Walking with Dinosaurs

LostWorlds

Of all the nocturnal light shows competing for visitors across the country, the Giant Lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo is definitely worth wrapping up and venturing out on a winter evening to see. This was our third time visiting the Giant Lanterns of China, and while previous years have focused on Chinese Astrology and Scottish and Chinese Myths and Legends, this year the theme was on the Lost Worlds of the Prehistoric Eras and was probably the best yet.

Wrapped up in boots and winter coats, with cold hands curled around cups of hot chocolate, we enjoyed wandering (or in my case waddling!) around the displays and learning about the different prehistoric eras from the infamous Jurassic era all the way up to the marsupial and ice ages. I’m always impressed by the scale and details of the lanterns with their feathers, spines, teeth, eyes, expressions and shading.

I have mixed feelings about zoos, but this event always reminds me of the valuable conservation work that Edinburgh Zoo does, as well as raising awareness that we must all do whatever we can to prevent other endangered species from extinction in our lifetimes. Have a lovely week. X

EndangeredSpecies

Festive Tidings

Festive Tidings

The last fortnight has passed in a blur of good times with good people, and I can hardly believe that we’re already packing away the Christmas decorations for another year and preparing to return to work tomorrow.

Christmas morning began with a visit to the in-law’s home, chatting and exchanging gifts while nibbling mince pies and Christmas cake. Like us, they’ve have a tough year, losing two relatives and then their cat just shy of her 22nd birthday, but we’re all relieved to put 2019 behind us and hoping 2020 will be better.

Christmas morning tea

Our Christmas lunch was quieter than usual, as it was just me, my husband and parents. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve spent Christmas without my nanna, but she wasn’t well enough to join us, so after lunch the four of us visited her at the care home to spend some time with her and help her to open presents.

Afterwards, we had a supper of cheese and biscuits, and settled down to play a board game with my parents. Our Christmas bore little resemblance to the rambunctious gatherings that are so ubiquitous on TV at this time of year, but it was calm, cosy and intimate.

Over the festive break we also managed to squeeze in catch-ups with extended family, friends from Dublin and London, and a trip to the cinema to watch the new Star Wars film.

Cosy evenings

This week we’ve had a few days to ourselves at home and we’ve enjoyed watching the BBC adaptation of His Dark Materials, tackling a 1000 piece jigsaw together, toasting marshmallows, reading and working our way through leftover Christmas cake, chocolates, cheese and crackers.

It’s been a busy break filled with family and friends, but now looking forward to the peaceful midwinter days of January and all the promise of a new year ahead of us. Have a lovely week. X

2009 – 2019 Reflections

2009-2019 Mara

We’ve reached the end of another year and a whole decade to boot, and I’ve been reflecting on how much my life has changed in that time:

  • Ten years ago, I moved to Glasgow;
  • Eight years ago, I passed my driving test and returned to university to study a post-graduate qualification that led to my current career;
  • Six years ago, my then boyfriend and I moved in together, and got engaged shortly after;
  • Four years ago, we were married and adopted our cat, Mara;
  • Three years ago, we bought our house, and I started this blog.
  • In the last ten years, I’ve traveled to Budapest, Berlin, Barcelona, Rome, Dublin, Iceland (twice!), Japan, New York and Oslo as well as various places around Great Britain.
2009-2019 Travel
Fulfilling childhood dreams of travelling to Japan and New York

It helps to have a bit of perspective because 2019 has been one of the most challenging years I’ve faced in a long time. We’ve mourned the passing of two of my husband’s relatives, and helped my nanna move into a care home. A member of my family was admitted to hospital three times and spent six months as an in-patient, and there’s a question mark over my own health after I temporarily lost vision in my left eye.

2019 highlights

It hasn’t all been bad news though, we’ve enjoyed the RSNO performing the music of Harry Potter, supported our local team at a rugby match, visited the Giant Lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo and the Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry to list just a few of the most memorable moments. We’ve both changed jobs, with my husband returning to the NHS after a stint in the private sector and self-employment, and I returned to the front lines of social services after a secondment in a finance driven role. The biggest change is still on the horizon, and all being well, we’ll meet our baby in just a few weeks.

I don’t have any grand plans or ambitions for the next decade and I can’t imagine what 2020 will hold, yet I hope I’ll continue to love, learn, travel and practice gratitude whatever happens. Wishing everyone a very happy New Year. X

Winter Solstice Wishes

Santa Paws

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in our home, with stockings hanging from the banister in the hall, tinsel and stars on the mantelpiece, an advent candle steadily counting down the days, and the lights and baubles on the Christmas tree twinkling and glinting.

