Summer Holidays

This summer has been rather amazingly gorgeous in Scotland. Following a delayed and very cold spring , the uncharacteristically sunny days were a welcome treat. After last year’s gloomy wet non-summer, we felt that the only thing that would make our Scottish existence tenable in future would be to escape somewhere sunny for a week or two every summer. So we began planning a trip to Portugal…Then, when it transpired that I would be 8 months pregnant when we were finally free to make our getaway, we revised the plan so that we could have a fortnight on the ‘English Riviera’ of Devon & Cornwall.

By the time our trip rolled around, though we were longing for the break, we no longer felt the need to top up on sunshine and I was not entirely keen on 10+hours of driving to get to our destination.

However, it was our last family of three outing before the baby arrived, we had booked accommodation and we had plans – so off we went to the southern seaside.

We broke our journey with some time in Manchester with Tomandclaireandgrace, which was a perfect bookend to our longest ever time away just the three of us.

Highlights of our time in the south include:

  • Making sand castles on the beach at Dawlish Warren (whilst the doctor roamed out onto the estuary with his bins to spot more birds for the annual tally)

Dawlish sand sculpting

  • A day of blissful birding at the remote (and faintly terrifying to get to/from) Prawle Point

Prawle Point

  • Lunch at the River Cottage Cafe in Plymouth

River Cottage Plymouth

  • Our seventh wedding anniversary, spent on the Bodmin & Wenford Steam Railway, strolling the grounds of Pencarrow House and enjoying a celebratory meal at Rick Stein’s St Petroc’s Bistro in Padstow

Wedding anniversary outing

  • An exhausting but completely entertaining day at The Eden Project

Eden Project

  • A beguiling day spent in the inspiring Lost Gardens of Heligan

Lost Gardens of Heligan

There were many more things to do and see in the area, but being so slow, tiredy and encumbered – and having a four year old to consider as well, meant we didn’t perhaps cover as much ground as we may have done in the past. On reflection, esp after getting stuck in terrible traffic on the first leg of our return journey, it WAS a long way to go. One of the nicest things about coming home was the realisation that we actually LOVE how peaceful it is in our corner of Scotland (Cornwall in particular seemed rather unpleasantly crowded) and feel genuinely lucky to have such beauty and so many wonderful activities/places to eat well in our locale. Since we are in settling down mode, this still strikes me as the best feeling to have brought back from what was still a rather lovely holiday experience.

There’s no place like home…

Aranzi Aronzo

In June our friends Tom and Claire in Manchester sent us (via our visiting friend, Caroline) a wonderful crafty book by Aranzi Aronzo, who are a quirky Japanese/Mexican/Norwegian/Vietnamese/Indian design team.  The book, Baby Stuff:

HPIM2294

has been tantalising me and inspiring me ever since, and I finally got my act in to gear this week and tried out some of their ideas.  Now, I am no embroidery expert… in fact I pretty much suck at embroidery, I don’t have the patience, delicacy or temperament for such fine work.  It was always my younger sister who had out the needlework when we were growing up, and she has done some beautiful cross stitch.  But I have given up on almost anything I have ever tried to embroider, except these very easy and cutesy bees I did on Kazuo’s newborn onesies, from the amazing Sublime Stitching:

Sublime Bee

My plan then, was to keep it simple.  I have been writing a journal for Kazuo since I found out I was pregnant last year, and as it is nearly full, it was time for a cover.  I tried… I hand-sewed some of their silhouette appliques, but some cutesy little critters and a moon and star were all I could manage, and I am not at all impressed with my finished product.  However, I do think it is in the spirit of Aranzi Aronzo, who say “Don’t worry too much about making it pretty or perfect.  The most important thing is to think of baby and make something from the heart!”  Here is my little book, from the heart:

Baby Book

The next project from Baby Stuff should be more in my sewing-skill-set… there are so many wonderful ideas, wish there were more materials, and more free hours in the day!!

Into the New Year

Well, I am hoping to make this year one of purposeful productivity, even if it is beginning in a sort of sluggish manner. Of course there is no real accounting for the impact of another person who needs all my attention on this goal… but I think it is time to consider just what I want from the year ahead.

I am one for resolutions… and so I have been searching in vain for my list from last year. Maybe it is a good idea, as one blogger I saw today has done, to make a list of what I have managed to achieve, or become grateful for over the past year, as that may just clarify where to go next…

1. Extracted myself from an overly-life-consuming job.
2. Moved to another new country and pretty much made ourselves at home… a slightly more complicated process than moving the UK in 2001, but done in quite a precipitous manner, so all-in-all, fairly successful.
3. Managed to keep to a budget much more successfully than ever before, owing to the necessity of not having an income, so having to be very careful.
4. Kitted out a new apartment and then latterly, a baby-friendly environment on very reduced finances, with the help of Craigslist and the wonders of thrift stores.
5. Revived my creative impulses by re-teaching myself to knit, and sewing as much as I could to make a cosy home and some lovely treats for the impending baby.
6. Kept in touch (albeit sporadically) with friends and family in the four corners of the world – would like to do a better job of that in future though.
7. Returned to my activist roots and got more politically active than I had been for years with Amnesty International and the Voter Protection Coalition.
8. Kept up regular exercise for as long as was practical with the increasing demands of pregnancy… remained healthy-ish throughout.
9. Made an effort… and have been very gratefully rewarded… to make some friends in my new home. Loving the joys of meeting new people.
10. Got a little more creative in the kitchen… the benefits of having days free to dream up new ways to cook potatoes!
11. Saw a lot of new music… and even a little dance and theatre, though do feel the lack of that part of my life, London and Yorkshire were amazing for the theatre, I was so spoiled.
12. Became a less-uptight person generally, that I think was good for married life, hoping that is not just a result of pregnancy hormones, but rather a new emotional maturity! (Or perhaps a result of not working… hmmmm…)
13. Engaged in more charity and voluntary activities than I had time to do in the UK – hope this can continue, though working unpaid work around an infant is going to be a challenge.
14. Figured out how to drive on the other side of the road – thought this might be beyond my geriatric brain, but it feels like I have been doing it all my life.
15. Made more use of digital technology – though not sure if that has been an entirely productive part of my life!

So… a few things to muse upon as I consider just where to now for 2009. I always think it is exciting to have the untapped possibility of a whole year ahead… there will be challenges and hurdles, but on the whole, I am looking forward to mapping out what I might like to do with more Not Working time…