a day and I’m looking forward to lots of picnics, building sand castles, beachcombing, rock pooling and paddling in the sea over the summer. Have a lovely week. X

April Reading Wrapup

Been struggling to find time to update the blog, but still keeping track of my reading and felt like I finally hit my stride last month.

Our Crooked Hearts by Melissa Albert

A dark and creepy story about witchcraft, secrets and betrayal, narrated by a mother who dabbled in the occult as a teenager looking back on her biggest regrets, and her 17 year old daughter in the present as the mother’s mistakes comes back to haunt them. This was absolutely gripping, creepy and full of suspense, and made me want to get rid of all the mirrors in my house just in case there was someone watching from the other side.

The Man Who Died Twice by Richard Osman

The second part in The Thursday Murder Club series finds the four aging amateur sleuths investigating a mugging, a diamond theft and murder. This is an ensemble cast and I simply adore them all from the four residents of the retirement village (Elizabeth, Joyce, Ron and Ibrahim) who are still so full of life and mischief to the local police officers (Chris and Donna) who get pulled into their investigations, and even the enigmatic, hunky Polish handyman, Bogdan. I enjoyed The Man Who Died Twice even more than The Thursday Murder Club, it’s a delightful and absorbing mystery full of clever twists, suspense, humour, poignancy, friendship and even a little romance. I’m already predicting that this will be one of my Top 10 reads of the year, and I can’t wait to read the rest of this series.

The Whispering Skull by Jonathan Stroud

The second part of the ‘Lockwood and Co’ series finds our three teenage ghost hunting agents investigating the mysterious bone glass mirror rumoured to be a window into the spirit realm. This one deviated quite a bit from the TV series, which I watched before seeking out the books, and didn’t have quite as many thrills and chills as the first book, but I loved the friendship developing between the dashing Lockwood, sarcastic Lucy and curious George, that is at the heart of this series.

The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and the Horse by Charles Mackesy

I had a wobble with uncertainty and self doubt last month, and I ended up reading it in one sitting while my youngest napped in my arms, but it’s a beautifully illustrated book to dip in and out of when in need of some wisdom and comfort. Not quite a story but four companions, a boy with a lot of questions, a mole who loves cake, a wary fox and a gentle horse, travelling together, helping each other, encouraging one another to learn, grow and be themselves, and all of whom are relatable and inspiring in their own way.

Have a lovely week. X

A Rainy Walk in the Woods

We’ve had a fairly quiet weekend as both girls have been poorly with fever, coughs and runny noses. After a few days recuperating at home, playing with playdough, potting up seeds in the greenhouse, plink plonking on the piano, reading stories, watching Sea Beast and How to Train Your Dragon, and having some epic afternoon naps, we were all feeling well enough for a little trip out.

We decided to visit Rouken Glen so we could buy some seeds at the garden centre and then took a wander around the woodland paths to see the waterfalls after a few days of rain.

It was overcast with drizzle but the trees protected us from the worst of the weather. I carried our youngest, while my husband gave our oldest daughter piggybacks when she complained about tired legs.

It was lovely to see the waterfalls flowing and the forest looking so green and leafy, but the unexpected highlight was spotting a little duckling nesting in a tree hollow. We were very quiet and after lifting the kids up to have a quick look, we returned to the path, then it was time to head home for cheese toasties for lunch and the girls’ afternoon naps. Have a lovely week. X

Bedtime Stories

Even though my own reading progress has been slow and sporadic this year, I’ve been reading much more consistently with our 3 year old daughter who loves her bedtime stories and we usually read at least two but often four or more picture books together every evening and wanted to share some of our current favourites.

A Dress With Pockets by Lily Murray, illustrated by Jenny Lovlie

This is a mostly rhyming story about a little girl called Lucy choosing a new dress for her birthday who eschews a dazzling choice of sparkles, frills, feathers and everything in between for a dress with pockets to store all the curious things she finds on her adventures. We love this story because much like Lucy, my daughter loves dresses but couldn’t be less prissy and enjoys exploring on her own little adventures.

‘A Home’ Series by Peter Bently, illustrated by Charles Fuge

A trilogy of books about a badger called Bramble and his friends, I found the first one in the library then bought the whole series second hand. These are lovely rhyming stories about kindness and friends helping each other out from investigating when the local river runs dry to inviting his friends to stay when a storm wrecks their dens and celebrating birthdays together.

Bunny’s Book Club by Annie Silvestro, illustrated by Tatjana Mai-Wyss

A cute and cosy story about a bunny who loves reading so much that he starts sneaking into the library every night to borrow books, before long he starts including his animal friends in his after dark heists until one evening the librarian catches them in the act.

