An Enchanted Evening in the Forest

The Enchanted Forest

We’ve been visiting the Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry every year since 2011 and it remains one of the highlights of our calendar, and this year was no exception with lights choreographed to music, interactive displays and a stunning projection over Loch Dunmore.

Visiting the Enchanted Forest is one of our favourite annual traditions, and we always enjoy wandering around the woods hand-in-hand, snapping photos and sipping the first mulled wine of the season, but my husband and I still always pause at the spot where we got engaged here and enjoy reminiscing about our many other visits to the Enchanted Forest over the years.

As lovely as it is having a little adventure together, staying in a hotel and not having to worry about cooking or washing up, we’re also happy to be reunited with our cat Mara when we return home. It was just over three years ago that we adopted Mara, and although we don’t know her actual age, a recent trip to the vet to have her teeth cleaned and one extraction reminded us that she is getting older, but fortunately she remains healthy, playful and full of purrs.

Have a lovely week! X

Advertisements

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher

PrincessDiarist

For almost as long as I can remember I’ve been a Star Wars fan, and my affection for the franchise is in no small part due to the sassy, blaster-wielding Princess who bossed her male counterparts around and was always at the forefront of the action.

Carrie was apparently inspired to write The Princess Diarist when she stumbled upon the diaries she wrote while filming Star Wars: A New Hope, and decided that forty years after the event, the public revelation of her affair with Harrison Ford would cause minimal damage to those involved.

The Princess Diarist starts with Carrie recounting her decision to step out of her celebrity parents’ shadows, and how at the age of nineteen she was cast as Princess Leia in a low-budget “space fantasy” simply called Star Wars. I sometimes wonder how faithful her recollection of events is but I can’t deny it’s entertaining to read about some of the changes in the original script, the process of finding that iconic hairstyle and various other behind the scenes moments between the cast and crew. However, for what is ostensibly a kiss-and-tell memoir, Carrie Fisher is remarkably tight-lipped about the details of her love affair with Harrison Ford.

PrincessDiarist2

The mid-section contains poems and direct extracts from the diaries she wrote in 1976, and this part lags a little as the diary entries are rambling, self-indulgent and laced with Carrie’s teenage insecurities.

The final part explores the cultural phenomenon Star Wars became, and some readers might be offended by the way she describes the rabid fans and their sense of entitlement for autographs and selfies, yet I suspect she probably understood why the Star Wars characters are so beloved because she admitted that there were times throughout her own life when she wished she was more like Leia. I also found it interesting reading about the different ways male and female fans respond to her character, and she doesn’t shy away from sharing details of some of her experiences and observations about Hollywood sexism (and ageism).

I suspect that Star Wars fans may be disappointed that she doesn’t share more behind the scenes secrets and people expecting a more linear biography may also be disappointed, but Carrie’s inimitable style, humour and candour still make The Princess Diarist an easy and enjoyable read. Have a lovely week! X

A September to Remember

A September to Remember

September is always a busy month for us with birthdays and anniversaries to celebrate as well as catch-ups with friends, and it’s only now that I’ve found time to sort through the photos and reflect on some of the highlights.

Earlier in the month, my husband and I celebrated our third wedding anniversary and ten years together with a romantic break at Stobo Castle. We had the loveliest time exploring the beautiful grounds, swimming in the pool, sweating in the sauna, soaking in the outdoor hot tubs and sipping cocktails in the bar.

A lot has changed since that Tuesday morning a decade ago when the bold, young student surprised this shy bookseller by asking her out for a coffee mid-book purchase, but I’m always very grateful that he did.

We also had a wonderful weekend away with friends in the countryside, enjoying rambling walks during the day and cosy chats round the firepit late into the night – as well as making friends with Bria the pony, and the cats.

31 Making new friends

Finally, this week we celebrated my grandmother’s 92nd birthday. My nanna has been quite unwell over the summer, but it was lovely to have the family together to celebrate the generous and independent woman she still is.

As it draws to a close, September has definitely been a month to remember, full of good times and good company. Have a lovely week. X

Lentil Dhal Recipe

Ingredients (serves 2):

200g Red Lentils
1 Large Onion, finely diced.
Half inch of fresh root Ginger, grated.
2 Cloves of Garlic, crushed.
2 Tomatoes, chopped into eighths.

1/2 Teaspoon of Tumeric
1 Teaspoon of Cumin Seeds
1 Teaspoon of Mustard Seeds
1 Teaspoon of Coriander Seeds
1 Teaspoon of Mild Chili Powder
1 Teaspoon of Garam Masala

Lentil Dhal

Method:

Bring a pan of water to the boil and pour in the lentils, cook for 8-10 minutes until softened or almost cooked through. Drain excess water and set aside, leaving one ladle of drained water to remain.

