Autumn Fading into Winter

November isn’t normally one of my favourite months, but it’s been a watershed one for us this year as we started a new chapter as a family of four.

Since our second daughter’s arrival three weeks ago, there’s been a whirlwind of visits from family, neighbours, midwives and health visitors, quiet nights spent feeding and cuddling our new baby, with trips to shops, cafes, the library, playdates and all our toddler’s usual activites filling the daylight hours, and we’re gradually trying to find a rhythm that suits everyone. Though another child brings new challenges, going from none to one was much harder than the transition from one to two, and we’re finding our way much quicker the second time around.

It’s been a much bigger adjustment for our firstborn who at 2 years 9 months has gone from only to oldest; she’s needed a bit more reassurance and attention at times but has generally been curious about her little sister, showing her caring side by helping to change and bath the baby when she wants to get involved, and I hope they’ll become playmates and friends once the littlest one is mobile and verbal.

In contrast, our cat Mara surprised us by taking another baby in her stride. Mara seemed to be in shock when we brought the first baby home but has already given the newest addition a few tentative sniffs and then carried on with her own well-established routines.

Around the middle of the month, temperatures finally dipped into single figures and I’ve noticed Christmas decorations appearing in shops, garden centres and even a few homes over the last couple of weeks. Life with two small children is fast-paced, so many moments seem to be flashing past before I can catch them but glad to have found time to gather my thoughts here before autumn fades into winter. Have a lovely week. X

A Sleepy Hello…

My last post was actually written from a hospital bed while waiting to be induced after my due date had come and gone. Back at home now, I’m tapping out a quick post to share the news that our second daughter arrived safe and well on a sunny November morning last week.

I’m lucky that I’ve had two easy, healthy pregnancies, and two fairly positive birth experiences as well – though it’s only in hindsight that I realise how difficult my first labour was as I arrived at hospital fully dilated but my daughter’s heartbeat started dropping and ended up having a forceps delivery to get her out. I’d been desperate to avoid being induced for my second child’s birth because I’d heard so many horror stories but my own experience turned out to be uncomplicated and relatively quick, albeit intense and painful at the time, and I’m so grateful to the midwives who encouraged and guided me throughout, and helped safely deliver our youngest daughter.

I’d hoped to be discharged the same day but was kept in overnight to check my haemoglobin levels and I was so glad to get home to hand the newborn over to my husband for an hour or so (he’s very hands-on and has always been willing to do his share of bedtimes, night wakings and early mornings) to catch up on some sleep.

We’re now settled in at home and getting to know the smallest and youngest member of our little clan. At the moment, she’s all wrinkles and folds, silky soft hair, button nose, dark blue eyes, squeaks, snuffles, hiccups and sneezes. The last week has been a mix of long nights up with the newborn, busy days entertaining our toddler and visits from family and friends, but it’s been a lovely way to start this new chapter of family life.

Have a lovely week. X

Halloween at Home

Just typing out a quick post at the end of a busy but lovely weekend spent celebrating Halloween. With my due date just around the corner, we’ve been staying close to home but have still found lots of ways to have fun while we wait.

I bought a pumpkin to make a Jack O’Lantern and my daughter requested a cat. It’s a bit of an odd skill but I enjoy the challenge of carving pumpkins, though compared to some of my previous ideas, this one felt like I was resting on my laurels.

We had planned to light the firepit in the garden to toast marshmallows but rain scuppered our plans so we baked a spiced pumpkin cake instead. Lucky for us, our daughter is almost always happy to bake, paint or shape playdough so we don’t have to worry too much about being stuck inside when the weather is particularly inclement.

We haven’t been too cooped up though as there was a Halloween party at our toddler sensory group, full of themed activities and fun. We also went for wanders around parks between rain showers to let the little one burn off some energy splashing through puddles and thrashing through a thick carpet of leaves, while I admired the autumn foliage.

We’ve spent some time in our own garden too, making a note of ideas for next year and little jobs to do over the winter. I don’t bother tidying up too much and just let things die back naturally as the weeds tend to take over when the soil is left bare, but we really need to trim the hedges, thin the bamboo and mow the lawn once more before winter. Another job for winter is to paint and seal the inside of the summerhouse.