In a fit of seasonal excess, we’ve added three new decorations to our tree this year, one was a souvenir from the Enchanted Forest, another was a gift from friends brought back from the Netherlands, and last but not least, the little felt mouse was an impulse purchase that was too cute to resist – unfortunately, it’s proved to be equally irresistible to our cat Mara who’s never shown any interest in playing with the other trinkets and baubles before.

We’re keeping things simple with gifts this year, and determined to avoid giving anyone anything that might end up in landfill, we’re giving people vouchers for experiences like afternoon tea, making donations to charity on their behalf, and consumables like luxury chocolates, gin or bathing sets.

It feels like my husband and I have had an early visit from Santa as the baby box (provided by the Scottish Government and packed full of useful items), crib, pram and car-seat were all delivered within days of each other, and it’s been so exciting getting everything ready for our little one’s arrival in February.

As much as I enjoy decorating our home, and the giving and receiving of gifts, over the last few years we’ve been on a mission to simplify Christmas, and more than anything else, I’m looking forward to catching up with family and friends over the festive period, and having some time to ourselves after a hectic year. Wishing everyone a peaceful winter solstice and a very Merry Christmas! X

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Sorcerer to the Crown

Sorcerer to the Crown follows Zacharias Wythe, who has recently been appointed Sorcerer Royal after the sudden death of his foster father who previously held the position, and Prunella Gentleman, a mysterious servant girl with great magical potential whom he agrees to take on as his apprentice. Along the way, they become mired in political turmoil and have to fend off several assassination attempts.

Magic is waning in England, but much to the displeasure of the highly stratified English society, magic does not discriminate and is as likely to manifest in the working classes and women as it is well-educated, English gentlemen from the aristocracy. Racism and sexism are at the forefront of this story as Zacharias is a freed African slave, while Prunella is mixed-race.

It took me a while to get into this as there’s a lot of exposition, it’s written in the style of Regency-era novels, and the plot didn’t really get going until about halfway through. This had some interesting ideas, likable characters and good dose of humour but it wasn’t what I expected and overall I found it disappointing.

Have a lovely week. X

Stepping into Christmas

Mara Advent Calendar

December dawned with thick frosts, sub-zero temperatures and a freezing fog that lingered above the city all day. Nevertheless, we were out and about yesterday crunching across the frozen grass to refill the bird feeders and defrost the car before heading out to pick our Christmas tree, and treating ourselves to a bowl of soup, a sandwich and a slice of cake for lunch from a cafe to warm up on the way.

We don’t usually get our tree this early but realised we probably wouldn’t have another chance until much later in the month otherwise. The festive season has snuck up on us this year while we’ve been preoccupied with car break downs, hospital appointments and various DIY projects around the house. It’s been such a hectic and turbulent year for us that I’ve been feeling a bit less festive than usual, but still found a bit of Christmas cheer in the simple pleasures of lighting the Advent candle in the evening, laughing at Mara as she tries to get the catnip treat out of her advent calendar, and reading Christmas editions of magazines with a mug of hot blackcurrant cordial.

With another busy month ahead, very grateful to slow down and savour a few moments of calm and comfort at home before the Christmas rush begins. Have a lovely week! X

Thai Green Curry Recipe

Thai Green Curry

Ingredients:

200g Butternut Squash, peeled and chopped into 2cm cubes
1 Onion, peeled and diced
Handful of Mangetout
Four baby sweet corn, halved
200g tin of chickpeas, drained
400g tin of Coconut Milk

Curry Paste:

2 Stalks of Lemongrass, remove the outer skin
1 Green Chili, deseeded
2 Shallots, peeled
1 inch of Fresh Root Ginger
3 Cloves of Garlic
Juice of 1 Lime and Zest
Salt and pepper to season
Half a tablespoon of oil
2 Tablespoons of Water

Thai Green Curry2

Method:

Add all the curry paste ingredients and blend in a food processor until it becomes a smooth paste, then set aside.

Heat a dash of oil in large, shallow casserole dish, then add the onion and cook until it starts to caramelize. Add curry paste stir thoroughly, then bring to a simmer.

Add the butternut squash, mix through and then add the coconut milk, mix well and bring to a simmer. Cover the dish, stirring occasionally and cook for about 15 minutes or until the butternut squash is almost tender.

Add the mangetout and baby sweet corn, cook for a further five minutes.

Add the chickpeas and stir in thoroughly, cook for five minutes.

Serve with plain boiled rice, and enjoy. X