Posts tagged scotland
How Grows It

I have lived in Scotland for 10 years and yet, I still spend a large part of May drumming my fingers, waiting for it to get properly warm, sunny and spring like, instead of wet, cold and muddy.  That dragging feeling I get as time slows to a drip as I wait for my flowers to bloom and my garden to take off must be similar to my children's long haul as they wait for Christmas every year (incidentally, Theo has started his list).

I wonder if it will ever sink in that we have a long way to wait between the time I want everything to start springing forth and it actually does. I am a terrible fuss, checking my seedlings, measuring progress, planting more and more because I want to feel like we are doing something on the long march to the growing season, which is at least 6 weeks behind the gardens of my Southern English friends.

While it may take many years more to learn that patience is required this time of year, its only taken me 1 year to learn that gardening with chickens around needs to be viewed as an all out war of the species. By this time last year, all of my seedlings and plants had been eaten and I was left with an essentially barren plot for the rest of the season. This year, each addition to the garden has been accompanied by super-charged protection. 

From small grow tunnels (mine were £8 from Lidl and I can make 2-3 tunnels out of each kit) to a new fence and gate, I feel like we have at least some hope that I will meet my goal of having a vegetable garden this year.

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Or if not, at least with the blackcurrants on course for an even bigger crop than last year, I will be able to drown my sorrows in a vat of cassis...

A Year On

Its been a year tomorrow since we moved. I count my blessings that when we fell, we fell on our feet in this beautiful place. Its not all perfect--- we are out of milk and the nearest shop with soy milk is a 20 mile round trip and don't get me started on rural internet, but the bad is oh so worth it for the good. 

Here's to many more. 

Snow Days

Although we'd been expecting it, the bad weather finally arrived this week in the form of gale force winds, rain, hail and snow. We count ourselves lucky that TV and internet outages and a bus that can't get up the road are so far the worst effects of the inclement weather. 

Leghorn the Insane

Georgia and the dog have spent most every moment outside since the snow arrived. This morning, she drew elaborate plans to instruct her father on how to build a snowman to her exacting requirements. She comes in for hot chocolate, only to rush out again when a new idea strikes for her next snow-venture, barely stopping to put on all her winter gear. 

A day of hearty meals, DVDs and knitting awaits us today...with a potential foray out into the cow pasture for some sledding down the hill (that leads straight to a bog...not for the faint of heart!).

As the temperatures have gotten colder, I have given up working in the studio unless I absolutely have to.  As great as it is to have my own space, the old byre isn't insulated and working out there too long leaves me frozen to the bone.  Instead, I have opted to stay in front of the fire in the house with a dog to keep my feet warm and today with the added bonus of the whole family to snuggle in beside me.  

I can think of worse ways to be stranded. 

These Days

These days in the run up to Christmas are just so full.  Its as if the vacuum created by keeping my work schedule relatively open sucked in every type of Christmas-related activity you could imagine. I suppose it is the fact of living a village life - if I am not attending a fair/nativity/visit with Santa/pantomime/show, I am baking for one. 

The last week's activities took place against a background of rain, more rain, gales, sleet, snow and more rain. Finally, last night the weather bomb (the news' term, not mine) moved on and we were left with the perfect kind of winter's morning - the cold, crisp, cracking ice on puddles kind. 

It is the perfect kind of respite from the mad rush that we've had for days and will see again come tomorrow. Georgia and Ellis spent every moment they could before rushing off to school playing outside this morning and the dog and I took our first not-miserable morning walk in weeks. 

Speaking of dogs, a few weeks ago, our beloved dog Mac was hit by a car.  It was very sad and very traumatic. Living alone at the end of a 1.5 mile track, you are lulled into a false sense of security and it took us all off guard. I cried for days. I am alone up here all day and didn't realise how much company he provided until he was gone. We'd been talking about getting a 2nd dog anyway and when a little Bearded Collie needed a home, we jumped at the chance. He is a lovely boy we named Marlow.

Ok, I am off to enjoy a few moments of quiet before the rushing begins again. Have a lovely weekend! 

One At A Time

I find more and more that I can only be creative in one area at a time. If I am deeply engrossed in designing, cooking and photography go out the window. If my camera is always in my hands, I can't be crocheting as well. If I am in the kitchen, very little else gets done.

These days, it seems that I can't move without heading out with a dog or a child into the woods.  The autumn light (when it is here) is simply magical, so we eat wraps with cold meat, no other works get done and we walk.


Autumn Mornings

I have to admit that after the glorious summer we had, I was less than thrilled when the leaves started to change and the cooler weather set it. I couldn't see past the dwindling amount of oil in our tank, the mud that I knew would slick every surface inside and out and forgetting what it feels like to be warm. But most of all, I dreaded the mornings that would see us getting up in a dark, cold house.