My last minute winter veg experiment has had mixed results: the winter spinach has done quite well, but slugs ate most of the rainbow chard, there’s a couple of daikon (mooli) and a single turnip growing too. I planted a row of peas to add a bit of nitrogen to the soil, and scattered some wood ash as I’d read that it can deter slugs and add potassium to the soil. I started some more chard in the greenhouse that seems to be doing reasonably well, but the cabbage and kale failed, which is disappointing as leafy greens are one of the few cravings I’ve had during this pregnancy.

I really love the “embery” months from September to February with the contrast of wrapping up in coats and boots to venture outside and making ourselves cosy at home with blankets and candles, and this Halloween weekend has been full of simple, seasonal pleasures. Happy Halloween, and have a lovely week. X

Slow Down and Coorie In

While the natural world is slowing down in preparation for winter and hibernation, it feels like family life has sped up as we prepare for our imminent new arrival. This summer and autumn have been slightly bittersweet, the excitement of our second child has been tempered by nerves about how our firstborn will cope with the transition from only to oldest, and we’ve been trying to give our daughter as much time and attention as we can, filling the last few months with experiences and memories.

We’ve been doing lots of baking together, we’ve finally tried out the bundt cake tin my husband bought me for Christmas to make a ginger cake; a spiced pumpkin loaf to rival anything you could get from Starbucks at this time of year; banana bread whenever we need to use up browning bananas; and our Christmas cake – using a recipe from the BeRo recipe book passed down from my late nanna to my mum and now to me; and whenever we’re feeling lazy and want a quick treat, we make chocolate rice crisp cakes. I have fond memories of baking with my own mum (mostly apple pies and jam tarts), and I’m really enjoying baking with my daughter, she’s a great little helper pouring and mixing the ingredients.

We’ve lit the fire on cold mornings and evenings, and spent rainy afternoons snuggled on the couch under blankets with the cat on my lap watching Disney films from classic animations like The Aristocats to more recent additions like Moana and Encanto, rediscovering some of my old favourites like Robin Hood and Lilo and Stitch along the way. We’ve also had craft sessions around the dining table, painting, handprinting and shaping playdough.

There’s been plenty of time outside too, admiring the autumn scenery on nature walks collecting pocketfuls of conkers and crisp leaves or splashing through puddles. I even found a fly agaric mushroom under one of the beech trees in our street. We had a lovely wander around the gardens at Pollok Country Park a little while ago, where the masses of kale, chard, pumpkins and whole greenhouses full of chilli plants in the kitchen garden gave me a serious dose of envy. The little one loved exploring the little fairy village there too.

It hasn’t been all fun and games though, the start of my maternity leave coincided with my daughter developing Croup, and there were a couple of trips to hospital for steroids, which was scary for all of us. Our second trip to the hospital was the same day we were supposed to go to the Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry, an annual tradition that I’ve really missed during the pandemic and something we’d been looking forward to, but it’s such a relief to see our little girl getting better and back to her boisterous self. Maybe next year…

We did have a surprise trip to Edinburgh that my husband booked to make up for missing the Enchanted Forest. We enjoyed evening and morning dips in the hotel pool, dinner and breakfast at the restaurant, but the real highlight was a morning trip to Portobello beach just 5 minutes away from the hotel, where we took a wander along the shore shrouded in a thick mist, chased each other across the sand, splashed in the waves and combed the beach for tiny treasures.

Between finishing up at work, taking care of our toddler and preparing for a new baby, I haven’t had much time to rest or relax and I’ve felt a bit like a leaf swirling in the wind as I’ve been pulled in different directions, but unusually for us we don’t have much planned for the winter months and I’m hoping we can all slow down and coorie-in. Take care and have a lovely week. X

Happy 7th Anniversary to Mara!

This week, on the 11th of October, we celebrated seven years since we adopted our cat, Mara. Sometimes it feels like no time at all has passed since she joined our family, but mostly it’s hard to remember life before we found Mara because she’s such a constant presence in our home, thoroughly embedded in family life and so many of our daily routines revolve around her.

