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.

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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

Twists and Turns

Today is the start of autumn according to the meteorological calendar, and I’ve been taking some time to reflect on the year so far. It’s been a turbulent one for us, full of changes and unexpected challenges as both my husband and I started new jobs, a member of my family spent four and a half months in hospital, I temporarily lost sight in my left eye, there were two deaths in my husband’s family, and my 92-year-old nanna moved into a care home. Yet in the midst of all the stress, sorrow and upheaval, we received one piece of very welcome good news – we’re expecting a baby in February. I’m not one to count my chickens before they’ve hatched but with every passing week, we feel more hopeful and excited about starting this new chapter of our lives.

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Our journey to parenthood has taken longer than expected, long enough for ten colleagues, three close friends, two cousins and my sister-in-law to announce their own pregnancies and welcome their babies into the world; long enough for us to be diagnosed with “unexplained infertility”; and long enough for us to imagine that children of our own might not be in our future at all. Our little miracle has taken longer than expected, but we’re so looking forward to meeting them.

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I haven’t written about this before – and I’m very aware of how lucky we are – but too often online we only see the celebrations and successes from the graduations, new jobs and new homes to the engagements, weddings and baby announcements without any context or mention of the hard work, stress or uncertainty that often preceded them. Yet there have been so many times over the years that I’ve drawn comfort and inspiration from seeing how others have coped with and overcome adversity, from illness and infertility to redundancy, divorce and grief. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, I’ve been humbled more time than I can count but I’ve been overwhelmed with joy and gratitude just as often. Have a lovely week. X

Keep Calm & Carry On Counting My Blessings

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I had to take a break from blogging earlier in the month due to a sudden and unexpected bout of ill-health. Earlier in June, I woke up with blurred vision in one eye, and it continued to deteriorate over the next 48 hours. After a quick call to NHS24, I was encouraged to go to A&E who were unable to find any sign of trauma or infection and made an urgent referral to ophthalmology for the next day. After a full visual test on both eyes, including scans and eye-drops, the ophthalmologist diagnosed me with optic neuritis (inflammation of the optic nerve), and has made a referral to neurology as it can be the first symptom of Multiple Sclerosis. M.S isn’t hereditary, but I do have a slightly higher risk of developing it as my mum has it. The good news is that I don’t have any other symptoms, and the ophthalmologist expects my vision to return fully in the next couple of months.

It’s been hard not to worry about the worst case scenarios but we don’t know anything for certain yet, and I’m trying to keep calm and carry on counting my blessings. The NHS receives a lot of criticism but I’m incredibly grateful for it, my access to A&E and ophthalmology was quick and all the staff I saw were diligent and compassionate.

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Losing vision in one eye has been humbling, unable to drive or work for the last couple of weeks, I’ve been housebound and have been grateful for simple home comforts. I’ve enjoyed spending time in the garden, and I’ve been very grateful for Mara’s companionship. Cats have a reputation for being aloof, but Mara is such a sociable girl, and she’s relished all the extra cuddles and attention while I’ve been at home. Most of all, I’ve been grateful for my husband, who has taken this latest setback in his stride, and has been an unwavering source of support and reassurance.

My vision is slowly returning, and I’m very much trying to counteract my fears with gratitude, but these last few weeks have been a reminder not to take anything for granted because life can change in an instant. Be well, and have a lovely week. 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

A very special anniversary… ❤️

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Just a quick post to mark that it was two years ago today that we adopted our cat Mara from the SSPCA. As Mara is a rescue cat we don’t know when her birthday is or even how old she is but we like to celebrate the day we adopted her, and this is a very special anniversary as we weren’t sure that she would even still be here to celebrate it at all.

Back in January when our vet diagnosed the lump we’d found on her tail as a mast cell tumour, they had warned us that she might only have six to twelve months left. The vets amputated her tail to give her the best chance of survival, but the next six months were full of blood tests, ultrasound scans, x-rays and fine needle aspirates to ensure the cancer had not originated or spread elsewhere. It was a relief for all of us in July when the oncology department at the small animal hospital finally gave us the all clear, and we’re so grateful to all the vets who have helped us.

