Summer into Autumn

Summer into Autumn

The sun seems to be rising a little later and setting a little earlier every day, and though the weather is still mild most days, there’s a chill creeping into the mornings and evenings as summer slips into autumn.

This summer has been a memorable one for us full of family adventures from trips to the beach, zoo and aquarium, as well as local toddler sensory classes (full of themed activities and songs), and a summer block of wheelie tots, where our daughter got to try balance bikes, skateboards and scooters which were such a hit that we bought her a scooter soon after. Apart from daytrips and toddler groups, the rest of our time together is usually spent at the local parks or pottering around at home filling our days with nursery rhymes, scribbling with crayons, building blocks, lots of rough and tumble play, or letting her help me with some housework like loading the washing machine, watering the plants, refilling the bird feeder or feeding our cat, Mara.

Our little girl is so curious and adventurous, she’s on-the-go from the moment she wakes up until bedtime, and I wouldn’t have her any other way. She started talking in July, her first proper word was “cracker” (her favourite snack), quickly followed by cat, car, shoes, bubble, bee, more and no, and she’s been adding words to her vocabularly every day.

Mara-cat gave us quite a scare a few months ago when she suddenly became ill with a fever – and we still don’t know what caused it – but she seems to have recovered and is back to her usual cuddly, playful self. During the heatwave, she spent most of her days alternating between sunbathing and trying to cool down, but now that the temperatures have dropped again, she’s been back to snuggling up with me in the evenings, which is always one of the highlights of my day.

Though this has been a good one, summer is my least favourite season, it’s as often hot, humid and wet as it is warm and sunny with blue skies, and I’m already looking forward to the transient beauty of autumn and the cosy times ahead. Have a lovely week. X

High and Low Tide at the Beach

With the exception of a week of thunderstorms and torrential rain, we’ve had a wonderful summer of blue skies, sunshine and warmth, and we’ve been making the most of the good weather and our freedom after all the travel restrictions and lockdowns last year. We’ve had a couple of very different trips to our favourite beach recently, arriving at low tide one day, then high tide just a few days later, something we always forget to check before visiting.

When our visit coincided with low tide, we had a quick picnic lunch before exploring the rock pools that are normally submerged while the tide is in. My husband (an astrological crab) set about trying to find the biggest crabs he could, and found a couple of very aptly-named, red-eyed and fairly hostile, Devil Crabs, while I searched for starfish. Our daughter was fascinated by it all, pointing at rocks for us to turn over and giggling whenever we held up the aquatic critters we’d found for her to look at.

Just a few days later, we returned while the tide was in and spent an afternoon walking barefoot in the sand, paddling in the waves and letting the little one dig in the sand. We’re used to having the beach to ourselves most of the time, but this was the busiest we’d ever seen it with dog-walkers, swimmers and paddle-boarders, families picnicking and even someone trying their luck with a metal detector.

Whatever the weather, and regardless of the the tide being in or out, Croy Shore is always one of my favourite places to visit, and it’s been lovely to spend a few days there this summer. Have a lovely week. X

Five Sisters Zoo

Five Sisters Zoo in West Lothian was on my list of places to visit for a while but due to lockdowns and travel restrictions we didn’t have an opportunity to visit until recently, but it was absolutely worth the wait, turning out to be much bigger and with a greater range of animals than I expected from a family run zoo with a focus on animal welfare.

Five Sisters Zoo was founded by a couple who originally bought the land to open their own garden centre with a little animal rehoming centre for pets and rescued animals. While the independent garden centre struggled and eventually closed, the little animal collection, which started with rabbits, guinea pigs, goats and pigs, continued to expand until the local council granted them a zoo license in 2005.

I really appreciated the ethos of this family run zoo that has taken in animals from other zoos that have closed down, rescued and retired bears and lions from circuses and various other animals with injuries, illnesses and disabilities that would be unable to live in the wild.

We were really lucky and saw most of the animals during our visit with the exceptions of the rescued bears, the snow leopard and the wolves – all of whom were hidden away in their large enclosures. Our animal-loving daughter loved the otters, lemurs and meerkats best of all, and eventually had to be carried out of the zoo howling in protest after we’d spent a good three hours wandering around; while I was delighted to catch a glimpse of Rufio the red panda – a relatively new addition who arrived at the zoo in May.

We all thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the zoo and it’s definitely somewhere we’d return to. Have a lovely week. X

My little blog turns five!

Taking some time at the end of a busy weekend full of birthday celebrations, a trip to the beach and my daughter’s first toddler sensory class to write a quick post as this weekend also coincides with the fifth anniversary of my little blog. A quick tally reveals that since I nervously hit publish on that very first (and slightly cringesome) post, I’ve shared over 220 posts including 19 recipes and almost 100 book reviews. More than anything else though, my blog has always been a record of life and I’ve written about my family and cat, our home and garden, the places and events we’ve visited.

