Lions and Meerkats and Bears, oh my!

We’re in the middle of the summer holidays here in Scotland, but just before the schools broke up we took a trip to Five Sisters Zoo. This was our third visit to the zoo, having been twice last year – including an afterdark visit to see their winter illuminations, but it’s one of our favourite places to visit.

We saw one of the rescued bears for the first time on this visit, as well as catching a glimpse of one of the wolves, but other highlights included lions lazing in the sun, the snow leopard sitting out surveying the area, the lynx snoozing, lots of curious monkeys and lemurs, snuggling otters and meerkats coming right up to the windows to say hello to our daughter.

We visited midweek, arriving just as a bus full of school children were leaving, meaning there was just us and a handful of other families wandering around. We had taken a picnic as we didn’t know if there would be anything GF for my husband in the cafe, and the little one had a great time in the playpark in the middle of the zoo, which was a great way of breaking up our visit.

For a family run zoo, I’m always surprised by how big it is and how many creatures there are to see, it’s really great value and well worth the ticket price. Have a lovely week. X

Midsummer at the Beach

A mercurial spring has finally given way to a warm and sunny summer, and a couple of weeks ago we had a long overdue visit to the beach. When it was just the two of us, my husband and I would always visit in January (if not on New Year’s Day itself) for a bracing walk along the shore letting the icy winds blow away the cobwebs of the year before and sharing a flask of hot coffee while we chatted about our hopes and plans for the year ahead, but this year was half gone before we found time to visit.

Croy Shore is a beautiful beach with incredible views of the Isle of Arran across the sea, but lacks the amenities of other beaches along the Ayrshire coast such as cafes and ice-cream vans or public toilets (closed during the pandemic and never reopened) which mean our visits here always require a bit more planning like toilet breaks on the way and packed lunches.

My husband had checked the tides before we arrived so we knew that it would be out allowing us to explore the rockpools that are usually hidden underwater at high tide, and after scrabbling across some very slippery seaweed covered rocks we found crabs, an eel and starfish.

Our toddling daughter was fascinated by all the aquatic critters but she probably had just as much fun digging in the sand and splashing in the sea.

After a lovely afternoon of picnicking, walking barefoot in the sand, paddling in the sea and exploring rockpools, we were all tired but refreshred and ready for dinner, showers and baths to wash the sand from between our toes, and an early night. Have a lovely week. X

Home Improvements

I’ve been meaning to share a post about our home for a little while as last year we finally extended the kitchen and added a downstairs shower-room, changes we’ve been planning since we bought our house back in December 2016.

Over the last six years we’ve made lots of changes from redecorating to adding a woodburning stove and turning alcoves into bookcases, but the kitchen was always going to be a big, time-consuming project that we didn’t want to rush. Both my husband and I enjoy cooking from scratch and eating at the dining table, and we found the original kitchen dark, cluttered and badly designed.

We had some clear ideas about what we wanted instead, more surface space, more practical storage and space for our dining table. We hired an architect to draw up the plans and a team of Polish construction workers built the extension over 10 weeks. Once the extension was complete, we started looking for a fitted kitchen, which was installed just in time for us to host Christmas, and it was lovely to have our family gathered around the table for our winter feast – and the dishwasher meant no one was stuck washing up afterwards.

I’ve always viewed kitchens as so much more than just a place to prepare and eat food, the dining table often proves to be just as inviting as the couch to enjoy a coffee and the garden view, somewhere to chat about our day while one of us makes dinner and the little one plays underfoot, or spreads out her play-dough or paper and paints on the dining table when she’s feeling creative.

The room we had been using as our dining room has now been turned into a spare bedroom, which has already been used by visiting parents, in-laws and friends. It’s especially convenient for my mum who has MS and is finding stairs increasingly challenging. This was also part of the reason why I wanted to turn our front porch into a downstairs shower-room as our main bathroom is upstairs. To comply with building regulations, it had to be a wet-room, which altered some of our ideas about lay-out but we’re still really happy with it. The tiles were my choice and the colour seems to be something people either love or hate.

Upstairs, things have remained the same, though my husband and I are now back in the smaller, back bedroom, leaving our daughter in the master bedroom, which gives her plenty of space to play – it’s not normally as tidy as it is in the photo (most of her toys are in the cupboard behind me), and we still need to redecorate for her, but she loves having her own room and has settled in so well.

It’s funny how quickly we’ve adapted to the newest parts of our house, and how our home has changed to meet the needs of our growing family over the last few years. I loved this house when I first saw it on a cold and dreary Saturday in November nearly six years ago, and i love it even more now that we’ve made it our own. This little house has become our safe haven sheltering us from the storms of life. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Moments in May

Taking time to reflect on another month that’s flown by as we approach summer and the midpoint of the year.