We all still miss that fluffy, tabby tail crooked like a question mark when she walked around, thrashing from side to side when she played or curling round our wrists when she was asleep, but nowhere near as much as we’d miss Mara if we hadn’t found the lump in time. Mara has been so brave and resilient throughout it all, she made a full recovery and adapted with no continence issues or loss of balance and mobility, and she is still every bit as affectionate, mischievous and curious as the day we adopted her.

Back then, we were newly-weds just back from our honeymoon, when we visited the rehoming centre to look for a potential new addition to our little family. I still remember seeing the tabby and white cat pressed up against the door of her enclosure and rearing up on her hind legs to let us stroke her when we went in to say hello. Bringing her home, we were almost as nervous as we were excited, as she was the first pet either my husband or I had had since leaving our family homes, and it seemed like such a big responsibility, yet Mara easily settled in with us, quickly becoming the centre of our world and the beating heart of our home. Now, two years later we are happy to have an excuse to spoil her a little more than usual today – even if she steadfastly refuses to let me take a photo of her wearing a party hat. Have a lovely week.

Liebster Award ❤️

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It was just over a year ago that I started my little blog, and last week I was surprised and delighted when the lovely Typewriter Girl contacted me to let me know she’d nominated me for a Liebster Award. Liebster is a German word meaning dearest, sweetheart or beloved, and the Liebster Award is a virtual honour passed from blogger to blogger as a way of supporting and promoting each other.

The rules of the Liebster Award are:

  • Thank the person who nominated you and link to their blog
  • Answer the questions your nominator asked you
  • Nominate 5-11 other blogs (and don’t forget to let them know)
  • Ask your nominations up to 11 questions or facts about themselves.

Here are the answers to the questions I was asked:

What is your favourite part of blogging?
I really enjoy taking photos for my blog, but I also love being part of such a friendly and welcoming community.

What country, city or continent would you most like to visit and why?
There are so many places I’d love to visit but at the moment I’d really like to visit Mexico, I love the cuisine, culture and I’m interested in the history. I’d also love to tour the Scandinavian countries in a camper van chasing the Northern Lights and maybe even spotting a troll. 😉

What was the most inspirational time in your life so far?
Probably around our wedding as we made most of the decorations and favours ourselves, some of it was a bit rough around the edges but it was a really fun and crafty project. After the wedding, I knew I wanted another creative project and started scribbling ideas and thinking about this blog.

What are you passionate about?
My family and friends, my cat and practising gratitude every day.

What is your favourite book and why?
This is such a difficult question! Maybe the Harry Potter series by J.K Rowling because I re-read them more often than any other books. I also love A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness, it’s very moving and I love stories within stories.

What is your favourite time of year?
My favourite season is autumn, I love the colours of the leaves and the gradual transition from the fading light and warmth to the first frosts and cosiness.

What are your other interests besides blogging?
Reading, cooking (and eating!), gardening, walking and exploring new places, photography and yoga – all the things I blog about.

Do you prefer the beach or the mountains?
As forests aren’t one of the options, I’ll have to choose the beach.

Where did you go for your most memorable vacation?
We visited Japan for our honeymoon, and it was a dream come true because it’s a country I’ve wanted to visit since I was a child. I loved the food and the contrast between the old shinto shrines and the neon skyscrapers. I hope we’ll go back one day.

Do you prefer a sunny or rainy day?
I’m from Scotland so definitely sunny days because they’re so rare!

If you had a day all to yourself, how would you spend it?
Pottering about in the garden in the morning, visiting a bookshop in the afternoon followed by a peaceful and refreshing stroll along a beach or through a forest, then curling up at home with my cat and a book to read.

In no particular order, I nominate:

If you would like to accept the award (and there’s no pressure to at all!) feel free to answer the questions below and nominate up to 11 other blogs.

  1. What advice would you give to other bloggers?
  2. Other than blogging, what are your hobbies?
  3. Do you have any pets?
  4. Tea or coffee?
  5. What’s your favourite book and why?
  6. Where in the world would you most like to visit?
  7. What’s your favourite quote or personal mantra?
  8. Have you ever won any awards or trophies offline?
  9. What’s your favourite weather?
  10. Are you an early bird or a night owl?

