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

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

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

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

A Wintry Spectacle of Light

I bought tickets to the Spectacle of Light show at Dalkeith Country Park last year but due to the lockdown and travel restrictions we were unable to go, I decided to risk buying tickets again this year and it turned out to be a really lovely place to visit.

Dalkeith Country Park covers over 1000 acres but the part that has been illuminated is concentrated around the permanent children’s play areas which is split into one side full of wooden forts connected by sturdy bridges, and a more traditional playpark with swings, roundabouts and seesaws opposite. I can definitely see us returning here in the summer for a day trip and lots of adventure play with our daughter, but Spectacle of Light turned out to be the most child friendly light show we’ve ever been to.

Spectacle of Light is actually held in multiple sites across England between October and February, though Dalkeith Country Park is the only Scottish location and takes place during December. The light show itself was beautiful, from the fire fields where visitors could toast giant marshmallows, and the Nutcracker garden with a spinning ballerina in the centre, to the pavillion and synchronised lights on the lawn. Unlike other light shows we’ve been to, each section is seperate and it doesn’t follow a linear route around the illuminations, which meant it never felt crowded or like visitors were caught in a bottleneck.

Much like GlasGLOW (which we visited last month), our little one enjoyed the first half of our visit but after a while, even wrapped up in her snow suit, the cold (temperatures hovered around 1°c) and the interruption of her normal evening routine (she’s normally fed, bathed and asleep by 7.30pm) started to bother her, though she soon cheered up once we’d warmed up in the car and we played peekaboo and sang nursery rhymes all the way home.

With Christmas parties cancelled, a close friend testing positive and an outbreak at my husband’s workplace (though he’s fine and well), my anxiety around Covid19, new restrictions and another long winter ahead have been increasing, but we thoroughly enjoyed a very wintry wander around Spectacle of Light. Take care and have a lovely week. X

Dark Nights and Winter Lights

We recently took a wrapped-up trip to the Botanic Gardens which had been illuminated for GlasGLOW. I’ve found it hit and miss in previous years, but I couldn’t resist the appeal of an event located so conveniently close to where we live. I’ve really missed light shows during the pandemic, and this was a welcome return to one of my favourite ways to spend a dark and wintry evening.

My husband and I have been visiting The Enchanted Forest and other light shows for a decade, but this was our 21 month old daughter’s first light show, and she was fascinated by it all. We deliberately chose an early slot (living in Scotland means it’s usually dark by 4pm in Winter) but even so it was a slightly later night than the little one was used to.

The theme of GlasGLOW this year was gloop – a toxic substance created by an evil scientist that was polluting the city – which seemed slightly topical given that the event coincided with COP26.

My favourite parts of the show were walking through the strings of lights and the walkway over the grassy meadow that was festooned with lights leading to Kibble glass house, though one disadvantage of the one-way circuit around the park is that it discouraged us from lingering too long in one place or returning to our favourite parts of the show.

It was a well-organised event, we barely had to queue at the entrance, and it never felt too crowded. We were pleasantly surprised by food vendors that offered a decent range of vegan and vegetarian food, and my husband really enjoyed a gluten-free pizza. We also had toasted marshmallows. We had a lovely time and I loved seeing our daughter’s reaction to it all. Have a lovely week. X