I don’t share everything that goes on but I also don’t feel the pressure to pretend my life is perfect as I’ve found that it’s often the frustrations and sorrows, the challenges and changes that give me a sense of perspective for how much I still have to be grateful for.

When I first started blogging, I had no idea I’d still be writing it five years later or how my life would change in that time. I love being part of the blogging community, I’ve found so many inspiring and entertaining bloggers writing about so many different topics that I’m still slightly surprised that others are interested in reading what I write, but I’m always thankful to everyone who takes the time to like and comment on my posts. Thank you for reading, and wishing you all a lovely week. X

Returning to the Japanese Gardens

We’re in the midst of a summer heatwave at the moment, and while we’ve been spending most of our time in the garden splashing in the paddling pool and enjoying the shade of the summerhouse, we’ve enjoyed a few daytrips out of the city as well. We recently combined a long overdue family reunion with a visit to the Japanese Gardens at Cowden Estate in Clackmannanshire. My husband and I visited the The Japanese Gardens in 2018, and it was lovely to return with our toddler in tow to see how it’s grown and changed since our first visit.

The main path follows the edge of the lake with two bridges, one arched and the other zig-zagging allowing visitors to cross from one side to the other. There’s also a dry-garden with patterns raked into the stones, a moss garden, and stone lanterns scattered around. The gardens are elegant, tranquil and wonderfully combine the Japanese aesthetic with the surrounding Scottish landscape.

After exploring the gardens, we treated ourselves to coffee and freshly baked scones from the cafe. The Japanese Gardens are a little of the beaten path, but well worth a visit. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

A Glimpse Under the Sea at the Aquarium

I suspect the rest of the U.K. is watching the Euro 2020 final, while I’m enjoying a bit of a peace and quiet at the end of a busy weekend and tapping out a quick post about our recent family excursions to the SeaLife Aquarium at Loch Lomond Shores now that lockdown and travel restrictions have finally ended in Scotland.

One personal change the pandemic has brought about is that I used to book events well in advance (I always like to have something to look forward to) but after so many cancelled events and travel restrictions, I’m trying to be more spontaneous, so when one rainy Saturday my husband saw there were tickets available for the SeaLife Aquarium, we decided to seize the day as it had been on our list of things to do for a while. It’s not fully open yet due to refurbishments and certain areas are still closed where social distancing isn’t possible but there was plenty to see and more than enough to keep us and our inquisitive, energetic toddler entertained from clownfish (“Hello Nemo!”) to piranhas and sharks. Even though it’s relatively close (a half hour drive for us), the SeaLife Aquarium is not somewhere we’ve visited before but we had a lovely time and would definitely return. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Back Again

As soon as travel restrictions were lifted in Scotland, we took a trip to our favourite beach, Croy Shore in South Ayrshire. We’d normally visit in January, often on New Year’s Day for a bracing walk along the coast, but that wasn’t possible this year due to lockdown; instead our first visit of 2021 was on a sunny Spring day with blue skies above, waves gently lapping the shoreline, sands stretching out for miles ahead and temps just hitting double figures. I was so glad to see the familiar sights of the curving coastline, Turnberry lighthouse (now part of a luxury resort owned by a former U.S. President), Culzean Castle to the South and the hazy outline of the Isle of Arran across the sea.

We had to planned to let our daughter just toddle about on the sands but she surprised us with her fearlessness by running straight towards the sea and splashing about in the waves grinning and squealing with laughter.

Croy Shore has been the setting for so many memories between me and my husband, we’ve come here to gather our thoughts, clear our minds and contemplate some of our biggest decisions, yet on this day we were just content to stroll along letting our little girl dictate the pace and direction, making some new memories as a family, and savouring the first taste of freedom after so many months of lockdown.

Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Spring in the garden and beyond

This time last year we were still adjusting to life under the very first lockdown, and it’s such a contrast to have the world opening up after another three month lockdown and nature waking up after a long, cold winter. We’ve spent a lovely Easter bank holiday weekend strolling through parks, playing in the garden and visiting family.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about our garden, but we’ve continued working on it right through the winter months, replacing the fence separating our garden from our neighbours’, constructing more pemanent raised beds and building a summerhouse. We’ve already enjoyed morning coffees and evening meals in the summerhouse, and it’s such a lovely spot of shade in our sun-trap garden.

The daffodils I planted last autumn have begun to flower, providing a burst of yellow sunshine under the window, and it won’t be long until they’re joined by the tulips. As the daylight lengthens and the weather improves we’re spending more and more time outside, and our daughter has taken to bringing us her shoes and coat whenever she wants to toddle around the garden, play hide-and-seek in the summerhouse or fly on her swing.

