Happy 6th Anniversary to Mara

Our family has been enjoying a little celebration this evening as it was six years ago today we adopted our cat, Mara. As she was an adult when we adopted her, we know almost nothing about her life before she came to live with us, we don’t know when her birthday is or even her age, but I always like to mark the anniversary.

My husband and I had just returned from our honeymoon when we decided to ask our then landlord for permission to add a pet to our household. Both having grown up with cats, there was never really any doubt what animal we’d choose, and as I’d only had rescue cats (some quite literally rescued from a sack abandoned on a building site) I was determined to give a cat a second chance to have a safe and loving home. As it happened, Mara’s previous owner had just passed away and she’d only been in the rehoming centre for a week, but she was so happy when we brought her home and every bit as eager to bond with us as we were to get to know her. It feels like we’ve been through a lot together in the last six years, we’ve moved out of our little rented flat and into our own house, Mara’s survived cancer and our daughter’s birth to mention just a few of the biggest changes, but Mara’s adjusted to everything without any fuss, seemingly content as long as we’re all together.

I often feel very lucky that we found Mara before anyone else claimed her, she’s always been the most affectionate, gentle and playful companion, who follows us around the house curious to see what we’re doing, keeps me company when I’m working from home (often waltzing across the screen while I’m on videocalls), snaffling for scraps at dinnertime and loves to snuggle up while I’m reading in the evening before curling up at the bottom of our bed to sleep every night. Yet I also realise how lucky Mara was that we adopted her as we found the cancerous lump on her tail so early that none of the vets who treated her had seen one at that stage before, and we’ve always been quick to notice and react when she seems out of sorts. I’m relieved that Mara appears to be back to her normal, happy and hungry self after her mystery illness a few months ago.

This evening has been spent at home spoiling Mara with treats, and appreciating all the love, affection and fun she’s brought to our family. Have a lovely week. X

Autumn in the Garden

Blogging has fallen by the wayside over the last few weeks as we’ve all been off but not really enjoying much of a rest or holiday as our daughter caught hand, foot and mouth at nursery, and we’ve spent the last wee while taking care of her and pottering around the home and garden.

We’ve not managed to do much gardening this year as it was turned into a temporary building site while we were doing some home improvements. Nevertheless, it’s not looking too bad for this time of year. We’ve trimmed the bamboo, which has “clumped” since we planted it three years ago, and the climbing rose Crown Princess Margaret has been providing beautiful bouquets of peachy roses all summer. Hardy perennials like Crocosmia, Scabiosa, Asters and Geraniums are all still providing bursts of colour in the main flower bed.

The only thing I grew from seed this year is Crown Prince Pumpkins, which I trained to grow up over a frame my husband made to save space and protect them from slugs. This week I harvested three blue-ish pumpkins, the smallest weighing just over 2kg and the largest 5.1kg.

We’ve always enjoyed the wildlife that inhabits and visits our garden (with the exception of the slugs) but the upheaval and extra human presences during our renovations caused a temporary exodus, but over the last couple of months, the sparrows, blue tits and great tits have all returned. We’ve also had some bold grey squirrels coming right up to the window demanding nuts – much to our daughter’s delight. At the end of the summer, we also had a hedgehog wombling around the garden in the evenings.

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love light shows and I’ve added a few solar lights to enchant our little garden (though my husband thinks I’m at risk of causing pollution if I add anymore). As daylight fades and the city begins to quiet, the lights flicker on one by one, and the garden starts to feel more peaceful and mysterious.

No sooner had our daughter started to recover than the tell-tale spots and blisters appeared on my hands and feet, but I’m hoping I’ll recover quickly so we can all get back into our routine and out for some autumnal adventures. Have a lovely weekend. X

Summer into Autumn

Summer into Autumn

The sun seems to be rising a little later and setting a little earlier every day, and though the weather is still mild most days, there’s a chill creeping into the mornings and evenings as summer slips into autumn.

This summer has been a memorable one for us full of family adventures from trips to the beach, zoo and aquarium, as well as local toddler sensory classes (full of themed activities and songs), and a summer block of wheelie tots, where our daughter got to try balance bikes, skateboards and scooters which were such a hit that we bought her a scooter soon after. Apart from daytrips and toddler groups, the rest of our time together is usually spent at the local parks or pottering around at home filling our days with nursery rhymes, scribbling with crayons, building blocks, lots of rough and tumble play, or letting her help me with some housework like loading the washing machine, watering the plants, refilling the bird feeder or feeding our cat, Mara.

Our little girl is so curious and adventurous, she’s on-the-go from the moment she wakes up until bedtime, and I wouldn’t have her any other way. She started talking in July, her first proper word was “cracker” (her favourite snack), quickly followed by cat, car, shoes, bubble, bee, more and no, and she’s been adding words to her vocabularly every day.

Mara-cat gave us quite a scare a few months ago when she suddenly became ill with a fever – and we still don’t know what caused it – but she seems to have recovered and is back to her usual cuddly, playful self. During the heatwave, she spent most of her days alternating between sunbathing and trying to cool down, but now that the temperatures have dropped again, she’s been back to snuggling up with me in the evenings, which is always one of the highlights of my day.

