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.

Mara bookcase

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

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An Urban Wildlife Garden

Comma Butterfly

There’s a definite sense of slow down in the garden as the daylight wanes and temperatures drop. We’ve harvested the potatoes, carrots and kale from the veg beds though we’re still waiting for the sprouts and squashes. Most of the annuals have died back and in the next few weeks, we’ll plant snow drop, iris, daffodil and tulip bulbs to give us some spring colour until the summer flowering perennials like hardy geraniums and scabiosa start filling the border.

The scabiosa has been one of my favourites this year as it’s low maintenace with a long flowering period (prolonged by dead heading) and it’s a magnet for the bees and butterflies. This summer seems to have been a good one for our fluttering visitors as I’ve spotted Comma, Small Tortoiseshell and Painted Lady butterflies in the garden, as well as cabbage whites nibbling the brassicas in the veg beds.

We feed the birds all year round, and in addition to the sparrows, blue tits, starlings, magpies, pigeons and the odd grey squirrel that visit regularly, we’ve also seen long-tailed tits visiting our feeding station for the first time this year. Apparently, long tailed tits are very vulnerable to cold winters and I suspect the population has only just recovered from the Beast from the East last year, but I hope they’ll become regular visitors to our garden.

Given that we live in an urban environment, I’m always delighted by the diversity of wildlife that inhabit and visit our garden. Have a lovely week! X

By the Sea

On a windy, overcast day, we took a trip to the little village of Portencross in North Ayrshire, somewhere we’d never visited before, but somewhere we’ll definitely be returning to.

Portencross

There is a small castle at Portencross, which is free to explore, but a little underwhelming compared to some of the other sprawling castles steeped in history around Scotland. The top of the castle does offer some lovely views of the coastline, the islands of Wee Cumbrae and Great Cumbrae, and even the CalMac ferries transporting passengers from Largs to Millport and back again.

From Portencross we wandered north to Hunterston Power Station. It’s a short walk, only a mile each way on a relatively flat and straight path with crocosmia, aster and yarrow growing wild on either side. We probably walked a little further as we deviated from the path a few times to scramble closer to the sea to watch the waves crashing against the rocks and so my husband could search the rock pools for crabs and other marine life – always the highlight of a trip to the seaside for him.

With everything else we’ve had going on this year, we haven’t had much time for day-trips or adventures, but we both felt refreshed after our day by the sea, enjoying the fresh air and the chance to explore somewhere new, chatting about everything and nothing, and just letting our minds and feet wander. Have 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.

Twists and Turns

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.

Twists and Turns2

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

An Urban Jungle

The weather has been unpredictable in our part of the country this summer, we’ve had days of scorching sunshine and clear, blue skies, but almost as many days of torrential rain and rumbling thunder.

TheJungle

The back border has turned into a bit of a jungle as the clumping bamboo we planted has started to fill out, and the Cirsium Rivulare and perennial mallow have also become a bit thuggish, and I had to relocate our little Buddha statue to a less overgrown corner with the Heuchera and Japanese forest grass lest we lose him in the jungle!

Buddha

Heavy rain flattened the cornflowers and they never bounced back so I reluctantly pulled them out, which unfortunately left the flower border looking a bit patchy; we’re gradually trying to fill it up with perennials but I hope we’ll always have a little bit of space for my favourite annuals.

Have a lovely week! X

On Your Marks, Get Set, Grow!

Flower Border

July is probably my favourite month in the garden, as it’s when everything seems to burst into action all at once. The flower border is overflowing with annuals as the cornflowers, calendula, poppies and lavatera are all flowering. Every year I tell myself that I’ll broadcast the cornflower seeds sparingly and every year we end up with masses of them.

Meanwhile in the vegetable beds, we’ve harvested some potatoes (Pentland Javelin) and rat-tail radishes, which can be eaten fresh from the plant or fried whole and sprinkled with salt as a side or snack. The sprouts, carrots and winter onions are all still growing, but the kale is ready to harvest and there should be enough to freeze to see us through the winter months.

There is just so much colour and vigour in the garden at this time of year, and it seems to change everyday as one flower dies back and another opens. Have a lovely week! X

A Day Trip to Jupiter

JupiterArtland

Summer has been a bit stop-start in our part of the country but we recently took advantage of a very sunny day with clear blue skies and temperatures in the mid-20s (hot by our standards!) for a little day trip.

Jupiter Artland is a contemporary sculpture park set across 100 acres of forest and meadows near Edinburgh. There’s a lot to see but I thought I’d share a few photos of our favourite exhibits.

In a clearing in the forest, there are statues of five little girls in various stages of a tantrum, it is a little bit creepy but Laura Ford’s Weeping Girl sculptures capture so much emotion and movement.

Several years ago, we visited The Cosmic Garden of Speculation designed by Charles Jencks and the highlight was climbing the spiral mounds, although the Cosmic Garden of Speculation is only open to the public one day of the year (or by special arrangement), the Cells of Life provide a similar experience here.

There was much more to see but these were the exhibits I found most memorable. Jupiter Artland appears to be a little off the beaten path but it was a fun place to explore and offers a more interactive and multi-sensory experience than traditional art galleries. Have a lovely week! X