Dark Nights and Winter Lights

We recently took a wrapped-up trip to the Botanic Gardens which had been illuminated for GlasGLOW. I’ve found it hit and miss in previous years, but I couldn’t resist the appeal of an event located so conveniently close to where we live. I’ve really missed light shows during the pandemic, and this was a welcome return to one of my favourite ways to spend a dark and wintry evening.

My husband and I have been visiting The Enchanted Forest and other light shows for a decade, but this was our 21 month old daughter’s first light show, and she was fascinated by it all. We deliberately chose an early slot (living in Scotland means it’s usually dark by 4pm in Winter) but even so it was a slightly later night than the little one was used to.

The theme of GlasGLOW this year was gloop – a toxic substance created by an evil scientist that was polluting the city – which seemed slightly topical given that the event coincided with COP26.

My favourite parts of the show were walking through the strings of lights and the walkway over the grassy meadow that was festooned with lights leading to Kibble glass house, though one disadvantage of the one-way circuit around the park is that it discouraged us from lingering too long in one place or returning to our favourite parts of the show.

It was a well-organised event, we barely had to queue at the entrance, and it never felt too crowded. We were pleasantly surprised by food vendors that offered a decent range of vegan and vegetarian food, and my husband really enjoyed a gluten-free pizza. We also had toasted marshmallows. We had a lovely time and I loved seeing our daughter’s reaction to it all. Have a lovely week. X

Autumn Moments

It seemed like autumn was slow to start this year with the leaves clinging to the trees and remaining stubbornly green until mid-October when they seemed to skip all the shades of red and began to create a carpet of muted oranges, yellows and browns on the ground.

We’re an outdoorsy family, but it’s been too wet to play in the park most days so instead we’ve been kicking our way through fallen leaves, splashing in puddles and collecting pine cones with our toddling daughter. We’ve also had plenty of fun inside with homemade playdough, baking cakes (the little one takes her job stirring the ingredients very seriously) and reading stories together.

There’s also been playdates in the park with my friend and her daughter, watching the girls throw handfuls of leaves and chasing each other around while we chatted. Last weekend, we followed a little pumpkin trail at my husband’s cousin’s farmstead where all the kids ignored the pumpkins in favour of feeding the hens, grazing at the buffet table and generally running amok.

This weekend we’ve enjoyed some Halloween fun, our daughter has had fancy dress parties at nursery and her toddler sensory group, and carving a pumpkin lantern at home – though my imagination always exceeds my ability.

The weather this month has been wet and wild, but we haven’t let it dampen our spirits and have embraced so many simple and seasonal pleasures inside and out. Happy Halloween and 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

Autumn Scenes

The colder months of the year are always a mix of tugging on boots and coats for walks outside, and cosy evenings at home in front of the fire. We’re back under lockdown again and confined to our local area, however, we’re fortunate to live within walking distance of two large parks. We’ve become regular visitors at both – enjoying the late flowering roses, the autumnal trees, feeding the ducks and swans, pushing our daughter on the swings, and even meeting friends and their little ones for playdates.

Now nine months old, our daughter is a little livewire, crawling, babbling, waving and clapping, growing, learning and just so curious about the world. In September, I started taking her to Baby Sensory classes where we sang, bounced, signed, played and shook rattles, albeit at a safe distance from the other parents and infants. The activities are not dissimilar from what we’ve been doing at home, but she was fascinated seeing other babies, bouncing with excitement, smiling and shouting to get their attention. Unfortunately, in-person classes have been suspended and moved online for the duration of the lockdown, but I hope we’ll be able to return in the not too distant future.

Halloween was quiet this year, the little one had a fancy dress party at Baby Sensory, I carved a pumpkin lantern for her at home, and once she was in bed, I had a Halloween quiz with friends over Zoom – that was as educational as it was fun.

We’ve started eating lunch and dinner together around the dining table, enjoying homemade macaroni cheese, comforting casseroles, spicy bean enchiladas and smoky chillis, with the odd takeaway to support our favourite restaurants. Our daughter has taken to baby-led-weaning with great enthusiasm, chubby hands grabbing fistfuls from her bowl and happily gumming and sooking almost everything we serve her, and even our cat Mara joins us in case anything tasty falls over the edge of the high chair.