We’re still regular visitors at our local parks, and the cycling seasons is obvious there too as the Greylag geese that spent winter in the pond have flown North again, and the bare trees have burst into blossom.

Yesterday, we took a trip slightly further afield to Rouken Glen and combined a walk around the park with our first trip to a garden centre this year, where we bought a plum tree and I went a bit wild stocking up on seeds.

We’ve had a strange combination of sunshine and low temperatures over the past few weeks but despite the cold, spring has definitely sprung and I’m so grateful for the changes in nature and the gradual easing of lockdown restrictions. Take care, and have a lovely week. X

Sculpture Trail at Cairnhill Woods

Last week was a busy one for our family as I started my phased return back to work after almost 14 months off on maternity leave, and our 13 month old daughter had her taster sessions and first full day at nursery. It’s a big transition for all of us but one that I’m feeling positive about as our daughter will get to play and socialise with other toddlers during her three days at nursery, something she’s missed out on through national and local lockdowns over the last twelve months. I couldn’t be prouder or more relieved about how quickly she’s settled into nursery, and I’ve so enjoyed getting photos and little updates about her snacks, lunch, naps and activities through the day from the nursery staff, and she brought home her first stamped artwork for Mother’s Day much to my delight.

As we adjust to our new routines, I feel we’ve got a good balance between work, nursery and family time, and despite the lockdown we’re still enjoying little adventures together.

We recently took a wander around Cairnhill Woods for a change of scene from our local parks. Even on a cold, grey day with the trees still bare and the paths muddy, it was a pleasant place to explore and I was delighted to see so many signs of spring in the forest from frog spawn in the little pond to daffodils, crocuses and primroses lining the paths. The highlight of the trip though was finding all the wonderful wooden sculptures hidden around the forest, from toadstools and fairies to the Green Man and various animals, and as Cairnhill Woods is near Bearsden we also spotted lots of bear sculptures.

It was a short walk but one we all enjoyed, and somewhere I look forward to visiting again when it’ll be lush and green. Take care and have a lovely week. X

One ~ A Lockdown First Birthday

Last week we celebrated our daughter’s first birthday at home with balloons, decorations, music, lots of presents, and a few inches of snow courtesty of Storm Darcy.

Fair haired with grey-blue eyes like mine, but bearing a strong resemblance to her dad at the same age, she is part of me, part of my husband, and all of those that came before us, yet every day becoming more and more herself. Our daughter is strong-willed, curious and cuddly with such a cheerful, sunny disposition (most of the time!). It’s incredible to compare the difference between the tiny, squirming newborn who could barely lift her head a year ago and the boisterous infant now standing unsupported, so close to taking her first steps, and saying her first words (“mmmum” and “hiya Rara” ❤️).

I’ve tried to record her first year on the blog, noting significant milestones, and yet they’ve come so thick and fast from the first smiles and giggles to sitting up, rolling, crawling, standing and now crabwalking around the furniture, her first teeth and solid foods (she’s turned out to be quite the adventurous little epicurean whose favourite foods include enchiladas and paneer/tofu masala, as well as the more mundane cherry tomatoes, peas and fruit).

Along the way, there have been moments I’d rather forget too: a surreal and scary trip to A&E after she had a reaction to her first set of immunisations at six weeks old during the first lockdown, struggles with breastfeeding, getting to grips with her silent reflux and a suspected lactose intolerance.

In the absence of baby groups and playdates, I’ve been looking for ways to keep our inquisitive and lively daughter entertained at home, we’ve built a den filled with teddies in the corner between our couches, her old bath has been turned into a ballpit, we’ve created tunnels out of cardboard boxes, and her big present from us was a swing in the garden. We’ve spent happy hours building towers out of blocks for her to topple like a little Godzilla, bouncing around to her favourite songs with rattles and shakers, and chasing each other around the coffee table. There have been more walks than I can count, at least one every day whatever the weather, trying to make up for the fact that her world is so much smaller and more local than it should be. I do feel that my daughter and I have missed out in some ways, but I hope that she’s also benefitted from having both parents at home for her first full year.

My blog has always been a record of family life capturing the highs, lows and all the ordinary moments in between. In 2020 it felt even more important to document it all because it was such a strange year when life as we knew it was completely disrupted, but caring for our daughter kept us grounded in the present and reminded us just how fortunate we are.

Now approaching the end of my maternity leave, I’m full of nerves about returning to work and anxious about how our daughter will settle into childcare, but I hope we will find our way – or at least muddle through – just as we have together up to now. Take care, and have a lovely week. X