Autumn Fading into Winter

November isn’t normally one of my favourite months, but it’s been a watershed one for us this year as we started a new chapter as a family of four.

Since our second daughter’s arrival three weeks ago, there’s been a whirlwind of visits from family, neighbours, midwives and health visitors, quiet nights spent feeding and cuddling our new baby, with trips to shops, cafes, the library, playdates and all our toddler’s usual activites filling the daylight hours, and we’re gradually trying to find a rhythm that suits everyone. Though another child brings new challenges, going from none to one was much harder than the transition from one to two, and we’re finding our way much quicker the second time around.

It’s been a much bigger adjustment for our firstborn who at 2 years 9 months has gone from only to oldest; she’s needed a bit more reassurance and attention at times but has generally been curious about her little sister, showing her caring side by helping to change and bath the baby when she wants to get involved, and I hope they’ll become playmates and friends once the littlest one is mobile and verbal.

In contrast, our cat Mara surprised us by taking another baby in her stride. Mara seemed to be in shock when we brought the first baby home but has already given the newest addition a few tentative sniffs and then carried on with her own well-established routines.

Around the middle of the month, temperatures finally dipped into single figures and I’ve noticed Christmas decorations appearing in shops, garden centres and even a few homes over the last couple of weeks. Life with two small children is fast-paced, so many moments seem to be flashing past before I can catch them but glad to have found time to gather my thoughts here before autumn fades into winter. Have a lovely week. X

Slow Down and Coorie In

While the natural world is slowing down in preparation for winter and hibernation, it feels like family life has sped up as we prepare for our imminent new arrival. This summer and autumn have been slightly bittersweet, the excitement of our second child has been tempered by nerves about how our firstborn will cope with the transition from only to oldest, and we’ve been trying to give our daughter as much time and attention as we can, filling the last few months with experiences and memories.

We’ve been doing lots of baking together, we’ve finally tried out the bundt cake tin my husband bought me for Christmas to make a ginger cake; a spiced pumpkin loaf to rival anything you could get from Starbucks at this time of year; banana bread whenever we need to use up browning bananas; and our Christmas cake – using a recipe from the BeRo recipe book passed down from my late nanna to my mum and now to me; and whenever we’re feeling lazy and want a quick treat, we make chocolate rice crisp cakes. I have fond memories of baking with my own mum (mostly apple pies and jam tarts), and I’m really enjoying baking with my daughter, she’s a great little helper pouring and mixing the ingredients.

We’ve lit the fire on cold mornings and evenings, and spent rainy afternoons snuggled on the couch under blankets with the cat on my lap watching Disney films from classic animations like The Aristocats to more recent additions like Moana and Encanto, rediscovering some of my old favourites like Robin Hood and Lilo and Stitch along the way. We’ve also had craft sessions around the dining table, painting, handprinting and shaping playdough.

There’s been plenty of time outside too, admiring the autumn scenery on nature walks collecting pocketfuls of conkers and crisp leaves or splashing through puddles. I even found a fly agaric mushroom under one of the beech trees in our street. We had a lovely wander around the gardens at Pollok Country Park a little while ago, where the masses of kale, chard, pumpkins and whole greenhouses full of chilli plants in the kitchen garden gave me a serious dose of envy. The little one loved exploring the little fairy village there too.

It hasn’t been all fun and games though, the start of my maternity leave coincided with my daughter developing Croup, and there were a couple of trips to hospital for steroids, which was scary for all of us. Our second trip to the hospital was the same day we were supposed to go to the Enchanted Forest in Pitlochry, an annual tradition that I’ve really missed during the pandemic and something we’d been looking forward to, but it’s such a relief to see our little girl getting better and back to her boisterous self. Maybe next year…

We did have a surprise trip to Edinburgh that my husband booked to make up for missing the Enchanted Forest. We enjoyed evening and morning dips in the hotel pool, dinner and breakfast at the restaurant, but the real highlight was a morning trip to Portobello beach just 5 minutes away from the hotel, where we took a wander along the shore shrouded in a thick mist, chased each other across the sand, splashed in the waves and combed the beach for tiny treasures.