Mara’s had a few health scares over the last couple of years, but at the moment she seems to be in good health, maintaining her weight with a thick, glossy coat and bright eyes, though there’s no doubt that she’s in her senior years, 12 at the youngest estimate and 16 at the older. We’ve noticed a slight limp in her hind leg and the vet had previously queried arthritis, but it doesn’t appear to be causing her discomfort or hindering her mobility as she’s still scampering around the house, jumping on windowsills, bookshelves and our bed. Over the last few weeks, she’s enjoyed hunting spiders around the house and watching squirrels at the bird feeder – trying to bop any that get too close to the window.

This week also coincided with the start of my maternity leave, though it hasn’t been very restful so far as we’ve had a couple of trips to hospital with our two year old who has croup and developed breathing difficulties (though thankfully recovering now!). It was a bit of shock to Mara when we brought the first baby home but she’s tolerated the little interloper with great stoicisim, even letting her tickle her tummy when she’s feeling particularly relaxed. Both my husband and I had cats growing up, and they were such big, beloved characters, but we couldn’t have hoped for a gentler, more affectionate or playful family pet of our own than Mara. As always, I feel so lucky and grateful for Mara and all the joy, amusement, affection, comfort and companionship she provides. Have a lovely week. X

Capturing Castles and Spotting Seals at Culzean

Back at the end of September, we took a wee day trip to Culzean Castle to make the most of a mild and sunny day. Culzean is just a few miles south of our favourite beach, Croy Shore, but is only somewhere we’ve visited a handful of times, though I can see it become another family favourite because there’s so much to see and do. It’s an NTS property so entrance is free for members, but for everyone else it’s £18.95 to visit the Castle and grounds, or £13.95 for the grounds (free for under 5’s), which is what we chose as with the adventure playpark, woodland walks, private beaches and gardens to explore, you could easily spend a whole day there.

Our first stop was at the Adventure Cove, a huge wooden fortress fulls of slides and places for children to climb and explore. During the summer holiday, I imagine this place is mobbed, but it wasn’t too busy when we visited.

We made our way through the woods to the beach, and it was really lovely to see clear views of the Isle of Arran and Ailsa Craig across the sea but from a different angle than we’re used to. While we were trying to work out what the stretch of land between Arran and Ailsa Craig was on the far horizon (our best guesses were either the Campbelltown Peninsula or Ireland?), we spotted a couple of seals swimming much to our delight – though annoyingly I didn’t have my camera with me so could only get a few zoomed-in, blurry shots with my phone.

Afterwards, we headed back towards the main entrance and the castle itself. Culzean Castle is perched on the cliffs and always reminds me of Manderley from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. I would’ve liked to visit the gardens in front of the castle but by this time the little one’s energy and patience were flagging so settled for a quick glimpse through the ruined arch, then a break for refreshments at the Home Farm Cafe before the journey home. It was a really lovely day and somewhere that we’ll definitely return to. Have a lovely week. X

Autumn Equinox in the Garden

This weekend marked the official start of autumn according to the astronomical calendar (though I’ve always prefered the meteorological calendar as it always seems like we’re well into a season by the time the equinox or solstice rolls around), and I’m still enjoying lots of time out in the garden.

I’ve tried to fill the garden with plants that flower at different times, and one of my favourites is the autumn flowering Aster ‘Patricia Ballard’. I also really appreciate the flowers with a long flowering period like hardy geraniums that start flowering in June and carry on well into autumn and sometimes winter, long after the summer blooms have faded, and so far both ‘Blushing Turtle’ and ‘Rozanne’ are still going strong.

My favourite rose, David Austin’s ‘Boscobel’ has slowed down but is still producing the odd beautiful flower in the long border, and the most generous of my roses, ‘Crown Princess Margareta’ is still producing the odd handful of apricot blooms.

There are also still a few annuals dotted around the garden like calendula and nasturtiums, but there is a gradual sense that the garden is slowing down and preparing to hibernate.