The mood in my city has been somewhat subdued this week, the move to Tier 4 and a return to lockdown was not unexepected but leaves many of us facing a long, dark and potentially lonely winter. This has been such a strange year, so different from any other we’ve experienced, yet I’ve tried to make the most of it and embrace a simpler, slower way of life – and this autumn has been one of little joys, chasing butterflies around the garden, rambling family walks, splashing in puddles, playdates at the park and making happy memories together. Take care and have a lovely week. X

The Enchanted Forest ~ A Retrospective

The Enchanted Forest ~ A Retrospective

Back in May the Enchanted Forest team made the difficult decision to cancel the event due to the pandemic. It’s a shame as we were so looking forward to taking our daughter to see it for the first time but we’ve already booked our tickets and lodgings for next year as the team are optimistic that it will go ahead in 2021. However, as I’ve been visiting the Enchanted Forest for almost a decade, I thought I’d share a little retrospective of highlights from previous years.

My first visit to the Enchanted Forest was in 2010, after I saw it advertised on the Glasgow subway. The first year I went with a friend (though every year after with my husband, and we got engaged during our visit to the Enchanted Forest in 2013), and I loved it so much that I’ve faithfully returned to Pitlochry every October since.

The Enchanted Forest roughly follows the same figure of eight path around Loch Dunmore and Faskally Woods but the design team choose a different theme every year and always make the most of the natural and permanent features such as the towering fir trees, the Loch and the bridge, as well as building temporary viewing platforms for projections and synchronised light displays around the forest.

It’s an incredibly creative and innovative light and sound show, and given that it runs for the full month of October in all but the very worst Scottish weather, and attracts 80,000 visitors, I’m always impressed by how smoothly the event runs.

I’ve shared posts from our visits in 2017, 2018 and 2019, but enjoyed this little trip down memory lane, seeing how the Enchanted Forest has grown and developed – though my photos don’t do it justice at all. It’s one of my favourite events, it’s been the setting of some wonderful memories and I’m very much looking forward to returning when we’re able to. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Shades of November

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Usually by this point in the season, most of the fiery red, amber and gold leaves have fallen and faded to rusty shades of orange and chocolate browns, but November is still beautiful in a slightly more muted and sombre way.

I had some time to myself recently, and determined to get out during daylight to absorb some much needed Vitamin D, fresh air and gentle exercise, I pulled on my boots, gloves and coat, and took a wander around our local park. I spent a happy hour or so just meandering along the paths, snapping photos, collecting leaves to press and just thoroughly enjoying some time in nature.

It’s been a cold and frosty autumn in our part of the country, but very much appreciating the last few weeks of colour before the trees shed the last of their leaves, winter arrives in earnest and the build up to Christmas begins. Have a lovely week. X

Lights, Frights and Other Happenings

Halloween Happenings

October has been a cold month in our part of the country, there have already been several frosty mornings spent de-icing the cars and cosy evenings in front of the wood burning stove, and we’re bracing ourselves for another cold winter ahead.

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We took a wrapped up wander down to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens this week, which was hosting GlasGLOW for the second year in a row. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this light and sound show as much as last year as it lacked a cohesive theme and the displays were spread too far apart so visitors were herded along unlit paths between different sections, but I was delighted that there were vegan marshmallows to toast and I loved seeing all the carved lanterns in the pumpkin patch.

We also had a bit of a fright on Wednesday morning when I got bumped into by the car behind during rush-hour traffic. The other driver was very apologetic, and after swapping details, and a quick trip to the maternity assessment unit (and the reassurance of hearing our little one’s heartbeat), I’m relieved to report we’re all ok.

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We’ve even managed to spend a wee bit of time in the garden, weeding, pruning and planting lots of spring bulbs, but we’re gradually settling into our winter routines with Mara stretched out in front of the fire and hubby playing games on the Switch while I catch up on reading, enjoying all the comforts and coziness of our home as the evenings lengthen and the weather worsens. Have a lovely week. X

An Enchanted Weekend in Pitlochry

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One of the events I look forward to every October is our annual trip to the Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry. This was the sixth year that my husband and I visited, but the first year that schedules allowed us to visit the forest with a couple of good friends, and it was lovely to be able to share the experience together.

We have always been lucky with the weather, and although the path was a bit muddy in places, it was a mild and dry evening with a waning gibbous moon just visible above the tips of the tallest trees. The Enchanted Forest follows a path around Loch Dunmore in Faskally Woods using the bridge across the loch to create a figure of eight circuit. It is only a couple of kilometres long but there is always so much to see that we can easily spend an hour or so meandering through the forest savouring all the different sights and sounds of the show, and we always wander around more than once.

