Early Signs of Spring

Early Signs of Spring

The shortest month of the year felt like the longest for us, and it was a relief to turn the page of the calendar and welcome both a new month and a new season. Over the last few days, I’ve enjoyed noticing all the little signs – from the first daffodil about to unfurl in our garden to the light creeping back into our mornings and evenings – that spring is on the way.

The end of February was unseasonably warm across the UK – such a contrast from this time last year when our garden was under a foot of snow, but for the most part we’ve had frosty mornings, sunny afternoons and cooler evenings in our part of the country. It’s been warm enough to resume my lunchtime walks in the park near my office, where I spotted catkins dangling from the trees like party decorations, and in our front garden the little Kilmarnock willow has also started producing furry catkins.

There still isn’t much growing in our garden yet, but we’ve started off a few things inside. In a fit of nostalgia, my spouse and I decided to grow something that reminded of us of our childhoods. My husband often reminisces about growing potatoes with his stepdad on their allotment, and there are now potatoes chitting on one of the windowsills. We’ve also started off some sweat peas, which remind me of happy hours spent playing in my grandparents’ garden. I let my husband pick whichever colours he liked, but insisted he stick to scented varieties.

When life feels overwhelming, there is something incredibly steadying about nature and the familiar cycle of the seasons; again and again, nature somehow finds a way to endure the harshest winters, scorching summers, and everything in between. Have a lovely week. X

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The Giant Lanterns of China

One of my highlights of 2018 was visiting the Giant Lanterns of China at Edinburgh Zoo for Chinese New Year, and I was thrilled when I found out they were putting on another show this year. This time around the theme was Myths and Legends, and I loved the clash of Scottish and Chinese mythology, like the Loch Ness Monster tangling with a Chinese water dragon.

Nessie and Dragon

There were a few lanterns recycled from the previous event but I was impressed by how much thought and effort had been made to ensure it was every bit as original and memorable as the first, and I thought it was even better than the previous year.

Aside from all the fantastical creatures, there was also a section displaying extinct animals alongside currently endangered species, providing a pertinent reminder that we must act now to prevent species from disappearing in our lifetime due to climate change, hunting and loss of habitat.

Living in Scotland, we’re no strangers to inclement weather, but when it started snowing, it only made the experience seem more magical as we meandered between the gorgeous lanterns with cold hands wrapped around hot drinks, and it was a wonderful way to spend a wintry evening in February. Have a lovely week! X

Winter Gardening Indoors & Out

Unlike many people, I don’t dislike January, it’s a peaceful month to recover from the excesses of the festive period and ease into a new year. Unfortunately, I don’t feel quite as charitable about February, which I find frigid and inhospitable while I’m impatiently waiting for spring to begin.

snowdrop

I dug up the Iris Reticulata and Snowdrop bulbs last year with the intention of relocating them but then didn’t get around to it, which will make winter feel even longer as we might not see many flowers until April when the tulips appear. I must have missed one of the snowdrops though, and it was a pleasant surprise to spot the little flash of white in the border.

buddha and bamboo

At this time of year, I’m desperately grateful for the greenery that the bamboo (Fargesia Robusta) provides while the trees are still bare, and it looks lovely edged with white when it snows. We’ve also treated ourselves to a little Buddha statue with vouchers the in-laws gave us for Christmas to add a little Zen to the border.

I’ve been enjoying watching the birds that visit our feeding station over the winter. We seem to have a multi-generational family of sparrows living in our hedge and a pair of blue tits that nest by the side of the house every year, as well as the odd robin and black bird that visit.

Inside our home, we’ve been enjoying the warmth and coziness of our woodburner most evenings, and I’ve been tending our little houseplant collection, which I’m often guilty of neglecting during the warmer months when most of my time and attention is focused on the garden. I was very excited to notice that two of the Echeveria seem to be growing flowering stems, especially as their once red and pink edges have faded to the leaftips. Have a lovely week! X

A New Year’s Day Walk on the Beach

Arran and the Holy Isle

We were up bright and early yesterday for a New Year’s Day walk at our favourite beach, Croy Shore in Ayrshire. We never remember to check the tides before visiting but we were happy to discover that it was out when we arrived giving us an opportunity to meander towards the rocky outcrops that are usually inaccessible when the tide is in.

Strolling side by side with our hoods up against the chill wind and the sun warming our backs, the pale blue skies gave us a perfect view of the Isle of Arran and the Holy Isle. My spouse and I weren’t brave enough to take a dip in the sea, but it was a refreshing walk and felt like we were breathing in all the hope of a new year and letting go of the year before. I always feel inspired by new beginnings, and it’s exciting to think of all the opportunities to meet new people, visit new places, try new experiences, to learn and grow that a new year promises.

