Summer Visitors

A Scottish summer…

The temperatures have not soared above 20degC very often, in fact they hover around the 15degC mark or below most days.  The Haar has rolled in from the sea on many an afternoon, obliterating any view of the surrounding area from the house.  The growing season is slow and in our experimental first-Fife-foray into gardening, several things have failed rather spectacularly.  The optimistic summer wardrobe of t-shirts and shorts that were necessary for about six months of the year in the Lou have barely made it out of the cupboard.  We have not swum in the sea…or indeed anywhere for that matter.

However, it has been a summer to remember.  We have had some great outings and enjoyed the company of some lovely visitors.  In the midst of busy working weeks, the weekends have been full of adventures and we have been very lucky.  In July Grandma, Grandpa and Kenji came to stay.

In early August we were joined by our friends Nate and Denise who currently live in Toronto.  It was wonderful to spend some time with them and Denise very kindly stuck around whilst the menfolk went to a conference in York…and kept Kazuo and I company – I took a week off, and though things didn’t go exactly to plan, we had a lovely time together. 

We also had a fantastic repeat visit from the delightful Tomandclaire.  We are so glad to be within manageable driving distance from these dear friends.

We discovered the joys of tearing up and down sand dunes with Kaz in tow…

…had long happy afternoons at Allanhill Strawberry farm which involved loads of scaling the strawbales, eating decadent strawberry gateau, some sandpit play and feeding the farmyard animals…

…delightfully messy, sandy, castle-y afternoons on the beach, complete with birds and boules…

…frequented cafes and restaurants and enjoyed the variety and abundance of this coastal food paradise.

Though the cool weather does leave a little to be desired at times, I am not really missing the excessive heat and humidity of the midwest all that much.  Being able to spend time with family and lovely friends outdoors exploring the beaches and rural havens that are a feature of our new locale has given us many happy memories to treasure.

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Birdy Birds…

One of the wonderful delights of our little rural idyll are the birds.  This morning our house was bombarded by housemartins as we got ready for the day. We recently signed up as family members of the RSPB and finally made a short trek to the local RSPB Reserve at Vane Farm.  It was a a bit of a greyish day, and taking two year olds out to a bird sanctuary is perhaps not the most conducive to enticing shy birds to come close – but once again we had a lovely stroll and managed to spy some ducks and geese that we would not normally see at home. Part of Kazuo’s RSPB mission was to ‘buy a blue tit for me’ – we are endeavouring to foster his budding fascination with our feathered friends.  So now there is quite the collection of fluffy birdies who sleep with our wee one…and come into Mama & Dada’s bed in the morning – so far we have blue tit, woodpecker, penguin and pukeko: Birdies are appearing everywhere – my current favourites are the bullfinch, who made a fleeting appearance a few weeks ago.  They are such a gentle and colourful addition to the birdy garden – so much so that I even planned out a whole re-decoration of one of the houses we tried to buy recently (long saga…still ensuing…sigh) based on shades of bullfinch!
Since the wee guy is becoming more and more fascinated with our feathered friends, I felt it timely to embark on some birdy crafting.  The duvet needed a new cover, and I had some leftover of the scribbly bird fabric I’d collected in IKEA some months back, so a comfy cushion for the reading nook also made it through the sewing machine.   Although I still find it a challenge to do anything other than cook, clean, wash laundry and get out and about with the lads on the weekend these days – it was so satisfying to whip up some birdy bedroom crafts…  I do hope I manage some more crafty activity in the weeks ahead!

Happy Father’s Day – ish

I know, I am a little late.  But last weekend we were so busy having a lovely time that I didn’t get on here to record…and then the week filled up with graduation events at the University and sadly I didn’t take any pics of that (note to self…all that lovely ancient pomp and ceremony DEMANDS some photo effort next year!)…and we are back into the treadmill of househunting since we put in an offer on a beautiful river-front villa a few weeks back and didn’t make it through the mire of the Scottish system of closing-date blind bidding…

But amidst a little anti-Father’s-Day protesting from the paternal one, Kaz and I still got up early and made Dada some River-Cottage blueberry pancakes together last Sunday – here is my little chef amidst the chaos of early morning kitchening:

And the wee one had made Dada a card at Nursery, so that took pride of place at breakfast:

Then we ventured out to Kingsbarns to poke amongst the rockpools – one of the things I love most about living here in this northern kingdom is how easy it is to get outside somewhere lovely quickly…and I love that the doctor is happy with the simple things in life on the weekends – from Kaz and I, we just want to say: Dada…you’re great!

We’re Have I Been All This Time…

Longest break I’ve taken in a while…somehow, at the end of a week at the keyboard, it is kinda hard to make time to pop in here.  Silly me.

