New Year Greetings!

The Christmas tree has started to droop, branches bowed under the weight of the baubles, and tomorrow I’ll put the decorations away for another year, but I’m still enjoying the lull after a busy festive period before work and nursery resume later this week.

This is the second year we’ve hosted Christmas, and my parents stayed with us for a few nights. Our daughter loved having her papa and grandma around to play with, and all the exciting new toys and books she received. My husband deserves all the credit for singlehandedly cooking Christmas Dinner including a turkey crown for my dad (and our cat) and Quorn roasts for the rest of us. Though in addition to the Christmas cake and Dundee cakes, I also baked Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) for the first time when my in-laws visited for a buffet.

With the exception of my parents and in-laws, we’ve kept our socialising to a minimum to avoid Covid19, but we did have a lovely playdate with my daughter’s cousins and a wee jaunt to the Solway Coast to visit close friends, where the little one also got to pet the ponies in their field.

We spent New Year’s Eve at home sipping champagne and watching Disney’s Encanto, which was a refreshing twist on the chosen one story and I loved the vibrant Latin American setting. We were all in bed before midnight but it was a cosy way to end the year. Over the last few days, we’ve spent most of our time at home, reading, watching TV and playing on the floor with our daughter and her new toys. The excitement of Christmas coincided with a developmental leap (our daughter’s language skills seem to have exploded and she’s started stringing sentences together) which has meant her sleep has been pretty disrupted all through December, but she’s such a cheerful little person and so much fun that it’s hard to mind a bit of sleep deprivation now and then.

January is a peaceful month to recover from the hustle and bustle of the festive period, a chance to reflect on the year behind and full of the hopefulness of new beginnings. Despite everything, 2021 was a good year for us with family adventures to the beach, a few playdates, and our daughter’s first visits to the zoo, aquarium and light shows. My fears about sending my daughter to nursery 3 days a week when I returned to work were completely unfounded, as she’s settled in better than I could’ve hoped and usually rushes through the door to find her friends with barely a wave goodbye or backward glance. We also undertook home renovations that we’ve been planning since we moved in five years ago to extend the kitchen and add a downstairs bathroom. Most of all I’ve appreciated time spent with family and friends after so long apart during lockdowns.

There’s been a cold wind blowing today, but whenever it dropped I felt the warmth of the sun and noticed the first hellebores had flowered in the garden, little joys to savour while we’re in the bleak midwinter. Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year! X

Little Christmas Eve Greetings

December has been a hectic month and I’m trying to gather my thoughts on Little Christmas Eve or Christmas Eve Eve (as I’ve heard the 23rd called recently). I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately, there’s been so much to do but crises at work, uncertainty around the new Covid19 variant and Christmas preparations have sapped my concentration and energy.

As always, the stresses have been balanced by joyful family moments. At 22 months old, our daughter’s still too young to understand Christmas and showed a strong sense of stranger danger clinging to me at playgroup and her keyworker at nursery when Santa appeared, but she enjoyed her Christmas parties at playgroup and toddler sensory, as well as a whole week of festive activites at nursery.

We also visited Five Sisters Zoo for the second time this year (the first time back in the summer) to see their winter illuminations, which were impressive in sheer coverage, but the real highlight for me was getting a glimpse of the illusive snow leopard, as well as the lionesses and a lynx.

Apart from our trips to light shows and parties, we seem to have spent most of our time at home this month, fortunately our daughter is going through a creative phase and is perfectly content to spend hours scribbling with pencils or painting. I’m also pleased to report that our new kitchen has been fitted and we’re appreciating having more space – not to mention the dishwasher!

The presents have been piling up under the tree and there was a last minute addition to our decorations, a lovely paper star made by a crafty friend from work. Our cat has mostly ignored the tree but went wild when she caught the scent of a new toy stuffed with catnip, while our daughter has mostly ignored the presents but has menaced the tree pulling off the baubles she can reach and almost bringing the whole thing down on top of herself at least once.

Despite the frenzy in the run up to Christmas and my seemingly endless to-do list, I’m reminding myself that winter is the season to rest and recharge, providing much needed time to refocus on what (and who) matters most and reflect on the year that’s passed and the new one about to start. Take care, and wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas. X

Autumn into Winter

Time seems to be slipping away as the end of the year rushes towards us. The end of November brought nights so cold and clear that we could see the stars glinting above the city, frosty mornings and on Sunday we woke to a very light dusting of snow – barely enough for a snowball, let alone a snowman but enough to put me in the festive spirit.