Though this has been a good one, summer is my least favourite season, it’s as often hot, humid and wet as it is warm and sunny with blue skies, and I’m already looking forward to the transient beauty of autumn and the cosy times ahead. Have a lovely week. X

High and Low Tide at the Beach

With the exception of a week of thunderstorms and torrential rain, we’ve had a wonderful summer of blue skies, sunshine and warmth, and we’ve been making the most of the good weather and our freedom after all the travel restrictions and lockdowns last year. We’ve had a couple of very different trips to our favourite beach recently, arriving at low tide one day, then high tide just a few days later, something we always forget to check before visiting.

When our visit coincided with low tide, we had a quick picnic lunch before exploring the rock pools that are normally submerged while the tide is in. My husband (an astrological crab) set about trying to find the biggest crabs he could, and found a couple of very aptly-named, red-eyed and fairly hostile, Devil Crabs, while I searched for starfish. Our daughter was fascinated by it all, pointing at rocks for us to turn over and giggling whenever we held up the aquatic critters we’d found for her to look at.

Just a few days later, we returned while the tide was in and spent an afternoon walking barefoot in the sand, paddling in the waves and letting the little one dig in the sand. We’re used to having the beach to ourselves most of the time, but this was the busiest we’d ever seen it with dog-walkers, swimmers and paddle-boarders, families picnicking and even someone trying their luck with a metal detector.

Whatever the weather, and regardless of the the tide being in or out, Croy Shore is always one of my favourite places to visit, and it’s been lovely to spend a few days there this summer. Have a lovely week. X

Five Sisters Zoo

Five Sisters Zoo in West Lothian was on my list of places to visit for a while but due to lockdowns and travel restrictions we didn’t have an opportunity to visit until recently, but it was absolutely worth the wait, turning out to be much bigger and with a greater range of animals than I expected from a family run zoo with a focus on animal welfare.

Five Sisters Zoo was founded by a couple who originally bought the land to open their own garden centre with a little animal rehoming centre for pets and rescued animals. While the independent garden centre struggled and eventually closed, the little animal collection, which started with rabbits, guinea pigs, goats and pigs, continued to expand until the local council granted them a zoo license in 2005.

I really appreciated the ethos of this family run zoo that has taken in animals from other zoos that have closed down, rescued and retired bears and lions from circuses and various other animals with injuries, illnesses and disabilities that would be unable to live in the wild.

We were really lucky and saw most of the animals during our visit with the exceptions of the rescued bears, the snow leopard and the wolves – all of whom were hidden away in their large enclosures. Our animal-loving daughter loved the otters, lemurs and meerkats best of all, and eventually had to be carried out of the zoo howling in protest after we’d spent a good three hours wandering around; while I was delighted to catch a glimpse of Rufio the red panda – a relatively new addition who arrived at the zoo in May.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the zoo and it’s definitely somewhere we’d return to. Have a lovely week. X

Returning to the Japanese Gardens

We’re in the midst of a summer heatwave at the moment, and while we’ve been spending most of our time in the garden splashing in the paddling pool and enjoying the shade of the summerhouse, we’ve enjoyed a few daytrips out of the city as well. We recently combined a long overdue family reunion with a visit to the Japanese Gardens at Cowden Estate in Clackmannanshire. My husband and I visited the The Japanese Gardens in 2018, and it was lovely to return with our toddler in tow to see how it’s grown and changed since our first visit.

The main path follows the edge of the lake with two bridges, one arched and the other zig-zagging allowing visitors to cross from one side to the other. There’s also a dry-garden with patterns raked into the stones, a moss garden, and stone lanterns scattered around. The gardens are elegant, tranquil and wonderfully combine the Japanese aesthetic with the surrounding Scottish landscape.

After exploring the gardens, we treated ourselves to coffee and freshly baked scones from the cafe. The Japanese Gardens are a little of the beaten path, but well worth a visit. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

A Glimpse Under the Sea at the Aquarium

I suspect the rest of the U.K. is watching the Euro 2020 final, while I’m enjoying a bit of a peace and quiet at the end of a busy weekend and tapping out a quick post about our recent family excursions to the SeaLife Aquarium at Loch Lomond Shores now that lockdown and travel restrictions have finally ended in Scotland.

One personal change the pandemic has brought about is that I used to book events well in advance (I always like to have something to look forward to) but after so many cancelled events and travel restrictions, I’m trying to be more spontaneous, so when one rainy Saturday my husband saw there were tickets available for the SeaLife Aquarium, we decided to seize the day as it had been on our list of things to do for a while. It’s not fully open yet due to refurbishments and certain areas are still closed where social distancing isn’t possible but there was plenty to see and more than enough to keep us and our inquisitive, energetic toddler entertained from clownfish (“Hello Nemo!”) to piranhas and sharks. Even though it’s relatively close (a half hour drive for us), the SeaLife Aquarium is not somewhere we’ve visited before but we had a lovely time and would definitely return. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Nine Lives

I’d planned to share a post about some of our recent travels now that restrictions have been lifted, but sharing an update about our cat Mara instead. It’s been a stressful week in our household as Mara suddenly became unwell last weekend and had to spend a couple of nights at the vet’s while they tried to find the cause of her fever and bring her temperature back down to normal.

