Summer Solstice

What a strange year it’s been, it seems like a lifetime ago that we were watching wildfires sweep across Australia on the news and worrying about Brexit, yet here we are halfway through 2020. It’s been a quick year for us personally as our daughter arrived in early February and caring for her has kept us busy during the last few months when a global pandemic turned life upside down.

Our garden has also been a real blessing and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how much I’ve been able to get done with a baby in tow.

June Roses

June is the month that the roses burst into flower, and since we moved here I’ve been steadily filling our garden with them. There’s the rich red wine coloured Munstead Wood, the bold pink Young Lycidas, and pale sunshine of Crown Princess Margareta. Meanwhile Boscobel is patiently waiting in a large pot for a permanent home.

Every year I vastly underestimate how much space growing vegetables need so I limited myself to broccoli, squash and yellow courgettes this year; then my dad surprised us with some cabbage, cauliflower and sprouts seedlings he’d started off so the veg beds are as crowded with higgledy piggeldy rows of vegetables as ever.

We’re still getting out for walks at least once a day, more often than not with the wee one in the sling or carrier so she can look around. We haven’t ventured out of our local area yet but I enjoy having a nosy at other people’s gardens, and we found a little woodland walkway when we wandered off the beaten track.

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On days when it’s too wet to spend much time outside, we’ve contented ourselves pottering around the home, reading books or watching films and TV series, and playing with the wee one – including a few spontaneous puppet shows.

There have been more visits to and from parents and in-laws, which have helped break the monontony and given us all a much-needed boost as we remain under partial lockdown. Our daughter has been very curious about the “new” faces appearing after spending so much time around me and her dad.

Hope everyone reading is safe and well, take care and have a lovely week. 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

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

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

Scenes from a Snow Day

Clusters of yellow and purple crocuses on the verges and the steadily increasing daylight throughout February had us optimistically organizing our seeds into the order they should be planted until a cold snap from Siberia submerged our garden under a foot of snow.

The Beast from the East arrived here on Tuesday evening bringing icy winds and snow to our part of the country, and causing travel chaos, school closures and widespread disruption across the UK. I chose to work from home on Wednesday rather than risk driving through the snow, and by mid-day my husband’s office had also been closed due to the inclement weather – though he had to walk half the way home as all forms of public transport were either severely delayed or cancelled. As we were effectively snowed in, we both worked from home for the remainder of the week.

This week has been a contrast of wrapping up in coats, gloves and boots whenever we venture out into the bitterly cold winds and deep snow drifts to feed the birds or stock up at the supermarket, and savouring the warmth and comfort of our home. We’ve kept cabin fever at bay by reading books, watching the birds in the garden and playing board games together with the wood burning stove lit and the radio playing in the background.

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It’s felt like a long winter, and I’m very much looking forward to spring when it arrives but I’ve enjoyed having some unexpected cosy, hyggeligt time with my husband and our cat. This week, I’ve been grateful that I have the option to work from home, the nearest supermarket is within walking distance and as always for the warmth and shelter of our little house. Hope everyone is safe and warm. X

Winter in our Garden

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It’s snowed all through January in our part of the country, and it’s been lovely to see our garden under a thick blanket of soft, white snow, such a contrast from the colourful tangle of wildflowers in the summer. Over the last few weeks, I’ve enjoyed waking up and knowing it’s snowed without drawing the curtains as somehow the light seems diffused and a hush falls over the world. I much prefer a cold winter with frost and snow to a mild but wet one.

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Our raised beds and compost bins under the snow

This weekend my husband and I took part in the RSPB Big Garden Bird Watch, and it’s been lovely to sit by the window for an hour with a cup of coffee counting the birds in our garden. Over the autumn and winter, I’ve been filling the feeders with suet balls and seed mixes, and scattering breadcrumbs and dried fruit on the ground for the family of sparrows living in the hedge as well as the blue tits, blackbirds, robins and starlings that visit our garden.

The snow has gradually melted away revealing the first shoots of our spring bulbs poking out of the soil. I’ve missed spending time in the garden over the winter, but until the weather improves I’ll savour the contrast of the cold and darkness outside with the warmth of the fire and soft glow of candlelight in our home.

Have a lovely week.

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

Oh, the weather outside is frightful…

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but the fire is so delightful!

We woke up this morning to a thick frost on the ground, a deep mist in the air and a temperature of -4. It’s dark when we leave for work in the morning and it’s dark again by the time we arrive home in the evening, and with the exception of walks around the park during my lunch break to get some fresh air and absorb some much needed Vitamin D from the sunlight, life seems to move indoors at this time of year. Over the last few weeks, time in the garden has been reduced to crunching across the frozen grass to deposit kitchen waste and wood ash in the compost bins, and refilling the bird feeder, but we’ve been enjoying lots of cosy evenings in front of the wood burning stove with our cat stretched out across one of our laps or in front of the hearth.

It was just under a year ago that my husband and I moved into our little house, since then we’ve been gradually transforming it into our dream house, and I thought I’d share a few before and after photos of our living room.

I think it’s fair to say that the house wasn’t exactly a blank canvas when we moved in, and I suspect that the bold colour schemes, imposing floor-to-ceiling furniture and odd DIY features probably put other prospective buyers off as it made the rooms looks cramped and dark.

The previous owners had bricked up and plastered over the old fireplace, but we’d always dreamed of having a wood-burning stove, and although the stove we chose is small it really packs out the heat. Opening up the alcoves on either side of the fireplace gave us plenty of space for our books and a shelf for the TV, and I even re-purposed some of the toadstool decorations we made for our wedding as cupboard door handles. I’m a late convert to white paint, but I can’t deny that it makes the room look much brighter and more spacious.

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We knew it would be a bit of a project, but it’s been wonderful to see our ideas come together, and we feel very lucky to call this little house our home. We still have a long list of DIY projects to complete, but for now we’re savouring the warmth and cosy glow of the fire on these long, dark winter evenings. Have a lovely week!