Weekends have taken on a new measure of quality family life now that our time all together is really limited to breakfast and dinner/bath/stories/bed.  We ALL look forward to those weekends.  Since I last checked in we have had a few adventures.

April was our Scottish Summer this year I think.  So one weekend we took advantage of the delightful weather and strolled along the Fife Coastal Path

with our new friends Tomandsuzie (not to be confused with Tomandclaire) and our wee tots to the Cocoa Tree in Pittenweem.

Then we made some essential modifications to the chicken coop so that the girls could get up and go to bed without our help (esp helpful now that it is light around 4.30am and dark at 10.45pm)…and so that a helpful undergrad could come in and feed them whilst we made our first UK road trip to visit Tomandclaire in Manchester.  During this balmy weekend we managed an outing to the local RSPB reserve…

…and HeatonPark which had the added bonus of a tiny farm and a playground.

The following weekend was the Royal Wedding – and though none of us are particularly royalist in persuasion…there is something kinda lovely about a wedding…so I managed to make a cuppa and turn on the TV for some of the proceedings – though I did have a lot of interference from the easily distractable male members of the family.  We followed up the festivity with our first BBQ of the season – though the weather was not so great then, and has not really picked up since.  Sigh…

Later on we even managed a spot of garden planting.  As per usual, the little herbies are doing great.  But after an unseasonably warm April, May has been so cold that not much else has survived the transfer to the cold little garden patch .  Apart from the fabulous radishes we harvested this week.

The big news of the month was QPR (the Doctor’s football love) were promoted to the Premier League.  Whilst sport is still really something I do not understand…this was an event worth celebrating – with chocolate cake and bubbles!

And the other big news was the big-boy bed.  We took the sides off the cot…and Kaz has pretty much settled into a rhythm of sleeping in his own little space.  We have to lie down by him now to get to sleep…but that usually happens pretty quickly.  He has fallen out several times, and one night I stepped on him in the dark (oops) and another night he fell over all his toys trying to get out the door in the dark…but slowly we have made adaptations and sleep IS happening.  Now onto potty training…

Our final news is the galvanising into action on the house-hunting front.  We have been out most weekends looking for a permanent home.  A frightening and enlightening process.  We think we have narrowed down the area we would like to live in…and this charming village has caught our eye…

…Kaz has so far loved going to see houses, esp when we come across a playground en route

…but it will probably take us most of the summer to find something we are sure about…so no move imminent yet!

So…a big update.  Sorry it was so long…and I was absent for so long…hope to mitigate that in future.  It all got a bit hectic there for a while.  Happiness to you and thanks to those of you who kept popping in to see how we are doing.  I will try to be back here more often in future!

Chariots 2011

Two weeks ago the doctor joined a host of mainly white-clad runners in the inaugural St Andrews Chariots Race.  Based on the moving opening scenes of that memorable 80’s saga, Chariots of Fire, the race was a charity event for Sue Ryder Care.

It was our first big community event and we loved the sense of occaision on the beautiful West Sands Beach.  It started with a 1-mile kids race that drew a crowd and had some charming little competitors.  Including two tiny people who ran with their parents.  Go little teenies!

Kazuo did find the whole event a bit overwhelming – the noise, the crowds were all a bit much and he looked like this much of the morning:

But a little bit of time eating snacks in the dunes while Dada was racing seemed to bring it all into persepective. He was very happy to cheer Dada towards the finish line…

…and after making a very good time, the Doctor was also pleased to have been involved.

The event was put together in a very efficient manner and it seemed everyone had a great day.

Spring is Springing

It’s still pretty cool and the woods pretty ‘stick-y’ here in the northern kingdom.  But hope of new life and springy loveliness has begun to burst forth.  Locally, we have recently discovered the delightful Cambo estate that specialises in the cultivation of snowdrops.  The past few weeks they have been in profusion – there are little clusters just outside our gate that the wee one exclaims gleefully about each time we pass them.   So on the weekend past, we finally got to take a stroll in the magical wonderland of Cambo gardens.

I love the delicate tenacity of snowdrops – and they put on a charming show in the moist morning.

The snowdrop walk ambles down to the sea – and so Kazuo was in his element, flowers AND seaside in one outing – perfect!

I am also totally taken by the tiny perfection of the minature irises that are popping up everywhere.  In our neighbourhood in St Louis there were several large beds of standard sized irises that bloomed in early summer that I loved.  But these wee treasures are bursting forth now and come in so many nuanced shades of blue.

