Autumn into Winter

Time seems to be slipping away as the end of the year rushes towards us. The end of November brought nights so cold and clear that we could see the stars glinting above the city, frosty mornings and on Sunday we woke to a very light dusting of snow – barely enough for a snowball, let alone a snowman but enough to put me in the festive spirit.

I’m usually rushing right up to the last minute but this year our Christmas preparations are well under way. I’ve baked two cakes, my family have always preferred a rich Dundee cake but this year I decided to make a traditional Christmas cake too, both are bursting with raisins, sultanas and glace cherries. Presents have been bought and we’ve treated ourselves to a new decoration for the tree – a handpainted portrait of our cat, Mara, from Maggie’s Studio. We haven’t put our decorations up yet, but we’re hopefully going to get our tree this weekend, and I couldn’t resist putting up a bit of tinsel when I brought the decorations box down last night, and Mara couldn’t resist playing with it.

We’re preparing for another upheaval as our new kitchen is being fitted next week, and I’m keeping everything crossed that it’ll be finished in time for Christmas – which we’re supposed to be hosting, because I don’t fancy cooking a full roast dinner with a microwave and a toaster!

Aside from our Christmas preparations and home improvements, the last few weeks have been busy, we’ve had a family trip to GlasGLOW, I’m still taking my daughter to her sensory class but we’ve also found a local playgroup that’s a fun alternative to the park on cold, wet mornings; there’s no let up in the run up to Christmas as we’ve got a few toddler Christmas parties and at least one more winter light show on the horizon. Have a lovely weekend. X

Winter Solstice Thoughts

It’s been almost impossible to make plans this year, it seems like every time we’ve booked tickets to an event or tried to celebrate a birthday, someone has had to self-isolate or restrictions have increased, and Christmas has been no exception. It’s been quite a rush to get everything ready for Christmas with so much uncertainty hanging over us. In November, much later than I planned, I baked my husband a gluten-free Christmas cake, adapting the recipe from my mum’s scribbled in the margins and bound together by sticky tape BeRo cookbook. Donations have been made to the local food and toy banks. Most of our shopping has been done online this year. We’ve spent evenings at home popping and threading corn to hang on the tree, writing cards and wrapping presents.

We’ve enjoyed evening walks admiring all the Christmas decorations illuminating the neighbourhood, our 10-month-old daughter wide-eyed and fascinated, pointing at all the inflatable Santa’s, snowmen and penguins, lights cast over trees and hedges or outlining roofs and doors, as well as a multitude of twinkling reindeer, stars and candy canes.

After three weeks of zoom classes during our local lockdown, the little one and I were back at baby sensory in time for her Christmas party, which was a lovely way to end a stop-start year.

Christmas will be bittersweet for us personally as it will be the first without my nanna who passed away in February, but also our daughter’s first Christmas. We were already planning a smaller Christmas because of Coronavirus even before the latest restrictions were announced, and it’s not the first Christmas we’d imagined surrounded by family and friends, but we’ll try to fill it with as much love, peace and joy as we can.

Take care, and wishing everyone reading a very happy Christmas whatever your circumstances. X

Winter Wanders

Our area is still under lockdown but we’ve been enjoying some wintry walks with frosts, a light snowfall and temperatures hovering around zero this week. We recently visited Pollok Country Park starting early enough to see rays of sunlight breaking through the mist over the river on a cool and crisp morning, cold hands curled around cups of hot coffee while exploring the grounds. It was a lovely park to wander and a pleasant change from our local parks, though I think my husband was more excited to see the Highland cows (his favourite animal apparently) than our animal-loving daughter.

On Thursday, we woke to a very light dusting of snow that had frozen overnight. I spent a little bit of time crunching around the frozen garden with my daughter snuggled up close in her carrier, decorating our little apple trees with fairy lights and glittery baubles, checking on the sprouts and refilling the bird feeder.

I spent the rest of the day cosy inside decorating the Christmas tree with festive music playing in the background, a playful cat and inquisitive infant scampering around underfoot. I always enjoy unpacking the baubles and trinkets as most of them were handpicked on holidays or trips to the Christmas market or received as gifts, and have so much sentimental value attached to them. The most recent addition is a glass bauble that I bought during our first family trip to Pitlochry in October.

We were up bright and early this morning for a walk in a frosty winter wonderland, and we were rewarded for venturing out into subzero temperatures by the sight of a heron standing in the partially frozen pond at our local park. 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

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.

SnowDayScenes6

SnowDayScenes7

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

Feeding Frenzy in the Garden

 

6 FeedingFrenzy1

Just tapping out a quick post before settling down for the evening as I’ve been working from home today because soft, powdery snow has been falling almost constantly since early this morning bringing widespread disruption to our part of the country. Yet while I’ve been safe and warm inside, our feathered friends in the garden have been out and about foraging for food, and it’s been lovely to look up from my laptop every so often to watch the birds visiting the feeding station and snowflakes swirling in the wind. Have a lovely week. X

Happy Chinese New Year!

 

As it was Chinese New Year at the weekend, my hubby and I decided to visit the Giant Lanterns of China that have been on display at Edinburgh Zoo over the winter.

As darkness fell over the city, we wandered along the mile long circuit marveling at over 450 handcrafted silk lanterns illuminating the zoo. The beautiful displays featured elements from Chinese culture as well as various animals, birds and insects to be found in the zoo (though all of the real animals were kept inside overnight).

As with any outdoor event in Scotland, we were glad it was a dry evening, especially when we stopped to watch a twenty minute performance by Chinese acrobats who impressed the audience with their feats of strength and balance.

It was a wonderful way to spend a winter evening while learning a little bit about Chinese mythology and some of the conservation work that the zoo does. Have a lovely week. X

ChineseNewYear6