Where Happiness Lives by Barry Timms, illustrated by Greg Abbot

Another rhyming story of three little mice who all live in very different homes from a little cottage to a huge mansion, and the risk of assuming that bigger must be better. Where Happiness Lives is a really lovely story that reminds us to appreciate what we have and to avoid comparing, a message that feels so important to learn early in the era of social media.

Usborne Farmyard Tales ‘Poppy and Sam’ Series, illustrated by Stephen Cartwright

A simple series about two children, Poppy and Sam, who live on Appletree farm with their parents, Ted the farmhand and a range of farm animals from their pets Rusty the dog and Whiskers the Cat to Curly the piglet and, my daughter’s favourite, Woolly the naughty sheep, and all the little adventures they have together.

Our 5 month daughter also likes stories, and we’ve enjoyed a few stories together including books from her baby box, as well as a few That’s Not My, lift the flap and board books she got for Christmas too.

I really love reading bedtime stories together, it’s a lovely activity to help our boisterous oldest girl calm down before bed, and often one of the highlights of my day. I’ve loved discovering so many new stories with both my girls and look forward to sharing more of our favourites soon. Have a lovely week. X

Spring Moments and Milestones

I feel like blogging has fallen by the wayside; time seems to be slipping through my fingers and I can hardly believe that we’re a quarter of the way through the year already – life is just so busy and full at the moment.

Our oldest daughter moved from nursery to pre-school at the start of the year, which has generally been a smooth transition. We still go to our sensory group together almost every week (which we’ve been going to since she was 6 months old), and I’ve also been taking her to playgym where she can play and experiment with gymnastics equipment. There have been regular trips to the swimming pool with her dad while I usually have a coffee and cuddle with the youngest. We bought her first pedal bike for her 3rd birthday, and with her typical determination she mastered pedaling, steering and braking in just a few days so we’ve been spending lots of time at the park while she practices cycling.

Our youngest – now 5 months old – is also hitting new milestones every day from giggling and rolling to teething. She’s still very petite, but a bright, cheerful and curious little baby. We’ve been going to Bookbug song and story sessions at the library (something I missed out on with my oldest during the pandemic) and we’ll start baby sensory soon but most of our days are still spent at home reading stories, singing nursery rhymes, playing and snuggling. Our daughters are fascinated by each other, and it won’t be long until they’ll become little playmates and friends.

Our senior lady, Mara, has spent most of winter hibernating, but she’s been a bit more active lately, wanting to play, snuggle up and curious to see what we’re up to. I’m so impressed with how well Mara’s coped with the upheaval two noisy little interlopers joining the family caused. Mara really is a very special cat, we’re lucky to have such a gentle, playful, affectionate and stoic family pet to teach them about caring and handling animals, and our little daughters adore her.

I’m so enjoying this period of family life as the baby and toddler stages are so brief and the girls’ milestones come thick and fast as they change and grow. I love having my blog to record all the details of daily life, and always enjoy looking back at older posts when I’m feeling nostalgic. Have a lovely week. X

March Reviews 📚📺

The Light We Carry by Michelle Obama

Having read Becoming (reviewed here) a few years ago, I was intrigued by Michelle Obama’s new book where she shares advice, wisdom, humour and inspiration from her life. Once again, I found Michelle Obama refreshingly and courageously candid as she describes formative experiences and watershed moments in her life, and she covers everything from knitting and the value of small steps towards reaching a goal, accepting fear without letting it dictate your decisions to friendships, parenting and marriage. I found this so easy to read, there are parts that I could relate to personally (such as having a parent with MS) and her warmth, integrity and humour all come across so clearly on the page.

Lockwood And Co (Netflix)

I had a bit of a reading slump in the middle of March, I don’t usually watch much TV but binge watched Lockwood and Co over a few days. Set in a world where for the last 50 years ghosts have become a tangible threat whose touch can kill, the story follows three snarky teenage ghost hunters solving paranormal mysteries and unravelling conspiracies with lots of humour, a moody soundtrack, found family vibes and an angsty slow burn romance.

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

After watching the Netflix adaption, I requested the first book in the Lockwood and Co series. Narrated by Lucy, a teenage girl who is able to see, hear and sense the kinetic residue of ghosts, when she joins the ghost hunting agency Lockwood and Co. After one case goes disasterously wrong, the team find themselves investigating a murder and take on a high risk case to save their little agency from bankruptcy. One thing that the book does slightly better than the Netflix series is capture the true horror of using children to fight ghosts to keep everyone else safe, and there are some genuinely creepy scenes in the book. Despite knowing the story from the adaption, I thoroughly enjoyed The Screaming Staircase which provides chills, thrills with some humour and cosy moments too, and I look forward to reading the rest of this series.