We’ve had quite a few cherry tomatoes from plants we bought reduced, but quite a few are still green and I’m hoping they’ll ripen before the cold weather arrives. I wasn’t planning to grow many vegetables this year, but seized by a sudden whim I sowed a few seeds for winter veggies (turnips, spinach and radish) in one the square raised beds, and I’ve also started cabbage, kale and chard seeds in the greenhouse, but it feels like a race against time to grow them on enough to plant out before the first frosts.

As much as I love the coziness of autumn and winter, I do miss spending time in the garden during the colder, darker months, and I’m savouring every moment in the garden and all the plants still growing at this time of year. Have a lovely week. X

Stepping into Autumn

Autumn is upon us once more, with cool, crisp mornings, warm, sunny afternoons (more often than not!) and darker evenings, and the leaves of the trees just starting to turn in our corner of the world.

Last week, my husband and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary, and next week we’ll have been together for 14 years. I still feel very lucky to have found him; my husband is my best friend, he’s been a supportive partner through so many challenges and changes, and he’s become a devoted, hands-on father too. It hasn’t always been easy, over the years we’ve had to navigate long-distance as work and study pulled us in opposite directions across the map, interfering in-laws and family estrangements, illnesses and a hundred other hurdles. Yet there has been so much more laughter, affection and joy, and the hard times we’ve faced have always been made easier by the reassuring comfort of standing side by side, hand in hand through it all.

We managed a rare child-free evening out to celebrate our anniversary at a delicious Spanish tapas restaurant, we ate so much food, enjoyed a tasty mocktail, then ice-cream and a wee wander up to the University to see my hubby’s new office.

My husband starts a new job next week, one that involves much less travel around the UK than his previous role, which will suit our little family better. In contrast, I’ve been with the same employer for over six years now, by far the longest I’ve ever worked anywhere, and I’d like to make a change at some point in the future but I’m very lucky that my employer offers flexible working options that fit around family life.

I’m not one to count my chickens before they’ve hatched but it’s hard not to feel excited and nervous when our second child’s due date is just 7 weeks away! I had a bit of a fright a couple of weeks ago as I was involved in a 4 car accident on my way home from work, though luckily no one involved was injured and after exchanging details we all made our way home. Even so, it was a relief to see our baby at the 32-week growth scan last week, and to see everything looking healthy and normal. We also received our baby box from the Scottish government and enjoyed unpacking all the useful things inside.

We’ve finally started work on our front garden with the help of my father-in-law (and our daughter who just loves to get involved with whatever we’re doing), creating a new path that leads directly up to the front door. For the last few years the front garden has been overgrown and neglected so I’m really looking forward to doing something with this space, and my imagination is running wild with ideas of silver birch and cherry blossom trees and a pond.

I love September with the last of the summer warmth and the first chill of autumn, as it always seems like month of beginnings and endings, changes and transitions, as one season draws to a close and another begins, and I’m looking forward to lots of cosy times ahead. Have a lovely week. X

Summer Scenes and Moments

Taking some time to reflect on some of the highlights of a lovely summer as the season draws to a close before we step into autumn.

We’re an outdoorsy family and have enjoyed lots of time outside in both sunshine and the rain, with a surprisingly fun showery day at Mugdock Country Park, wrapped up in waterproofs and wellies feeding ducks in the pond, splashing in puddles and wandering the forest trails.

We made another visit to our favourite beach, this time chasing the waves at high tide with our fearless daughter charging into the sea up to her waist.

We spent a very changeable day at the Kelpies that began with us appreciating the statues from every angle, then having ice cream and hot chocolate in the drizzle, before the sun came out again and we wandered along the canal path admiring the narrowboats, my husband and I reminiscing about a narrowboat holiday with friends several years ago and daydreaming about possible future family holidays.

There have been afternoons spend in the garden, keeping cool in the paddling pool with ice lollies or thick slices of chilled watermelon, or the little one foraging for strawberries and blueberries in our little food forest, or zooming around our cul-de-sac on her scooter and bike while we chat to our neighbours.