I’m usually rushing right up to the last minute but this year our Christmas preparations are well under way. I’ve baked two cakes, my family have always preferred a rich Dundee cake but this year I decided to make a traditional Christmas cake too, both are bursting with raisins, sultanas and glace cherries. Presents have been bought and we’ve treated ourselves to a new decoration for the tree – a handpainted portrait of our cat, Mara, from Maggie’s Studio. We haven’t put our decorations up yet, but we’re hopefully going to get our tree this weekend, and I couldn’t resist putting up a bit of tinsel when I brought the decorations box down last night, and Mara couldn’t resist playing with it.

We’re preparing for another upheaval as our new kitchen is being fitted next week, and I’m keeping everything crossed that it’ll be finished in time for Christmas – which we’re supposed to be hosting, because I don’t fancy cooking a full roast dinner with a microwave and a toaster!

Aside from our Christmas preparations and home improvements, the last few weeks have been busy, we’ve had a family trip to GlasGLOW, I’m still taking my daughter to her sensory class but we’ve also found a local playgroup that’s a fun alternative to the park on cold, wet mornings; there’s no let up in the run up to Christmas as we’ve got a few toddler Christmas parties and at least one more winter light show on the horizon. Have a lovely weekend. X

Winter Solstice Thoughts

It’s been almost impossible to make plans this year, it seems like every time we’ve booked tickets to an event or tried to celebrate a birthday, someone has had to self-isolate or restrictions have increased, and Christmas has been no exception. It’s been quite a rush to get everything ready for Christmas with so much uncertainty hanging over us. In November, much later than I planned, I baked my husband a gluten-free Christmas cake, adapting the recipe from my mum’s scribbled in the margins and bound together by sticky tape BeRo cookbook. Donations have been made to the local food and toy banks. Most of our shopping has been done online this year. We’ve spent evenings at home popping and threading corn to hang on the tree, writing cards and wrapping presents.

We’ve enjoyed evening walks admiring all the Christmas decorations illuminating the neighbourhood, our 10-month-old daughter wide-eyed and fascinated, pointing at all the inflatable Santa’s, snowmen and penguins, lights cast over trees and hedges or outlining roofs and doors, as well as a multitude of twinkling reindeer, stars and candy canes.

After three weeks of zoom classes during our local lockdown, the little one and I were back at baby sensory in time for her Christmas party, which was a lovely way to end a stop-start year.

Christmas will be bittersweet for us personally as it will be the first without my nanna who passed away in February, but also our daughter’s first Christmas. We were already planning a smaller Christmas because of Coronavirus even before the latest restrictions were announced, and it’s not the first Christmas we’d imagined surrounded by family and friends, but we’ll try to fill it with as much love, peace and joy as we can.

Take care, and wishing everyone reading a very happy Christmas whatever your circumstances. X

Festive Tidings

Festive Tidings

The last fortnight has passed in a blur of good times with good people, and I can hardly believe that we’re already packing away the Christmas decorations for another year and preparing to return to work tomorrow.

Christmas morning began with a visit to the in-law’s home, chatting and exchanging gifts while nibbling mince pies and Christmas cake. Like us, they’ve have a tough year, losing two relatives and then their cat just shy of her 22nd birthday, but we’re all relieved to put 2019 behind us and hoping 2020 will be better.

Christmas morning tea

Our Christmas lunch was quieter than usual, as it was just me, my husband and parents. I can count on one hand the number of times we’ve spent Christmas without my nanna, but she wasn’t well enough to join us, so after lunch the four of us visited her at the care home to spend some time with her and help her to open presents.

Afterwards, we had a supper of cheese and biscuits, and settled down to play a board game with my parents. Our Christmas bore little resemblance to the rambunctious gatherings that are so ubiquitous on TV at this time of year, but it was calm, cosy and intimate.

Over the festive break we also managed to squeeze in catch-ups with extended family, friends from Dublin and London, and a trip to the cinema to watch the new Star Wars film.

Cosy evenings

This week we’ve had a few days to ourselves at home and we’ve enjoyed watching the BBC adaptation of His Dark Materials, tackling a 1000 piece jigsaw together, toasting marshmallows, reading and working our way through leftover Christmas cake, chocolates, cheese and crackers.