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But this Autumn has done a spectacular job of winning me around. The cool sunny days, the sheer bounty of our hedgerows and the sunrise and sunsets have made the arrival of the rain and cold a bit more bearable. 

The sunrises in particular are spectacular. That long autumn light makes the wet world come alive with the oranges and reds particular to this time of year. Our house sits on a hill in a valley edged by the Highlands...it means we frequently are woken up with glorious cloud inversions with the sun rising over the top. 

As I walk the dog in the mornings (in 2 pairs of woollen socks, multiple scarves and as many layers I can fit under my raincoat), I wonder how on earth did we get so lucky to find this place. 

Even though today the sun hasn't shown its head today and the dog and I are huddled next to the woodburner in the studio (way less romantic than it sounds), at least my dread of autumn mornings has passed.  

A Week in Review

Last week passed in a blur of visiting with this lovely woman.  

IMG_5041.jpg We ate cake, visited historic places and talked about anything and everything. It was the perfect end to what was probably the busiest month of our lives.

One of the best things about visitors that we go all of the places we never see living so close...Stirling Castle, Inchmahone Priory, Rosslyn Chapel...all close and all places we have never visited. IMG_5009.jpg IMG_4929.jpg IMG_4908.jpg IMG_4917.jpg

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I love this photo of them from the day we went to Stirling Castle and could kick myself that my aperture was too open to get them both in focus. Grrrrrrrrrrr IMG_5035.jpg

Canon 5d, 50mm f1.4 lens, ISO 1250, 1/50, f2.8

It is a very crazy busy week. There will be at least one pattern release later in the week (the long awaiting finale to this trilogy), with 2 others coming soon!

 

 

Sun and Rain


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As Kevin has been pulled to work most evenings and weekends recently, which means I am back in the mothering saddle.  It feels good.  Me and my three.  We are busy all day long, painting, playing trains, cooking.  If the dictatorship doesn't work out for Georgia's future career, I think a chef could be on the cards.  Yes, the female Gordon Ramsay...

But more than anything, they are best outside.  They are tough and rain doesn't bother them in the slightest (sun on the otherhand...they melt if it goes about 15C/60F).  And, as a great believer in playing to strengths we are out as much as possible.  Sunshine is just an added bonus. 

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Work (Or Something Like It)

It is no secret that I coud happily work 16 hours a day.  I love what I do and have more items on my to do list than I will ever finish and I simply could let it all consume me.

 

However, there are 4 people and 2 cats who like to remind me that work can not be my life. For however many hours I could happily sit in my office plugging away, they would like to spend 3x as many with their mama.  Sometimes, I resent the intrusion. Sometimes, I welcome it. That's just the way it is. 

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On Saturday, with deadlines looming and a strict order to do some filming, we headed up the hills to Castle Campbell in Dollar.  It is a site out of a fairy tale for sure, with (i kid you not) 2 creeks called the "Burn of Care" and the "Burn of Sorrow". It was even called "Castle Gloom".

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But gloomy it was not.  I love those particularly blinding autumn days where the sun shines and the colours are so bright they make your eyes water. I could wander and putter for hours. 

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Kevin is more of a fan of the castle than I am. In fact, I am terrified by steps like these vvvvvvvvvvv

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*shudders*

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And so we mixed it up, a longish walk (with cocoa breaks) and a wander around the castle. 

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But, it wasn't all play. I did manage to make a small film of the trip.  Films aren't really my thing, and so please forgive my first humble attempts. 

 

And Then The Heavens Opened

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I love a thunderstorm.  The rain, the noise, the excitement.  It is so rare to have one here in Scotland, I find it even difficult to remember the last one.  But my heart sings with it all...the build up, the torrents, the thunderous booms, the way the air is so crisp and clear afterwards. This afternoon's storm was short, but powerful and perfect...

...and slightly heartbreaking. As the years go on, the things that I miss about the States peel back to the elemental level: my family, the storms, the sweet corn by the bushel. 

At least I have the storm. 

Dinner Date(s)

Before this afternoon, I hadn't actually left the house since Tuesday morning. Lost in a haze of crochet and the Vampire Diaries on Netflix1...but this evening with Kevin out "working"2, it was my duty to collect the children.  Rather than come back to the woefully neglected house and eat sandwiches again3, we opted for the better option.  Pizza from the best place in Stirling and a play in the park. 

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Italian sausage, a park full of children playing Olympics, and 3 little loves...who needs anything else4?

1don't judge me. 172 rows of single crochet ribbing will drive anyone to cheezy vampire dramas.

2"working" in the Arts in Scotland throughout the month of August, actually means attending 1 of 6,000 arts events/openings/plays that are on during the Festival where drinking champagne and eating canapes is considered a requirement.

3 The other day Ellis looked at me and said, "Actually Mummy, your cooking is getting worse." The worst thing about it is...he is right.