Yesterday was another sick day at our house – the wee guy has been ill with something or other for about 6 weeks now, and consequently no-one has done a full week of work or nursery since I began at the university three weeks ago.  It has been tough…but he is still able to make a little trek to the gate even with the direst of lurgies.  So we were both delighted to discover this teeny clump of snowdrops halfway down the drive on our wander yesterday.  Spring, you are VERY welcome!

Tomandclaire

On the weekend we had our friends Tom and Claire, who live in Manchester, come and stay.  The December weather was an initial deterrent to their pre-Christmas visit plans, so it was wonderful that they could finally join us.  Though of course we would love them to be able to pop in every weekend!  However, it did give us a chance to try out some long awaited treats, and to explore some now familiar haunts with friends.  And Kazuo had a lovely time with his new friends Tomandclaire.  By the end of the weekend he seemed to be able to tell them apart…though it was a little touch and go at times.

Saturday we took to the sands and tried out the new stunt kite Nana had sent Dada for Christmas.  Thank goodness for Tom.  Mama and Dada would never have gotten it off the ground alone and kept Kaz amused/alive.  It is a two-hand challenge and I think might take a long while for us to master it…but lots of laughs – and plenty of friendly competition – were derived from this chilly morning’s escapades.

For lunch we tried out Nahm Jim (famous for making it through several contests set by Gordon Ramsay.) The curries we tried were very tasty…and the service pretty slick and accommodating.

Kaz and I retired for the afternoon nap period and the others ventured out to Crail for a spot of fossil-fossicking and rock-clambering.  Seems it was a pretty happy outing…

…followed up by Anstruther Fish Bar tea, and our introduction to Carcassonne – the board game, not the town. I think it might just have to be on my latest wishlist, we got hooked!

We woke to ANOTHER dumping of snow and the fields were just right for a little morning trek.

We were back to this again for a while…

…but Tomandclaire managed to depart after lunch and got out of our frosty wonderland safely. It was wonderful to have such great company and one of the delights of being back in the UK.  You are all welcome any time!

Winter Comes a Little Early

As predicted on Wednesday, it did take all week for real snow to fall.  Friday night we had a proper dusting, though it took until Sunday – after nearly 12 hours of blizzardy conditions – for our lawn to be completely covered, that grass is getting long!

Although we had some great snowfalls last winter in the Lou, it was often just too cold for snow.  And the wee one only really got walking by the start of February, so we stayed indoors practising that skill until the weather improved.  So this weekend was his first real taste of snow. Like the sand, he was not really sure what to make of it at first.

This confusion may have been somewhat extended by the frocliky teasing of his Dada, who celebrated the moment by tossing snowballs at his tiny progeny’s legs…

We discovered the tracks of a local fox as we trekked down the driveway to see the condition of the road.

The drive was also peppered with pheasant and partridge tracks, and we saw lots of tiny birdy feet marks around the feeder we set up last week.

Later that morning we ventured into St Andrews, which saw rather less snow, and had a wander in the courtyard of St Salvator’s Chapel. We also had a cuppa and a little play in the Byre Theatre, which is fast becoming a favourite haunt as it is wonderfully child-friendly.

On the way home I scored a teeny rattan stool for Kazuo at the local Recycling Centre…I am hoping for more freegan bargains like that as we get to know our way around the community.

The next morning,  Dada got his comeuppance while horsing about in the deeper snow of the bottom of the garden…Kaz thought Dada’s tumbles in the snow were hilarious.

Figuring out how to ambulate in knee-deep snow was another skill altogether.  Something Mama had to help with…


…though it was worth the giggles that ensued when I let go for a minute…

The snow continues on today, and probably for the rest of the week, which is very early for the UK, and perhaps the most comprehensive dumping I have ever witnessed.  It is rather beautiful, but somewhat inconvenient – driving is kinda hazardous, the car got totally stuck in the icy driveway this evening, and the exchange of the faulty gas tank that should have been happened a month ago and was delayed until today has been indefinitely cancelled…and no promise when they will be able to fill up our unusually empty tank (kept low while waiting for the tank exchange) due to the adverse weather conditions.  We are now on emergency heating and hot water rations in case it takes them more than a week!

Akira managed to chug slowly into work in the car this morning, so Kazuo and I ventured out in a break in the snow and made tiny Mr Snowman, who is nearly covered again now!

After a skype chat to Nana, we decided to make a tent in the kitchen (c0mplete with teddies, books, the new stool and some fake sandwiches) and we have had a lovely snowed-in Monday morning.  I do hope I can come up with a few new tricks to get us through what might be a long week of keeping out of the cold.

Happy Early Winter to you All…

This Moment

{this moment} – A Friday ritual. A single photo – no words – capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you’re inspired to do the same, leave a link to your ‘moment’ in the comments for all to find and see.

Check out SouleMama for the inspiration.