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

Happy Fifth Anniversary to Mara!

My little muse and constant companion

Just tapping out a quick post at the end of an unexpectedly hectic weekend to note that it was five years ago today that we adopted our cat, Mara. It feels like we’ve been through quite a lot together in a relatively short length of time from moving out of the little, rented flat we lived in when we adopted her to our own house, nursing her back to health after cancer and having her tail amputated – and again last month when she suddenly became unwell, to the arrival of our daughter earlier this year. Throughout everything, Mara has shown such resilience and courage, and her trust in us has never wavered. Mara really is a very special cat, and I’m so grateful to be able to spoil her a little bit more than normal today.

Unfortunately, Mara is still a bit unsure and scared about the battery-powered, revolving butterfly toy we bought her (she seems to prefer her feathery wand toys) but she was much more enthusiastic about the roast chicken we gave her as a special treat.

We’ve spent most of the weekend isolating at home after our 8-month-old daughter came down with what we suspected was just the common cold but as she had a cough we thought we’d better get tested, and her two bottom teeth decided to make their appearence this weekend as well. No sooner had we received the negative test result than my husband took himself off to bed to nurse his own cold. I’ve had my hands full this weekend, but nevertheless, very grateful to celebrate Mara’s fifth anniversary with us. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

If Cats Disappeared from the World by Genki Kawamura

This had been sitting on my shelf for a while, and I started reading it when I wanted a comfort read while my own cat Mara was unwell (though thankfully she has recovered).

When the 30 year old narrator finds out he has a terminal illness and only days to live, he receives a visit from the devil who offers to trade one extra day of life for everything the narrator is willing to live without. It seems like an easy trade but the story considers what life would be like without mobile phones, films and cats to name just a few things the devil makes disappear in order to extend the narrator’s life – though apparently even the devil draws the line at a world without chocolate. Every time the devil removes something from the world, the narrator is left considering the impact it had on his life and how much we take for granted everyday.

If Cats Disappeared From the World is a short, strange but poignant and thought-provoking story about love, grief, family, regrets, dying and cats. Unfortunately I found it hard to connect with the narrator, and I preferred The Travelling Cat Chronicles (reviewed here), which covers similar themes, though this is still worth reading. Take Care, and have a lovely week. X

4 Years 11 Months 9 Days…

Recovering at home, September 2020

Relieved and grateful to have reached the end of what has felt like the longest week for our little family. It started ordinarily enough taking my 7 month old daughter to a Baby Sensory class on Monday and visiting my parents on Tuesday, but in the very early hours of Wednesday morning, our cat Mara suddenly became unwell with vomiting and diarrhoea, by dawn she was off her food, lethargic and hiding under our bed.

We took her to the vet who ran a series of tests but couldn’t find anything wrong, apart from a very low white blood cell count, and I spent the rest of the day handfeeding her chicken but by the evening she was no better and refusing to eat again. We took her back to the vet on Thursday morning and they kept her in overnight to give her fluids and an antiemetic by IV, as well as antibiotics and an appetite stimulant, and her condition was stable enough for her to return home on Friday evening. We’re still not sure what caused her sudden illness – an infection, gastroentiritis or even a severe food intolerance are all possibilities – and she’s still not back to full health but I’m so relieved that she’s eating, cuddling, purring and even playing a little bit, which are all encouraging signs that she’s recovering.

Me and Mara, January 2016

I was planning to share a post next month to mark the fifth anniversary of the date we adopted Mara, but this week has reminded not to take anything or anyone for granted, so I’m sharing a little Mara update today four years, eleven months and nine days after we adopted her. I always knew adopting an adult rescue cat meant there was a chance she might not be with us very long (Mara is somewhere between 10 and 14 years old now) but I won’t ever regret choosing Mara because she’s been such an affectionate, playful and constant companion, and so gentle and patient with our baby daughter too.

Mara and our daughter, August 2020

For such a small animal, she’s an enormous presence in our home from whining for food (at all hours!), scampering around when she wants to play, chirruping as she greets us at the front door, purring and padding at the foot of our bed as she settles down for the night, sunbathing on the windowsills during the summer and stretching out in front of the fire in the winter.