4 except wine.  Which I now have. Ahhhh.

Good Morning

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I was awake, heart pumping with anxiety.  Rolling over, I looked at the clock on my phone. 3:45am.  Being a life-long insomniac, I knew that sleep and I would not meet again. So I got up and started the 25 step commute to work. On the list for the day: photos. Grabbing my camera, I headed out to the garden.

This is the exact reason why mowing your lawn is over rated.

Dew on a grassy lawn at sunrise. Taken on the 5d. Anxiety gone. Back to bed I crept. Instant therapy.

I am not going to be able to give up this camera, am I?

Family Photos (Of Sorts)

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The eternal quest for family photos.  My remote went for a wander a few months ago, so we have been left at the (rather annoying)mercy of the self timer.  The timer itself is not annoying, its the little people who vye to take turns pressing the shutter and then re-focusing, resetting and re-composing the entire image that wears thin.  No matter. When the end product(s) are exactly what I set out to take, I am not that bothered.

The photos were taken using the self-timer.  I set the camera on a tub of hummus and set up the shot in manual.  I exclusively use back button focus, so I don't have the worry about the camera refocussing when I depress the shutter.

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I use some sort of object to prefocus.  In this case, one upside down chicken.  Though a backpack or large stone would work just as well if you don't have a 1 year old that insists on being hung upside down by his feet.

Once the settings are right, then we all jump into shot. I had all of about 30 seconds to set this up, so unfortunately there was no patience left for a reshoot when Theo moved (and my shutter speed was just too slow to freeze him).

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Rather than stress about it, we simply moved on. playing along the way, until we found another flat part of the path.  The second shot was set up with Ellis being my focus point and the two babies jumping on my back while I set up the camera.  (Note: this is where tilting LCD screens come into their own, as it killed my neck to look through the viewfinder).  With a bit more ambiant light, the top photo was taken, quick and sharp.

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Thanks for all of the kind words yesterday.  It was a better day, as is today. It only takes time, hey?

Moss-side

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My children are at their best when in open spaces. Cafes, soft plays, restaurants, toddler groups, often bring out the worst sides of them.  They are busy people, with lots of energy that can rarely be happily contained within 4 walls.

We are always on the look-out for new places to explore.  We are so lucky to have so many within a short drive of the house.  Our routine most weekends is simple - load car, drive, stop, release children, run them out, get back in car, go home. I wish the car element wasn't there.  I miss having the countryside literally on my doorstep.  Its been a long time since I felt so hemmed in (which is ironic because I can see the beautiful, empty Ochil Hills out of my back window).  I long to have the space and wilderness for my own children that I had growing up.  We would spend hours wandering around the woods and ponds, my Scottie dog Snickers at my side. 

But, what I give up in wild, I make up for in a house that I love as if it were my own...a rare thing when you rent.  So if a drive to the woods is my payment for that, I will take it.

This past weekend, we stopped at Flander's Moss National Nature Reserve.  Wide paths, board walks, viewing tower, piles of gravel, bridge...just about the perfect combination

(these are only some of the photos from the day.  The rest were uploading when the laptop took a coffee shower.  Sigh.)

 

 

Oh, Sunshine!

There is nothing in this world like Scotland when the sun shines.  Nothing. The greenery, the sky, the hills, even people in the street are nicer when that big orange ball is in the sky.

I love it.  I love how comments about the weather are about "getting the laundry out".  I love how my 5 year old thinks that 65F (18C) is skin-melting hot.  I love how we can do all of the things we normally do, but outside so I don't have to clean up.

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And so, if you need me, I will be outside. In the sun. For as long as it decides to grace us with its presence. 

 

Back To It

What a week it has been here in Scotland. The weather, the birthdays, the sunshine, the parties, the warmth, the Grammy 'Merica, the gorgeous sun, the day trips (did I mention the weather?)...it was all just wonderful and a much needed break for all of us.

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But as Grammy left, the snow arrived and we are all back to normality today...whatever that is with a 5 year old, a 2 year old and a 1 year old.

Today will be spent:

- Listening to Georgia "sing" the Lion King

- Finalising a pattern for release on Friday

- Knitting a few more rows of this

- Making about 5 of these (all in grey)

- Preparing for my upcoming crochet workshops (spaces still available on the intermediate course) 

- Building some of the mountain of Lego a certain boy received for his birthday whilst fending off 2 toddlers.

Keep warm!

Magic in the Woods

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The first time I visited the Fairy Knowe at the top of Doone Hill, I thought it looked like a bunch of junk tied to trees.  This time, seeing it through the eyes of Ellis, looking for magic, and Georgia, cooing over all of the little creatures sitting amongst the roots of the trees, I could see the magic a little bit clearer. 

 

Doone Hill Fairy Knowe, Aberfoyle