As well as our weekly toddler sensory class, I’ve been alternating taking my daughter to softplay and the local playgroup on my midweek day off. We’ve become regulars at Kelvin Hall softplay, which recently reopened, and the little one especially loves thrashing around in the ball pool; though we also like the softplay at our local Dobbies, having finally joined the Dobbies club – something we should have done years ago if only for the discounts on plans, seeds and bulbs. There have also been family (and sometimes just daddy-daughter) swimming trips and it’s great to see how quickly our daughter has come on in just a few weeks. I felt like we missed out on a lot of experiences during the pandemic, but I’ve loved trying different activities together now that she’s a bit older.

Our cat, Mara, gave us a scare earlier this month, having another sudden bout of gastroenteritis. Fortunately the vomiting and diarrhoea passed quickly and we were able to get her to eat a little bit (thanks to cat soup and Dreamies) so she didn’t require veterinary treatment, and 72 hours later she was back to wolfing down her food and whining for treats too. It’s always scary how suddenly Mara can become unwell, and just as surprising how quickly she bounces back to health and her usual affectionate, playful self afterwards.

We had a trip to Finlaystone Country Estate taking a little wander around the gardens before rambling into the woods so our daughter could scramble around the wooden ship and all three of us had a fun on the swings together. The play areas are all very rustic but great for kids to play and explore.

We also visited Pollok Country Park, and had a brisk tour of the newly reopened Burrell Collection. There were lots of interactive and tactile displays to entertain the youngest visitors, and I thought embedding the old arches and windows into the new building was a lovely architectural feature. Afterwards we made our way across the fields to see the Highland cows.

There’s been lots of time in the garden too, chasing our daughter round as she squeals with laughter, tidying up the spaces where the new shed and greenhouse will go, and just gambling on good weather and planting the sunflower and courgette seedlings outside.

May has been another month where we haven’t travelled far or had any big excursions but it’s been a busy and fun-filled time nevertheless, making the most of the amenities nearby. Take care and have a lovely week. X

Springing Out of Hibernation

April is one of my favourite months as cherry blossoms swirl around like confetti in the breeze, tulips burst into flower, the weather (usually) improves and it finally feels like we’ve shaken off another winter.

The first week of April was spent alternatively caring for and entertaining a toddler with chicken pox who was quarantined from nursery, soft play, playdates and play groups. I tried my hand at few sensory activities such as dying dried chickpeas and making pink sand (a big hit but very messy!), and we also made lots of no-bake treats like chocolate rice krispie cakes and rocky road, both easy enough that the little one could get involved with pouring and mixing the ingredients (and licking the spoon afterwards).

Then it was back to nursery, sensory group (just in time for the Easter party) and family swimming trips. We’ve also been going out for walks after dinner, and it really feels like we’re springing out of hibernation after a long, dreary winter.

We had an egg hunt in the garden for the little one at Easter, with eggs that I’d painted and a few mini chocolate eggs too. Our daughter probably got enough chocolate from her grandparents and our neighbours to last her to the end of the year.

We’ve been busy in the garden too. My father-in-law helped us moved one of the square raised beds into the back corner, a slightly shady area which we’ve struggled to fill with anything other than weeds. I treated myself to another climbing rose, James Galway, to fill the back fence alongside Crown Princess Margareta, which is already very well established. Our daughter helped me scatter wildflower seeds in the raised beds, and I’ve started off some sunflowers on the windowsill. I was very excited to see flowers on the plum tree and two of our four apple trees. My husband also found a greenhouse on gumtree, it’s a bit bigger than I had in mind but too good value to turn down.

Even though the garden is only just getting started, it’s been great to spend so much time outside pottering around, a real tonic for the mind and body. Already there are busy bees bumbling, ladybirds and even a couple of butterflies flitting around the garden – but most exciting of all is the return of the hedgehogs in the evening, we’ve counted three so far, and we’ve been leaving cat food out for them. I’m always slightly surprised and delighted by how much wildlife there is to be found in an urban environment and we try to make our garden as wildlife friendly as possible to support it.

We haven’t ventured too far from home lately, but it’s been a lovely month full of picnics and playdates at the park, and lots of fun in the garden. Have a lovely week. X

March Microadventures

March was a bit of a mixed-up and muddled month for us. We were hit by back-to-back illnesses in the middle of the month that floored us for a couple of weeks, and then after a brief respite when we were all well enough to get out into the good weather, our 2-year-old daughter caught chicken pox on the last day of the month. I am, however, making an effort to focus on the little microadventures we enjoyed despite it all, instead of dwelling on the days spent at home (and hospital!) feeling poorly.

At the start of the month, lighter days and better weather had us seeking out places to visit just a bit further away than our usual haunts, and we spent sunny afternoons strolling along the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond at Balloch Country Park, and skimming stones (or just making big splashes) by the water at Helensburgh.

We also had our first family swimming trip, and in the space of an hour, our daughter progressed from crying and clinging to us to calmly floating around in her rubber ring and kicking her legs while we held her hands. My husband and I used to go swimming every week but this was our first time back in the pool in over two years, and a couple of years of the pandemic and parenthood have definitely taken a toll on our fitness, but it felt good to swim a few lengths and we’ll definitely be back again soon with our daughter in tow.