This week I’m enjoying a few more days off at home before we put the Christmas decorations away for another year, we return to work and normality resumes. Happy New Year and have a lovely week! X

2018 ~ Looking Back, Looking Forward

End of the Year

We’re in the midst of that peaceful and cosy time between Christmas and New Year when everything seems to slow down and I struggle to remember what day of the week it is.

2018 has been a year full of adventures and experiences for us, and it’s genuinely hard to pick out personal highlights because there have been so many from our roadtrip around Iceland (something my husband and I have been talking about since our first visit to Reykjavik in 2014) to day trips around Scotland, and slowly but surely transforming our garden.

The three most popular posts on my blog this year were:

  1. On the road around Iceland
  2. Pottering around with houseplants
  3. An Unruly Tangle of Flowers

I always find it interesting to see which posts seem to resonate with readers, but I try not to worry too much about likes and followers, and focus on writing about what interests me and what’s going on in our lives.

I was just shy of my reading target this year, which I blame on three books I started but didn’t finish. I’ve accepted that I’ll never read 52 books a year, but a couple of books a month seems like a realistic goal. This week I re-organised my bookshelves (still two rows deep) and I like seeing old favourites rubbing shoulders with new books waiting to be read.

I didn’t share many recipes this year, which was largely due to my husband and I adopting a gluten-free diet as he has suspected Crohn’s Disease. We both enjoy cooking (almost as much as eating!) and make as much as we can from scratch and I’m hoping to share a few new vegetarian and gluten-free recipes soon.

Looking back at our photos and all the memories we’ve made, I’m a little sad this wonderful year is ending, but I’m looking forward to seeing what 2019 holds. Wishing everyone a very happy New Year when it comes, and thank you so much to everyone who takes the time to read, like, comment on or follow my little blog. X

Twinkle and Jingle

Curious Mara

There always seems to be a mad dash in December to get everything ready for Christmas, but now that the shopping is done, cards have been posted and presents wrapped, things are finally starting to wind down and we’re very much looking forward to some time off between Christmas and New Year.

My husband and I have been trying to simplify Christmas for a few years now, gradually stripping away the stress, excess and waste to find all the peace, love, joy and wonder that the festive period holds.

Everything seems to twinkle and jingle in December, and I always look forward to the simple pleasure of putting up our Christmas decorations, and especially decorating the tree. I love unwrapping the trinkets and baubles we’ve collected over the years, and reminiscing about where each of them came from. The newest addition to our collection is a wooden nutcracker soldier that I bought from Jólagarðurinn (The Christmas Garden) outside Akureyri in Iceland, a little souvenir from our holiday in April. Our cat Mara also loves investigating the tree, though luckily she doesn’t attempt to climb it or attack the baubles.

My favourite part of Christmas though is spending time with my family, free from the distractions and time constraints that are often present throughout the rest of the year. This Christmas many of our plans will revolve around the older generation of our family, as we try to make things as easy and inclusive as possible for my 92-year-old nanna, and visit another member of the family who might be spending Christmas in hospital. Christmas is a time of love and joy for many, yet it can be tinged with loss and loneliness for others, and I always feel lucky and grateful to be able to share it with the people I love most.

Wishing everyone a peaceful winter Solstice and a very happy Christmas! X

End of the Gardening Year

Winter Preparations

Things are steadily winding down in the garden as temperatures drop, the weather worsens and the daylight decreases, and we’re preparing ourselves for another long, dark and cold winter. I always start to feel a bit reflective in December and as there’s not much to do in the garden, it’s a good time to look back on all the changes we’ve made in our front and back gardens this year.

It’s been a year of stark contrasts weather-wise as it snowed all through January and right into March, so we got off to a late start in the garden, then had to contend with scorching sunshine during the summer heatwave. Yet despite the vagaries of the weather, we’ve still accomplished a lot: cutting down three tall, dark fir trees and replacing them with clumping bamboo along the back fence, planting two apple trees, as well as filling our flower borders with hardy perennials and roses. We’ve also had seasonal successes growing lettuce, rat-tailed radish, courgettes, squashes, rhubarb and various soft fruits.

The growing season is almost over, but we still have winter kale in the raised beds, as well as a few stubborn calendula flowering in the border. Improving the heavy clay soil is one of our longer term aims, but we left it too late to sow green manure seeds in the raised beds and instead we’ve covered them with fallen leaves we gathered that will hopefully mulch down over the winter.

As the garden prepares to hibernate, we’re making plans for 2019, planting spring bulbs, collecting seeds, daydreaming about flowers tumbling out of the borders and harvesting organic vegetables. Our garden may be a work in progress – and very hard work at times – but it gives us a real sense of achievement and joy, and we’re very grateful for it. Have a lovely week! X