New Year Greetings!

The Christmas tree has started to droop, branches bowed under the weight of the baubles, and tomorrow I’ll put the decorations away for another year, but I’m still enjoying the lull after a busy festive period before work and nursery resume later this week.

This is the second year we’ve hosted Christmas, and my parents stayed with us for a few nights. Our daughter loved having her papa and grandma around to play with, and all the exciting new toys and books she received. My husband deserves all the credit for singlehandedly cooking Christmas Dinner including a turkey crown for my dad (and our cat) and Quorn roasts for the rest of us. Though in addition to the Christmas cake and Dundee cakes, I also baked Zimtsterne (cinnamon stars) for the first time when my in-laws visited for a buffet.

With the exception of my parents and in-laws, we’ve kept our socialising to a minimum to avoid Covid19, but we did have a lovely playdate with my daughter’s cousins and a wee jaunt to the Solway Coast to visit close friends, where the little one also got to pet the ponies in their field.

We spent New Year’s Eve at home sipping champagne and watching Disney’s Encanto, which was a refreshing twist on the chosen one story and I loved the vibrant Latin American setting. We were all in bed before midnight but it was a cosy way to end the year. Over the last few days, we’ve spent most of our time at home, reading, watching TV and playing on the floor with our daughter and her new toys. The excitement of Christmas coincided with a developmental leap (our daughter’s language skills seem to have exploded and she’s started stringing sentences together) which has meant her sleep has been pretty disrupted all through December, but she’s such a cheerful little person and so much fun that it’s hard to mind a bit of sleep deprivation now and then.

January is a peaceful month to recover from the hustle and bustle of the festive period, a chance to reflect on the year behind and full of the hopefulness of new beginnings. Despite everything, 2021 was a good year for us with family adventures to the beach, a few playdates, and our daughter’s first visits to the zoo, aquarium and light shows. My fears about sending my daughter to nursery 3 days a week when I returned to work were completely unfounded, as she’s settled in better than I could’ve hoped and usually rushes through the door to find her friends with barely a wave goodbye or backward glance. We also undertook home renovations that we’ve been planning since we moved in five years ago to extend the kitchen and add a downstairs bathroom. Most of all I’ve appreciated time spent with family and friends after so long apart during lockdowns.

There’s been a cold wind blowing today, but whenever it dropped I felt the warmth of the sun and noticed the first hellebores had flowered in the garden, little joys to savour while we’re in the bleak midwinter. Wishing everyone a very Happy New Year! X

Little Christmas Eve Greetings

December has been a hectic month and I’m trying to gather my thoughts on Little Christmas Eve or Christmas Eve Eve (as I’ve heard the 23rd called recently). I’ve been feeling a bit overwhelmed lately, there’s been so much to do but crises at work, uncertainty around the new Covid19 variant and Christmas preparations have sapped my concentration and energy.

As always, the stresses have been balanced by joyful family moments. At 22 months old, our daughter’s still too young to understand Christmas and showed a strong sense of stranger danger clinging to me at playgroup and her keyworker at nursery when Santa appeared, but she enjoyed her Christmas parties at playgroup and toddler sensory, as well as a whole week of festive activites at nursery.

We also visited Five Sisters Zoo for the second time this year (the first time back in the summer) to see their winter illuminations, which were impressive in sheer coverage, but the real highlight for me was getting a glimpse of the illusive snow leopard, as well as the lionesses and a lynx.

Apart from our trips to light shows and parties, we seem to have spent most of our time at home this month, fortunately our daughter is going through a creative phase and is perfectly content to spend hours scribbling with pencils or painting. I’m also pleased to report that our new kitchen has been fitted and we’re appreciating having more space – not to mention the dishwasher!

The presents have been piling up under the tree and there was a last minute addition to our decorations, a lovely paper star made by a crafty friend from work. Our cat has mostly ignored the tree but went wild when she caught the scent of a new toy stuffed with catnip, while our daughter has mostly ignored the presents but has menaced the tree pulling off the baubles she can reach and almost bringing the whole thing down on top of herself at least once.

Despite the frenzy in the run up to Christmas and my seemingly endless to-do list, I’m reminding myself that winter is the season to rest and recharge, providing much needed time to refocus on what (and who) matters most and reflect on the year that’s passed and the new one about to start. Take care, and wishing everyone a very Happy Christmas. 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

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