Back at home, we’ve been enjoying playing in the garden and eating dinner in the summerhouse on light, warm evenings, and there were surprise flowers, a homemade truffle and card waiting for me on Mother’s Day.

This weekend has been unexpectedly tiring and stressful as the little one was sent home early from nursery with suspected chicken pox on Friday (later confirmed by the pharmacist) and she didn’t seem to bothered by it, but she was very restless on Saturday night with a stubbornly high fever of 39°C, and by morning she had developed an angry, red rash that didn’t look like the ordinary chicken pox spots. We took her to A&E to get checked over, and they suspected a secondary infection and decided to keep her in overnight to give her IV antibiotics (the cannula is probably one of her least favourite things along with covid swabs), though luckily we were allowed to stay with her. With 3 hourly checks and 6 hour meds through the night, it wasn’t the most restful sleep we’ve ever had but by this morning her stats were stable and improving, and she was discharged just before lunch. It’s a relief to be home again, and see the little one slowly recovering.

Between bad weather, lingering Covid19 restrictions and bouts of illness, it’s been a long winter and I’m so glad to feel the sun’s warmth again, see daffodils flowering and to notice the arrival of spring once more. Take care and have a lovely week. X

February Birthdays, Snow and Gratitude

Over the last few days Winter has shown some signs of surrendering to Spring with a little extra daylight at the start and end of the day, milder temperatures and a little sunshine. Through February we were battered by consecutive storms and a few snow days but luckily we didn’t suffer any storm damage or power cuts.

At the start of the month, we celebrated our daughter’s 2nd birthday. I took the little one out to choose a birthday balloon in the morning (she chose a mermaid), then we decorated the living room while she was napping. She woke up to a room full of grandparents, presents and cake. Our daughter had a wonderful time throwing and chasing balloons, tearing into her presents to find new toys and books inside, and she was singing happy birthday to herself all week.

Our daughter at two years old is already such an interesting little person with so many interests from zooming around on her scooter and splashing in puddles, caring for her dolls and soft toys, playing hide and seek with us, scribbling and painting handprints, picking out stories to read together or demanding to watch Room on the Broom or Dug Days on TV, chattering away and bursting into song with whichever nursery rhyme happens to be stuck in her head. We’ve seen a few tantrums and defiance over the last few months but over all she has a really cheerful and sunny disposition.

Our other little girl, Mara, appears to be determined to hibernate until Winter is over, in a variety of cosy nooks and beds – including a doll’s bed that my daughter got for her birthday. It’s hard to say if Mara is slowing down in her senior years as she’s always been a lazy lump but she’s got a good appetite, still cuddly and playful as ever.

Between all the storms and snow, I’ve been feeling very grateful for the warmth and comfort of our home, and watching the news over the last week or so, I’ve been reminded how lucky we are to live somewhere relatively safe. When the world seems to be spinning out of control, it’s often the smallest moments – a hug from my daughter, a purring cat on my lap, my husband making fresh coffee in the morning, spotting the first daffodil in the garden – that stop my anxiety from spiralling and keep me tethered to the here and now. Take care and have a lovely week. X

January Snow, Scooters and Self Care

I’ve always quite liked January, partly because of the hopefulness of a new year but also because my dad’s birthday falls in the middle of the month, which always gives us something to look forward to and celebrate after Christmas. This year, my dad came up to stay with us over his birthday weekend, and we took a wrapped up walk around Mugdock Country Park together. My dad hasn’t had the easiest time over the last few years, so I feel very lucky and grateful to watch my daughter and her “papa” playing and laughing together now.

Over the last few weeks, there has been a gradual return to our normal routines. Our daughter has returned to nursery, playgroup and toddler sensory, while my husband and I have resumed work, though I’m still mostly based at home with just one day in the office.

As the weather has been fairly mild, usually in single figures but rarely dipping below zero, we’ve been able to get out to the playparks and letting our toddler zoom around the cul-de-sac on her scooter. It’s quite a contrast from last January when it was so cold that we watched people ice-skating on the frozen ponds in the park and we were still under lockdown. We did have a little bit of snow at the start of the month and had fun throwing snowballs at each other in the garden before it melted.

The weekend just passed was a busy one, starting with toddler sensory which involved a bumped head and a nose bleed, lots of tears and cuddles, coffee with our neighbours in the afternoon, and a solo trip to visit my mum chatting over tea and helping her with a few odd jobs around the house and garden.

January has flown in, it’s been a busy month, but one full of family fun and togetherness. Over the next couple of months, I’ll be prioritising self-care, for me that means yoga and reading, cutting down on junk food, caffeine and alcohol, but also reducing the amount of time I spend scrolling on my phone, and spending more time with family and friends. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

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 lions 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