I’m so thankful to the vets for their diagnosis and treatment options, as well as for pet insurance (which has paid for itself again and again), but most of all, I’m grateful for Mara, who has always been so much more than a pet, bringing so much love, affection and joy to our lives. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Making Friends

It feels like life is on hold as the lockdown continues in our country, yet the last few months have been a whirlwind for us since our daughter was born, and our once quiet, peaceful home is now more lively and full than ever.

It’s been a huge transition for us, but wanted to share a little update on how our cat Mara is adjusting. We adopted Mara four and a half years ago, and it’s honestly hard to remember life before she joined our family because so many of our decisions and daily routines revolve around her. We’re very much “til death do us part” pet owners and re-homing Mara was never an option we were willing to consider when I found out I was pregnant. Fortunately, Mara has a gentle temperament and she’s much more likely to flee to a safe, quiet location than to scratch or bite.

 

Mara’s a creature of habit and routine, most of which were thrown into chaos and disorder by the arrival of our baby daughter. I did worry that Mara thought she’d been replaced at first but my husband and I are very conscious of making sure Mara gets some time and attention every day to play with her, brush her, pet and cuddle her, giving her a few extra treats (including the cat-grass we grow, much to my father-in-law’s amusement) and encouraging her to sit on our laps when we’re not holding the baby.

We were initially worried that Mara might climb into the bedside crib with our daughter, but she usually gives it a wide berth due to the unpredictable and noisy occupant. We’re lucky that our daughter generally sleeps well, and Mara still chooses to sleep at the bottom of our bed most nights.

So far introductions have all been supervised, and most of their interactions have been limited to Mara peering into the crib when the wee one is sleeping, and giving her a tentative sniff when we hold them close enough to see each other. For her part, our daughter isn’t quite sure what to make of Mara either, but usually studies the feline member of our family with a combination of wide eyes and furrowed brows. Little by little, they’re becoming more confident and curious about one another, and I’m hopeful that they’ll become friends as time goes by. Hope everyone is safe and well, have a lovely week. 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

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

Happy Anniversary to Mara

It’s been far too long since I last wrote about Mara, and as it’s just a week shy of four years since we adopted her from the Scottish SPCA, it seemed fitting to share a wee post about our beloved pet cat today.

Mara bookcase

I’ve often wondered what Mara’s life was like before she came to us, what she looked like as a kitten and how she got the scar on her nose, but she settled in with us so quickly, establishing her own little routines that it’s hard to remember what life was like before we adopted her.

Caring for Mara has provided a grounding consistency to our daily life, and in return she’s been a constant source of affection and companionship. Mara can still be shy and skittish around strangers, but she actively seeks out our attention and company, from rushing to the front door to greet us when we return from work to following us around the house as we go about our chores and squeezing herself into the smallest gaps to snuggle up close.

Much has changed since the newly-wed couple just back from their honeymoon adopted a squeaky, tabby and white cat from the rescue shelter – we’ve moved house, we’ve both changed jobs (and the whole direction of our careers), and just as significantly Mara herself survived cancer. We’re now preparing for another significant change, but so far Mara seems oblivious to my pregnancy. I’m not sure how she’ll react to having a noisy, little human infant in her midst but we couldn’t have imagined a more gentle, playful and cuddly family pet (such a contrast to the rough and tumble cats my husband and I had growing up!) and we hope Mara will take this latest shift in our little family’s dynamic in her stride.

Happy anniversary to Mara, and wishing everyone else a lovely week. 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

An Enchanted Evening in the Forest

The Enchanted Forest

We’ve been visiting the Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry every year since 2011 and it remains one of the highlights of our calendar, and this year was no exception with lights choreographed to music, interactive displays and a stunning projection over Loch Dunmore.

Visiting the Enchanted Forest is one of our favourite annual traditions, and we always enjoy wandering around the woods hand-in-hand, snapping photos and sipping the first mulled wine of the season, but my husband and I still always pause at the spot where we got engaged here and enjoy reminiscing about our many other visits to the Enchanted Forest over the years.

As lovely as it is having a little adventure together, staying in a hotel and not having to worry about cooking or washing up, we’re also happy to be reunited with our cat Mara when we return home. It was just over three years ago that we adopted Mara, and although we don’t know her actual age, a recent trip to the vet to have her teeth cleaned and one extraction reminded us that she is getting older, but fortunately she remains healthy, playful and full of purrs.

Have a lovely week! X