It’s been a busy break filled with family and friends, but now looking forward to the peaceful midwinter days of January and all the promise of a new year ahead of us. 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

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

Festive Tidings and New Year Hopes

Somehow Christmas Day always ends up being busier than we expect as we try to juggle seeing both sides of the family with preparing Christmas dinner, and picking up my grandmother in the morning and returning her home in the evening.

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Christmas morning began with a quick tour of my brother-in-law’s new home before visiting the rest of the in-laws to exchange gifts, catch up over giant mugs of coffee and fuss over their twenty-year-old cat.

As my mum has multiple sclerosis, which affects her dexterity and balance, dad has taken over preparing and cooking our family’s Christmas dinner, though the rest of us all lend a hand. The hard work in the kitchen is always worth the effort though to gather around a dining table groaning under a mountain of food with my husband, parents and grandmother to enjoy a three course Christmas feast, pull crackers and exchange gifts. The older I get the harder it is to reply when anyone asks me what I’d like for Christmas (or birthdays) as most of the things I value most cannot be bought and it is time with my loved ones that I appreciate most.

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The Kelpies on New Year’s Day

I was recovering from a cold on New Year’s Eve and my husband has never liked crowds so we stayed at home playing a board-game called Carcassonne that my father-in-law gave us for Christmas, eating a cheeseboard and sipping Champagne with Jools Holland’s Hootenanny in the background and our cat Mara snoozing in front of the fire. There was a frenzy of phone and video calls with parents, in-laws and our closest friends at midnight that took up almost the whole first hour of 2018. It was exactly the simple end to a stormy year, and joyful beginning to a new one that we both wanted.

On New Year’s Day after a lazy morning, we met up with a couple of friends in Falkirk for the Fire and Light Walk. The short trail took us past illuminated trees, paper lanterns and a choreographed fire dance in front of the Kelpies. Before leaving we scribbled wishes on strands of ribbon and tied them to a wicker clootie tree. Wrapped up in winter coats with cold hands curled around cups of hot chocolate, it was a lovely way to spend the evening.

2017 was a difficult year for us, and no doubt 2018 will bring new challenges, yet I can’t help but feel hopeful about the possibilities of a fresh start, and we have already begun setting our fitness goals and reading challenges, thinking about holidays and making plans for the year ahead.

Wishing everyone a very happy new year! X

Counting Our Blessings at Christmas

 

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As much as I love Christmas and all our festive traditions, December is also a good time to reflect on all the achievements and lessons, the joys and sorrows of the previous year, and to start making plans for the year ahead. In many ways 2017 didn’t turn out like my husband and I hoped it would; our year has been dominated by health issues, estrangement and home renovations, and some of our dreams are still as far out of reach now as they were twelve months ago, yet it’s also been a time of counting our blessings and appreciating what we already have.

It was a year ago today that we bought our house and I’m grateful to call this little house home, it’s been our safe haven sheltering us from so many storms.

Everyone in my little family suffered some form of illness or injury this year, and there’ll be no greater gift waiting for me under the Christmas tree than having my loved ones safe and well around me at Christmastime. I may write about my own health issues in more detail another time, but taking better care of myself by eating well, exercising and resting will be high on my agenda next year.

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Our cat, Mara, has been a constant source of affection and companionship since we adopted her, and after a difficult year health-wise, we’re so relieved that she seems healthy and still full of mischief and purrs. We’re very thankful to our local vets and the oncologists at the small animal hospital for everything they’ve done for Mara this year.

I’ve written before about some of the difficulties we’ve had establishing boundaries with a few demanding individuals in our lives, and it’s taken my husband and me a few years to disentangle ourselves from the webs we were caught in. While it’s sad we were unable to reach a compromise or resolve our differences, after years of conflict and heartache, it was a relief to let go and move on. Although our circle may be smaller now, it is infinitely kinder and more loving, and I’m so grateful for the family and friends who brighten our days and lighten our burdens.

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I also feel very lucky to be married to my best friend, and over the last few weeks my husband and I have been talking about our work, hobbies, travelling and our hopes for the future.

This isn’t the Christmas post I intended to write, but I wanted to share the most valuable lesson I’ve learned this year, that life doesn’t always turn out like we hope it will, and we don’t always get what we want, yet we can still count our blessings and find reasons to smile every day. Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who takes the time to read my little blog. Wishing everyone a peaceful winter solstice and a joyful Christmas. X