Between finishing up at work, taking care of our toddler and preparing for a new baby, I haven’t had much time to rest or relax and I’ve felt a bit like a leaf swirling in the wind as I’ve been pulled in different directions, but unusually for us we don’t have much planned for the winter months and I’m hoping we can all slow down and coorie-in. Take care and have a lovely week. X

Capturing Castles and Spotting Seals at Culzean

Back at the end of September, we took a wee day trip to Culzean Castle to make the most of a mild and sunny day. Culzean is just a few miles south of our favourite beach, Croy Shore, but is only somewhere we’ve visited a handful of times, though I can see it become another family favourite because there’s so much to see and do. It’s an NTS property so entrance is free for members, but for everyone else it’s £18.95 to visit the Castle and grounds, or £13.95 for the grounds (free for under 5’s), which is what we chose as with the adventure playpark, woodland walks, private beaches and gardens to explore, you could easily spend a whole day there.

Our first stop was at the Adventure Cove, a huge wooden fortress fulls of slides and places for children to climb and explore. During the summer holiday, I imagine this place is mobbed, but it wasn’t too busy when we visited.

We made our way through the woods to the beach, and it was really lovely to see clear views of the Isle of Arran and Ailsa Craig across the sea but from a different angle than we’re used to. While we were trying to work out what the stretch of land between Arran and Ailsa Craig was on the far horizon (our best guesses were either the Campbelltown Peninsula or Ireland?), we spotted a couple of seals swimming much to our delight – though annoyingly I didn’t have my camera with me so could only get a few zoomed-in, blurry shots with my phone.

Afterwards, we headed back towards the main entrance and the castle itself. Culzean Castle is perched on the cliffs and always reminds me of Manderley from Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca. I would’ve liked to visit the gardens in front of the castle but by this time the little one’s energy and patience were flagging so settled for a quick glimpse through the ruined arch, then a break for refreshments at the Home Farm Cafe before the journey home. It was a really lovely day and somewhere that we’ll definitely return to. Have a lovely week. X

Autumn Equinox in the Garden

This weekend marked the official start of autumn according to the astronomical calendar (though I’ve always prefered the meteorological calendar as it always seems like we’re well into a season by the time the equinox or solstice rolls around), and I’m still enjoying lots of time out in the garden.

I’ve tried to fill the garden with plants that flower at different times, and one of my favourites is the autumn flowering Aster ‘Patricia Ballard’. I also really appreciate the flowers with a long flowering period like hardy geraniums that start flowering in June and carry on well into autumn and sometimes winter, long after the summer blooms have faded, and so far both ‘Blushing Turtle’ and ‘Rozanne’ are still going strong.

My favourite rose, David Austin’s ‘Boscobel’ has slowed down but is still producing the odd beautiful flower in the long border, and the most generous of my roses, ‘Crown Princess Margareta’ is still producing the odd handful of apricot blooms.

There are also still a few annuals dotted around the garden like calendula and nasturtiums, but there is a gradual sense that the garden is slowing down and preparing to hibernate.

We’ve had quite a few cherry tomatoes from plants we bought reduced, but quite a few are still green and I’m hoping they’ll ripen before the cold weather arrives. I wasn’t planning to grow many vegetables this year, but seized by a sudden whim I sowed a few seeds for winter veggies (turnips, spinach and radish) in one the square raised beds, and I’ve also started cabbage, kale and chard seeds in the greenhouse, but it feels like a race against time to grow them on enough to plant out before the first frosts.

As much as I love the coziness of autumn and winter, I do miss spending time in the garden during the colder, darker months, and I’m savouring every moment in the garden and all the plants still growing at this time of year. Have a lovely week. X

Stepping into Autumn

Autumn is upon us once more, with cool, crisp mornings, warm, sunny afternoons (more often than not!) and darker evenings, and the leaves of the trees just starting to turn in our corner of the world.

Last week, my husband and I celebrated our 7th wedding anniversary, and next week we’ll have been together for 14 years. I still feel very lucky to have found him; my husband is my best friend, he’s been a supportive partner through so many challenges and changes, and he’s become a devoted, hands-on father too. It hasn’t always been easy, over the years we’ve had to navigate long-distance as work and study pulled us in opposite directions across the map, interfering in-laws and family estrangements, illnesses and a hundred other hurdles. Yet there has been so much more laughter, affection and joy, and the hard times we’ve faced have always been made easier by the reassuring comfort of standing side by side, hand in hand through it all.