The Bewitching of Aveline Jones by Phil Hickes

The second book in the series finds Aveline and her mum on holiday in a little village with a history of witchcraft. Aveline has barely unpacked her suitcase when she meets a strange but fascinating little girl called Hazel who is not what she seems. The Bewitching of Aveline Jones sets a tone of unease as Aveline finds Hazel pulling her off track and torn between her loyalties to her new friend and the other people she cares about, and in many ways this is a perfect metaphor for navigating adolescent friendships with some creepy supernatural moments adding extra suspense.

Have a lovely week. X

Sunshine and Snow in the Garden

Over the last few days, we’ve had a cold snap bringing frost, subzero temperatures and a tiny dusting of snow, but it was only the week before that I spent a lovely afternoon out in the garden with my girls in the sunshine.

Our youngest was wrapped up in her bouncer watching pinwheels spinning in the breeze before she drifted off for a little nap, as I tidied up the long border removing all the dried stems from last year, while our the three year old played witch on a broomstick. It’s not easy to keen on top of gardening with two little kids underfoot so I’ve been trying a little and often approach.

It’s always lovely watching the garden waking up after winter, from the first hellebores underneath the bamboo to the tete-a-tete daffodils in the long border. I’ve also enjoyed watching birds flitting around the garden, there have been blue tits, sparrows, long tailed tits, blackbirds, Robins and tiny wrens, which we’ve never seen in the garden before.

We woke this morning to a light flurry of snow falling. Spring can be such a changeable and unpredictable season, and yet one that I appreciate more and more as a time of renewal and the return of light and life after the barren darkness of winter. Have a lovely week. X

February Reading Wrapup

February was another slow month of reading, but one where I read the sequel to one of my favourite books from 2021, as well as two translated murder mysteries, one Polish and the other Japanese.

Bloodmarked by Tracy Deonn

The sequel to Legendborn (reviewed here), definitely felt like a middle book as Bree tries to learn how to use her unique powers as the Scion of King Arthur, a medium and the root magic of her ancestors, and prepares to lead the descendents of the Knights of the Round Table into battle with demons attempting to break into the human world. Bree finds herself hunted by enemies inside and out of the Order, and Bloodmarked is full of twists, revelations and betrayals. I’m not generally a fan of Chosen One stories, but I really love Bree for her bravery, loyalty and insights into race, privilege and grief. I found Bloodmarked had some pacing issues but had me hooked to the end, and I’m really looking forward to reading the concluding part of the Legendborn Trilogy.

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk

This is such a strange novel and hard to describe but it was absolutely gripping, creepy and atmospheric. Written as a stream of consciousness from an eccentric woman in her 60s who lives in a remote Polish village investigating the mysterious deaths of local hunters and poachers whom the narrator believes were killed by animals taking vengeance. I thoroughly enjoyed this macabre murder mystery that kept me guessing until the end about who, how and why, remiscent of Roal Dahl’s short stories and Agatha Christie.

The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo

My second murder mystery of the month, this time was a Japanese translation. The Honjin Murders follows investigation of the murder of a bride and groom on their wedding night in a locked room. Full of clues, suspects and misdirection, this was a clever and gripping mystery that reads like a Japanese take on Sherlock Holmes or Agatha Christie with a quirky Detective.

A Little Adventure at Mugdock Country Park

We’re no strangers to inclement weather in Scotland but this winter we’ve had more damp cold and unrelenting rain than magical blankets of snow and sparkling frosts. As daylight increases we’re getting out for more walks and little adventures, and we took a trip to Mugdock Park recently for a wander and to feed the ducks, and had a really lovely afternoon spotting signs of Spring there before dusk descended. Some of the best days we’ve had at Mugdock have been when it’s been overcast or drizzling, and we’ve just pulled on wellies and waterproofs to splash in the puddles and feed the ducks anyway.

Both of our girls preferred the carrier to the pram as babies, which has meant we’ve never had to worry too much about the terrain on our walks, and on this outing carrying our youngest gave us the freedom to venture off the path to let our adventurous 3 year old jump in puddles, paddle in the stream, scramble through scrub, explore hollows and climb trees.

Living in a city, I often worry about whether our children get enough time outside, and given that both my husband and I are outdoorsy types who enjoy everything from gardening to hiking, we really want to inspire a love and appreciation of nature in them, but our oldest daughter always enjoys woodland walks and strolls along the beach as much as trips to soft play or the local parks.

Back at the start of the trail, we let the oldest have a go on the swings, slide and flying fox at the play park, before returning home with rumbling tummies and stretched legs. Have a lovely week. X