The theme changes every year, but the designers often draw their inspiration from nature; this year the show was called Oir An Uisge meaning Edge of the Water in Gaelic,¬†and both weather and water were recurring motifs. I’m often guilty of viewing life through a lens and it’s especially challenging to remember to lower my camera and actually experience the Enchanted Forest because¬†it’s all so wonderful¬†and I want to capture it all.

We have stayed in a few different hotels and guest houses in and around Pitlochry over the years, but this year we returned to the Atholl Villa for a third time as the rooms are clean and comfortable, the staff are friendly and helpful, and it is conveniently located just a five minute walk from where the shuttle buses collect and drop off visitors to the Enchanted Forest.¬†The following¬†morning, we took a wander around Pitlochry itself, which is a pretty town full of boutiques, gift shops and cafes, and although I don’t really start getting excited about Christmas until after Guy Fawkes night, I can’t resist a quick look in the Christmas Emporium whenever we visit Pitlochry.

This was the first time we’d left our cat Mara alone overnight since moving into our new house, and she gave us a very warm welcome when we returned from our little adventure. It’s lovely to be cosy at home again after an enchanted weekend away with friends. Have a lovely week.

September’s Golden Glow

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There has been an avalanche of gold and amber leaves in our street over the last week, and every day the sun seems to hang a little lower in the sky on my morning and evening commute. September is always a busy month for us, and this month has swept by in a blur of happy anniversaries, birthdays and annual traditions.

Every September, one of my closest friends hosts a get-together in the countryside. Over the years, we have become good friends with the other guests despite most of us living so far apart that we only see each other a few times a year. Our annual weekend get together is something we all look forward to, and it’s always a relaxed and wonderful time spent enjoying delicious food, rambling walks along the Solway Firth and long conversations with old friends and new around the fire-pit as the stars twinkle above.

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In August, my grandmother was in hospital for a procedure that was not without risks due to her age, yet she recovered in time to celebrate her 91st birthday this month. I feel very grateful to have had my grandmother all through my childhood and well into my adulthood, and while she is still fiercely independent, I can’t help noticing that she’s slowing down a little bit more every time I see her, which makes the time we spend together very precious.

At home, the cooler evenings have given us an excuse to light the wood-burning stove. My husband – a modern man in every other respect – relishes the opportunity to get in touch with his inner caveman and takes great pride in his ability to create fire, while our normally lap-loving cat Mara has firmly established herself on the hearth.

As the calendar edges towards October, it¬†has been a lovely month full of family, friends and cosy moments, all suffused in September’s golden glow. Wishing everyone a lovely weekend. X

Autumnal Adventures in the Dark

When the autumn evenings grow colder and darker, I’m often tempted to curl up on the couch with my cat, Mara, on my lap and a book or TV series to while away the hours. As much as I love being cosy inside when it’s chilly outside, autumn has some lovely opportunities to get outdoors during the darker evenings.

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The Enchanted Forest

Every year, my husband and I travel to Pitlochry to see Faskally Wood transformed with lights and music into The Enchanted Forest. One of the things I love most about the Enchanted Forest is that the theme is different every year, which means it always seems new and familiar at the same time.

Despite earlier forecasts predicting torrential rain, the weather remained crisp and clear as we meandered round the woods with a warming cup of mulled wine savouring all the sights and sounds of the forest together.

The Enchanted Forest holds a special place in our hearts as it is where we got engaged three years ago, and the well trodden paths around the loch and through the trees are filled with romance and happy memories for us.

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Blurry first attempt at astrophotography

On another cold, but cloudless October evening, we went stargazing at the Galloway Forest Park for the very first time. In contrast to the bustling, electronic wonderland of the Enchanted Forest, the dark sky park was almost unnaturally dark and peaceful; yet watching the stars drift across the heavens was no less memorable and romantic.

Once our eyes had adjusted to the darkness, we could see thousands of stars, the Milky Way and even a few stragglers from the Orionid Meteor Shower clearly without a telescope.

Getting outdoors and away from all the distractions of our phones, the TV and internet for a few hours gave us a chance to slow down, clear our minds and reconnect with each other.

As a mild October gave way to a frosty November, on Saturday the 5th (which is Guy Fawkes or Bonfire Night here in Britain), we met friends in Glasgow to watch a fireworks display. Wrapped up in coats and scarves, crunching toffee apples and watching the colourful explosions illuminate the sky, we were every bit as cosy outside as we would’ve been inside.

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Fireworks over the River Clyde

The last few weeks have been busy for us, but we’ve returned from all of our adventures in the dark with muddy boots and many happy memories. Have a lovely week.