We managed a rare child-free evening out to celebrate our anniversary at a delicious Spanish tapas restaurant, we ate so much food, enjoyed a tasty mocktail, then ice-cream and a wee wander up to the University to see my hubby’s new office.

My husband starts a new job next week, one that involves much less travel around the UK than his previous role, which will suit our little family better. In contrast, I’ve been with the same employer for over six years now, by far the longest I’ve ever worked anywhere, and I’d like to make a change at some point in the future but I’m very lucky that my employer offers flexible working options that fit around family life.

I’m not one to count my chickens before they’ve hatched but it’s hard not to feel excited and nervous when our second child’s due date is just 7 weeks away! I had a bit of a fright a couple of weeks ago as I was involved in a 4 car accident on my way home from work, though luckily no one involved was injured and after exchanging details we all made our way home. Even so, it was a relief to see our baby at the 32-week growth scan last week, and to see everything looking healthy and normal. We also received our baby box from the Scottish government and enjoyed unpacking all the useful things inside.

We’ve finally started work on our front garden with the help of my father-in-law (and our daughter who just loves to get involved with whatever we’re doing), creating a new path that leads directly up to the front door. For the last few years the front garden has been overgrown and neglected so I’m really looking forward to doing something with this space, and my imagination is running wild with ideas of silver birch and cherry blossom trees and a pond.

I love September with the last of the summer warmth and the first chill of autumn, as it always seems like month of beginnings and endings, changes and transitions, as one season draws to a close and another begins, and I’m looking forward to lots of cosy times ahead. Have a lovely week. X

Summer Scenes and Moments

Taking some time to reflect on some of the highlights of a lovely summer as the season draws to a close before we step into autumn.

We’re an outdoorsy family and have enjoyed lots of time outside in both sunshine and the rain, with a surprisingly fun showery day at Mugdock Country Park, wrapped up in waterproofs and wellies feeding ducks in the pond, splashing in puddles and wandering the forest trails.

We made another visit to our favourite beach, this time chasing the waves at high tide with our fearless daughter charging into the sea up to her waist.

We spent a very changeable day at the Kelpies that began with us appreciating the statues from every angle, then having ice cream and hot chocolate in the drizzle, before the sun came out again and we wandered along the canal path admiring the narrowboats, my husband and I reminiscing about a narrowboat holiday with friends several years ago and daydreaming about possible future family holidays.

There have been afternoons spend in the garden, keeping cool in the paddling pool with ice lollies or thick slices of chilled watermelon, or the little one foraging for strawberries and blueberries in our little food forest, or zooming around our cul-de-sac on her scooter and bike while we chat to our neighbours.

While playgroups and sensory have been off for summer, we’ve spent sunny mornings at the park, swinging, sliding, trampolining and chasing our shadows. Oddly, these morning visits to the park reminded me in an unexpectedly nostalgic way of my maternity leave during lockdown when the parks were all that was open to us. There was also an early morning visit to the skate park at Kelvingrove where the little one rode her balance bike up and down the ramps before the older skateboarders, roller skaters and biking kids arrived.

There was another visit to Five Sisters Zoo, this time with my husband’s family to celebrate a birthday. We spent most of our time shepherding three exuberant little cousins, but still managed to catch glimpses of the red panda in the treetops, beautiful newly arrived Cheetahs, and the rescued lions – which I only recently realised are male having misread the sign the first time I visited (they were castrated when very young and never grew manes). It’s seeing the animals – especially those that were rescued – so healthy and content that makes Five Sisters Zoo such a special place to visit and a zoo that I’m happy to support.

We also had a walk around Rouken Glen Park recently too, seeing the river and waterfalls a mere trickle of what they usually are, but the woods still lush and green. We are really lucky to have so many lovely places to explore nearby.

Even though we didn’t go away for a holiday this summer (we’re saving our annual leave and money for my maternity leave later this year) and the weather has swung from scorching heatwaves to thundery downpours, we’ve had a summer full of fun, laughter and made some lovely memories together. Have a lovely week. X

Sixth Blogging Birthday!