While playgroups and sensory have been off for summer, we’ve spent sunny mornings at the park, swinging, sliding, trampolining and chasing our shadows. Oddly, these morning visits to the park reminded me in an unexpectedly nostalgic way of my maternity leave during lockdown when the parks were all that was open to us. There was also an early morning visit to the skate park at Kelvingrove where the little one rode her balance bike up and down the ramps before the older skateboarders, roller skaters and biking kids arrived.

There was another visit to Five Sisters Zoo, this time with my husband’s family to celebrate a birthday. We spent most of our time shepherding three exuberant little cousins, but still managed to catch glimpses of the red panda in the treetops, beautiful newly arrived Cheetahs, and the rescued lions – which I only recently realised are male having misread the sign the first time I visited (they were castrated when very young and never grew manes). It’s seeing the animals – especially those that were rescued – so healthy and content that makes Five Sisters Zoo such a special place to visit and a zoo that I’m happy to support.

We also had a walk around Rouken Glen Park recently too, seeing the river and waterfalls a mere trickle of what they usually are, but the woods still lush and green. We are really lucky to have so many lovely places to explore nearby.

Even though we didn’t go away for a holiday this summer (we’re saving our annual leave and money for my maternity leave later this year) and the weather has swung from scorching heatwaves to thundery downpours, we’ve had a summer full of fun, laughter and made some lovely memories together. Have a lovely week. X

Summer in the Garden

Like most people in the UK, we spent the first half of the week trying to stay cool on the hottest days, though we haven’t had to endure the record breaking temperatures further South. Although our garden is South-SouthWest facing, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well our plants held up during the heatwave, and it’s looking really lovely right now if I do say so myself.

Our back garden has changed a lot over the last few years but is starting to look quite established with fruit trees growing tall, the bamboo clumping, summerhouse freshly painted and perennials spreading in the long border. I’ve tried to plant flowers that bloom at different times, and as Cirsium Rivulare (thistle) dies back, the Crocosmia starts to flower, while the hardy Geraniums (‘Blushing Turtle’ and ‘Rozanne’) and roses pretty much flower from June until the first frost (and sometimes beyond that). ‘Rozanne’ has become a bit of a sprawling mass, so I’ll separate and relocate some to the other beds in the autumn.

I’ve surprised myself by developing a real affection for pink roses, ‘Boscobel’ is my favourite but the climbing rose ‘James Galway’ is a close second, and I doubt I’ll be able to resist adding another rose to fill in the gap in the long border when the next David Austin catalogue drops through the letterbox.

The two smaller square beds were supposed to be wildflower patches, but calendula and one solitary sunflower were the only things to survive the slugs which devoured every other seedling as they surfaced, but I don’t mind as I quite like the dramatic, fiery orange.

We’ve been putting out a little bit of food and water for the birds, squirrels and hedgehogs that inhabit and visit our garden over the summer. It’s especially exciting to see hedgehogs snuffling and shuffling around in the evening. We know there’s more than one visiting as they’re visibly different sizes with different markings, and it’s encouraging because their numbers have been in sharp decline for a while.

We’ve constructed the greenhouse, and my husband also built a small fence around it to prevent kids from bumping into it. During the heatwave earlier this week, the thermometer in the greenhouse reached 46°C before it stopped working. The greenhouse went up a bit late late in the season, but we’ve filled it with reduced price seedlings so we might still get a handful of tomatoes and courgettes, but I’m excited about growing more of our veg next year. I’ve had some success growing lettuce in pots this summer, though I had to move them onto the kitchen windowsill as they were starting to wilt in direct sunlight. I’ve also created a little fruit forest between our apple trees planting rhubarb and strawberries underneath, and our daughter loves foraging for berries in the garden. Weeds have been a problem so I scattered some nasturtium seeds to provide a bit of competition and occlusion, but I haven’t tried eating the leaves or flowers.

Our garden is quite small and yet we’re making the most of the space we have. Gardening is one of my great passions, and I really value time spent in the garden so much, it’s incredibly rewarding and restorative to feel connected to nature. Have a lovely week. X