Toast the mustard, coriander and Cumin Seeds in a frying pan for 3-5 minutes. Once toasted, partially crush the seeds with a pestle and mortar and then add the other spices and mix well.

Place a frying pan on a low heat, pour a small amount of oil in and once warm, fry the onion, ginger and garlic in the pan until the onion turns translucent, then add the tomatoes. Add the spices to the pan and mix well.

Add a ladle full of water from the lentil to the pan, then gradually mix in the lentils until well combined. Cook for a further 3 minutes or until the water has been absorbed or lentils have become thick.

Kitchen by Banana Yoshimoto

Kitchen_Banana Yoshimoto

Let me preface this review by saying that Kitchen is a book that shouldn’t be judged by the cover, as aside from the garish colours, the description and synopsis on the back cover are downright misleading. This slim book compromises of two standalone stories covering similar themes of grief and loss, Kitchen and Moonlight Shadow.

The first story, Kitchen, is narrated by a young woman, Mikage Sakurai, following the death of her grandmother – and last remaining blood relative. After her grandmother’s funeral, Yuichi Tanabe, a young man who knew her grandmother invites Mikage to live with him and his transgender parent, Eriko; feeling cast adrift and at something of a crossroads in her life, Mikage gratefully accepts. The title of the story refers to Mikage’s favourite room in the home, where she finds a sense of comfort and purpose preparing food for the people she cares about or even just cleaning and setting things in order in the midst of her own turmoil and upheaval.

Kitchen_Banana Yoshimoto2

Kitchen explores the different ways that the three characters, Mikage, Yuichi and Eriko experience and react to grief. Rather than seeming macabre and depressing, Kitchen is an inspiring and thought-provoking reminder not to sleepwalk through life lost in our daily routines because our time is finite and every moment is precious. As the narrator wrestles with her own highs and lows, she also ponders if we can really appreciate joy and triumph without also experiencing sorrow and disappointment, and it is Mikage’s acceptance of her own loneliness and mortality that encourages her to consider new paths and possibilities.

Unfortunately, Moonlight Shadow is a bittersweet story with similar themes but it just didn’t resonate with me the way that Kitchen did.

This is a short book and so easy to slip into, yet it is one I savoured and will likely re-read. Have a lovely week. X

On the Cusp of Autumn

On the Cusp of Autumn

It’s still warm in the sunshine, but there’s a crisp coolness creeping into the mornings and evenings, and it feels like summer is waning and we are on the cusp of another autumn. The British have a reputation for being obsessed with the weather, but I love living somewhere with such distinct seasons and changeable weather, and noticing all the subtle signs of one season flowing into the next.

In our garden, the kale and chard seeds I sowed have sprouted and we’ve harvested the first squashes. I planted four varieties as an experiment, and so far the Spaghetti and Uchiki Kuri are doing better than the Hunter or Sweet Dumpling, but it’s fun to grow vegetables that aren’t always available in the shops.

We’ve tried to create a bee-friendly garden full of plants that flower at different times to provide food for the bees (and butterflies) all year round but our bumbling visitors have been slowing down lately, and we had to revive one exhausted bee we found on the garden path with a spoon dipped in honey. The surest sign that the temperatures have dropped and autumn has arrived occurred inside our home though when our cat Mara decided to burrow under the duvet for a snuggle to warm up her cold little ears and paws for the first time in a long time.

This week we’ve had the chimney swept and stacked logs in the porch in preparation for the colder weather ahead. During the heatwave this summer it was hard to remember it being cold enough to light the fire, but as the daylight gradually shortens and the weather cools, I’m looking forward to savouring all the beauty and cosiness of autumn inside and out. Have a lovely week! X

‘The Travelling Cat Chronicles’ by Hiro Arikawa

‘The Travelling Cat Chronicles’ by Hiro Arikawa

The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a Japanese novel that tells the tale of Satoru and a stray cat he rescues and names Nana. Satoru is kind, easy going and whimsical with a deep affinity for misfits and strays of both the human and feline variety, while Nana is proud and independent but the pair quickly become devoted to each other. A few years after adopting Nana, however, Satoru begins to contact old friends and relatives to ask if any of them could re-home his beloved cat.

The Travelling Cat Chronicles is as much about friendship and families as it is about cats, and each chapter focuses on one of Satoru’s closest friends and relatives, and through each chapter the reader learns more about Satoru and the lives he has touched. In a way, this story explores the regrets and hidden hurts that people often carry through life, and what happens when life seems to give us another chance to atone for our past mistakes and heal some of our old wounds.

Mara_and_TTCC

The Travelling Cat Chronicles is a bit predictable, and yet it is such a poignant story that I still enjoyed it and was moved by the ending. Have a lovely week. X