Once again, thanks to Typewriter Girl for nominating me. Wishing everyone a happy Monday and have a lovely week!

 

A Little Gratitude List…

A Little Gratitude List…

1. We were in Fife recently visiting my husband’s cousin and his wife who have just moved there. We spent a little time catching up over mugs of coffee in their home as the four of us don’t get to see each other as often as we used to when they lived round the corner from us, but we always enjoy the time we do spend together and it doesn’t usually take long for my husband and his cousin to bring out the mischief in each other. After a tour of their new house, we all piled into the car and drove to a nearby beach where we spent a happy couple of hours strolling along the shore, chatting and exploring rock pools. I’m grateful for time with family and the chance to explore new places together.

2. On Saturday night, we had a house full of friends for a little Eurovision Song Contest Party. The Eurovision is a lot less kitsch than it used to be, and our guests were a disparate group (some of whom had only met once before at our wedding), but laughter and banter resounded round the room all evening. It was the first party we’ve hosted in our house, but it won’t be the last. I’m grateful for good times like these with good friends.

3. My husband is working away this week, something he tries to avoid as he’s a homebody at heart. We miss each other, but I’m grateful for technology (like Skype) that helps us stay in contact when we’re far apart.

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4. Luckily, I have our cat, Mara, to keep me company while he’s away. It’s almost impossible to feel lonely with Mara around, she brings so much life and noise to our home; from the impatient whine at feeding times that sounds more like “now!” than “meow” to the rumbling vocal cords when she runs up or down stairs, paws padding across wooden floors, a slurping tongue as she grooms herself and too many other distinctive chirrups, squeaks and meows to list separately. Lately, Mara has started sleeping on my pillow with her head pressed against my neck, although her whiskers tickle and she sometimes snores in my ear, she’s too cute to shoo away. As always, I’m grateful for Mara’s companionship and affection.

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5. I’ve been adding a few new recipes to my repertoire and realised that most of the food I associated with Mexico (nachos, chilli con carne and burritos) are actually Tex-Mex, so I borrowed Mexico: The Cookbook by Margarita Carillo Arronte from the local library to learn more about authentic Mexican cuisine. First attempts at making corn tortillas failed but the other recipes I’ve tried have all been tasty and I’m looking forward to adapting some of the meat dishes to vegetarian. Some of the ingredients are tricky to find here in Scotland, but I’m grateful to live in a country where food is plentiful. I’m also grateful for public libraries, they’re a valuable resource in the community.

Have a lovely week.

Christmas Magic

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Merry and bright

Every year as the days of December rush towards the 25th, I hear people fretting about how much money they’ve spent, how long they queued for this years must-have sold-out-everywhere gift, and how stressful hosting Christmas dinner is. Yet sitting peacefully at home suffused in the cosy glow of the twinkly lights and glinting baubles on our Christmas tree always reminds me to slow down and appreciate all the little moments that make this season so magical and meaningful.

Putting up the Christmas decorations and decorating the tree is one of my favourite festive traditions. Unwrapping the baubles we’ve collected over the years always brings back memories and each trinket seems to have its own story. The newest addition to our collection is a simple wooden piece I found while my husband and I were on holiday in New York earlier in the year. This year I also made some simple decorations by baking slices of orange, which brighten up the tree and add a touch of traditional style to it. The combination of citrus and fresh pine needles also gives our home a subtle and natural festive fragrance. Luckily, our cat Mara doesn’t try to climb the tree or bother the baubles, though she occasionally gives the lower branches an experimental nibble.

As TV shows and social networks fill up with images of happy families in festive jumpers, it seems like there are impossibly high expectations for Christmas. Yet the reality is that life doesn’t stop for Christmas: families bicker, couples separate and people get ill, just as they do at every other time of the year. Within my own family, over the years there have been two deaths in December and one in January, which always gives the season a bittersweet edge as I remember and miss those who are no longer here, while feeling so grateful and fortunate to have my loved ones around me at Christmastime.