I always appreciate the chance to reflect on how life has changed over the years, and my now six year old blog has become a way of recording the triumphs, challenges and all the ordinary, little moments in between.

I used to struggle a lot with comparing myself to others, and I viewed significant events like items on a to-do list instead of recognising them as achievements to be celebrated or moments to be cherished. Cutting back on social media in general, and deactivating Facebook in particular (4 years and counting!) really helped me to gain perspective, and now I prefer to compare my past with my present to measure how far I’ve come, what I’d still like to achieve and if I’m living by my personal values, and I’m so much more content as a result. Having said that, I’ve loved becoming part of the blogging community, finding some lovely, welcoming people sharing wisdom, humour and glimpses into their own lives.

It took me about a year to find my voice as a blogger and figure out the topics that really interested and inspired me, but I love having somewhere to document the little details of my life and reflect on all the changes that have taken place over the last few years.

As it happens, we’re preparing for another change and an exciting new chapter for our family as we’re delighted to be expecting our second child in November. Given that it took over two years to conceive our first child and that I’m now in my late 30’s, I was fairly pragmatic about our chances of having another baby, but life is full of surprises.

In some ways, I’m more nervous this time around as I know what to expect from birth and recovery to feeding and sleep deprivation. I’m also apprehensive about juggling the needs of a lively toddler who is used to having all our time and attention with a newborn, but I’ve no doubt our roles and routines will adjust for the newest addition when she arrives. There’s still so much to prepare, but time enough to enjoy these last few months before the newborn chaos starts all over again.

As always, many thanks to everyone who takes the time to read or comment on my blog, and have a lovely week. X

Summer in the Garden

Like most people in the UK, we spent the first half of the week trying to stay cool on the hottest days, though we haven’t had to endure the record breaking temperatures further South. Although our garden is South-SouthWest facing, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well our plants held up during the heatwave, and it’s looking really lovely right now if I do say so myself.

Our back garden has changed a lot over the last few years but is starting to look quite established with fruit trees growing tall, the bamboo clumping, summerhouse freshly painted and perennials spreading in the long border. I’ve tried to plant flowers that bloom at different times, and as Cirsium Rivulare (thistle) dies back, the Crocosmia starts to flower, while the hardy Geraniums (‘Blushing Turtle’ and ‘Rozanne’) and roses pretty much flower from June until the first frost (and sometimes beyond that). ‘Rozanne’ has become a bit of a sprawling mass, so I’ll separate and relocate some to the other beds in the autumn.

I’ve surprised myself by developing a real affection for pink roses, ‘Boscobel’ is my favourite but the climbing rose ‘James Galway’ is a close second, and I doubt I’ll be able to resist adding another rose to fill in the gap in the long border when the next David Austin catalogue drops through the letterbox.

The two smaller square beds were supposed to be wildflower patches, but calendula and one solitary sunflower were the only things to survive the slugs which devoured every other seedling as they surfaced, but I don’t mind as I quite like the dramatic, fiery orange.

We’ve been putting out a little bit of food and water for the birds, squirrels and hedgehogs that inhabit and visit our garden over the summer. It’s especially exciting to see hedgehogs snuffling and shuffling around in the evening. We know there’s more than one visiting as they’re visibly different sizes with different markings, and it’s encouraging because their numbers have been in sharp decline for a while.

We’ve constructed the greenhouse, and my husband also built a small fence around it to prevent kids from bumping into it. During the heatwave earlier this week, the thermometer in the greenhouse reached 46°C before it stopped working. The greenhouse went up a bit late late in the season, but we’ve filled it with reduced price seedlings so we might still get a handful of tomatoes and courgettes, but I’m excited about growing more of our veg next year. I’ve had some success growing lettuce in pots this summer, though I had to move them onto the kitchen windowsill as they were starting to wilt in direct sunlight. I’ve also created a little fruit forest between our apple trees planting rhubarb and strawberries underneath, and our daughter loves foraging for berries in the garden. Weeds have been a problem so I scattered some nasturtium seeds to provide a bit of competition and occlusion, but I haven’t tried eating the leaves or flowers.

Our garden is quite small and yet we’re making the most of the space we have. Gardening is one of my great passions, and I really value time spent in the garden so much, it’s incredibly rewarding and restorative to feel connected to nature. Have a lovely week. X

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