One of the benefits of keeping a house-cat is that we’re really familiar with all of Mara’s routines and we’re always able to tell when she goes off her food, starts becoming lethargic or anti-social – all clear sights that she’s feeling unwell – and we’re quick to react when something’s not right, which I’m pretty sure has saved her life on more than one occasion.

This is unfortunately her second mystery illness in less than twelve months. All the x-rays, scans, blood and urine tests have come back normal, which should be good news but doesn’t feel like it when we can’t figure out what’s wrong with her. The sad reality is that most of us will outlive our pets, and there are never any guarantees about how long they will live. My husband and I are both cat people, having grown up with them as family pets, but my husband had just one cat adopted as a kitten who passed away one month before her 22nd birthday, while my family had three rescued kittens who lived until two, four and sixteen years respectively. We always knew that adopting an adult cat meant that Mara might not be with us for very long, and yet she has been such a lovely companion that I feel so grateful for every moment we’ve spent together.

After a week of nursing her back to health, she seems to be recovering well, and the vet is happy with all her vitals. I don’t know how many of her nine lives Mara has left but I’m relieved and thankful that she’s still with us. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Chaos and Calm

Life has been fairly hectic over the last couple of months, I returned to work in March and it’s been quite an adjustment settling back into the routine, getting to grips with a new caseload, MS Teams, lateral flow tests and various other changes that happened while I was on maternity leave. It’s a challenging time to work in Health and Social Care but I’ve returned with a renewed sense of purpose and motivation. My husband has recently changed jobs too, finding a position just ten minutes from home, but full of new opportunities and challenges.

Our daughter also started nursery in March and has settled in so well. It’s a relief given how isolated we were during her first year that she’s turned into such a curious, sociable and lively toddler. She’s had almost back to back colds, teething and most recently an ear infection (requiring a late night trip to the out of hours GP and antibiotics) since starting, but she’s a little whirlwind of energy that doesn’t let anything slow her down, and treats the whole world like her playground. We’ve been having lots of fun playing in the garden, visiting our recently re-opened library (closed since the first lockdown last year) and local parks, where dandelion clocks and splashing in puddles are almost as entertaining as swings, slides and tunnels.

Our other little girl, Mara, is also doing well, enjoying a couple of days of peace and quiet while the toddler is at nursery during the week. Mara’s actually been more playful in the last few weeks than she has been all winter, and while she’s not as energetic or acrobatic as she used to be, it’s reassuring to see her hunting and chasing her toys. Mara has slowed down as she’s aged, but she’s still the same affectionate, playful companion she was when we adopted her nearly six years ago.

Renovations have started on our home, we’re building a small extension to our kitchen and adding a downstairs bathroom. The changes are small as we don’t want to change the character of our home too much, but will make a big difference to our living space and daily routines. It does mean the temporary inconvenience of having a skip outside the house, a cement mixer and building materials in the back garden, as well as the fun of walking the plank whenever we leave or enter the house. It’s quite exciting to see ideas we’ve discussed since moving here 4 and a half years ago finally coming to fruition.

Between work, renovations and an adventurous toddler, our days have been full and busy, in contrast our evenings have been fairly calm, once our daughter goes to sleep, my husband and I usually have a quick tidy up around the house, before settling down to watch a little bit of TV, read books or sometimes do a Yoga session together with the DownDog app. We are unfortunately in the only part of Scotland still under travel and socialising restrictions, but we are looking forward to being able to travel further afield and visit loved ones again hopefully in the near future. Take care and have a lovely week. X

Back Again

As soon as travel restrictions were lifted in Scotland, we took a trip to our favourite beach, Croy Shore in South Ayrshire. We’d normally visit in January, often on New Year’s Day for a bracing walk along the coast, but that wasn’t possible this year due to lockdown; instead our first visit of 2021 was on a sunny Spring day with blue skies above, waves gently lapping the shoreline, sands stretching out for miles ahead and temps just hitting double figures. I was so glad to see the familiar sights of the curving coastline, Turnberry lighthouse (now part of a luxury resort owned by a former U.S. President), Culzean Castle to the South and the hazy outline of the Isle of Arran across the sea.

We had to planned to let our daughter just toddle about on the sands but she surprised us with her fearlessness by running straight towards the sea and splashing about in the waves grinning and squealing with laughter.

Croy Shore has been the setting for so many memories between me and my husband, we’ve come here to gather our thoughts, clear our minds and contemplate some of our biggest decisions, yet on this day we were just content to stroll along letting our little girl dictate the pace and direction, making some new memories as a family, and savouring the first taste of freedom after so many months of lockdown.

Take care, and have a lovely week. X