I can’t buy Christmas magic, but sometimes I find it in the simplest moments: wrapping cold hands around warm mugs of Gluhwein at the Christmas market, catching up with friends around a crackling fire, snuggling up on the sofa with my husband and Mara to watch our favourite festive films (It’s a Wonderful Life, A Muppet’s Christmas Carol and While You Were Sleeping), and of course, gathering around the table with my family to savour a three course feast on Christmas Day itself.

Slowing down at Christmas makes all these cosy moments with the people I love most stand out clearer in my memory, like twinkling lights set against the darkest month of the year. Wishing everyone a peaceful and very happy Christmas!

Review of ‘The Gratitude Diaries’ by Janice Kaplan

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The Gratitude Diaries starts at a party on New Year’s Eve when Janice Kaplan sets herself a resolution to try being more grateful for a year to see if it can improve her life and outlook.

Janice is a journalist, who has an apartment in Manhattan and a house in the country, happily married with kids, she has a lot to be grateful for, yet like many people she compares herself to others who have it better than her, struggles to look beyond the imperfections and takes what she has for granted.

I found it easy to relate to Janice throughout her gratitude experiment because she’s honest about how she had to retrain herself to be grateful instead of complaining, criticising and focusing on the negatives. Above all, Janice demonstrates that while gratitude, optimism and positivity may come more naturally to some people than others, gratitude is a habit that anyone can cultivate.

Janice also recognises that it’s easy to feel grateful when life is good, but gratitude is not a panacea shielding us from all of life’s disappointments, sorrows and frustrations instead gratitude is a way of steadying ourselves in the storms, setbacks and struggles by adjusting what we focus on.

The Gratitude Diaries is split into four parts, corresponding with the seasons of the year, where she concentrates on different areas of her life, including marriage and family, career, money and health, and shows how gratitude improves each aspect of her life. The book is peppered with quotes from philosophers such as Epicurus and Marcus Aurelius whose wisdom is as relevant today as it was in their own lifetimes, as well as research and interviews from more contemporary sources like the psychologist Martin Seligman and actor Matt Damon.

I really enjoyed this book, it’s full of ideas on how to develop an “attitude of gratitude” and I can see myself re-reading it for inspiration and motivation as I try to live gratefully.

Our First Wedding Anniversary

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Tomorrow my husband and I celebrate our first wedding anniversary. Watching our wedding video brings back a flood of memories and feelings about our ceremony. I remember feeling overwhelmed seeing all of our guests for the first time, my groom holding my hand so tightly in his own during the ceremony and my hand trembling as I signed the marriage register. I also remember thinking that it was over so quickly, and that it didn’t feel real. A year later, I think it’s because we were already married before our wedding.

We wrote our ceremony a few months before our wedding and our celebrant invited us to her house to rehearse it. I remember us standing in her living room, nervously repeating our vows, slipping the ring she provided us to practise with onto each other’s fingers and pretending to sip from the quaich. More than those fragments though I remember feeling like the whole world faded away until it was just me and my fiancé holding hands, staring into each other’s eyes and telling each other how much we loved one another.

In that moment, I felt like we were married. We both wore jeans and there was no champagne or cake. There were no guests, our only witnesses were the celebrant’s two dogs who spent the duration of our rehearsal fighting over a chewy toy. It was a beautiful moment all the same.

It was the memory of how I felt during our rehearsal that got me through the more stressful aspects of planning our wedding. It’s easy to get lost in the details but our rehearsal helped me to keep the wedding in perspective, the wedding might represent the start of our marriage but it wouldn’t define our relationship because it was just a legal celebration of what we both already knew to be true in our hearts.

Our wedding was beautiful, but it wasn’t perfect and I didn’t expect it to be. When I noticed little things that didn’t go to plan on our wedding day, I chose to focus on all the parts that went right instead and I felt so grateful to all the people from our families and friends who filled our day with so much love and joy, as well as to all the professionals like our celebrant, photographer and caterers who made sure it all flowed smoothly. Our wedding was a wonderful start to a new chapter of our story together, our first year of marriage has been delightful and I look forward to whatever the future holds for us. Have a lovely week.

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Our DIY caketoppers and table decorations