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…

Olympic Odyssey

Like most of the country, we eagerly anticipated the advent of the London 2012 Olympics.  We managed to secure a few tickets for the odd event, and took an unprecedented ten days off work and other responsibilities to make our own Olympic Odyssey journey south…It was a bit of a whirlwind…and the dust is only just beginning to clear in this post-Olympic haze that is settling over the nation…but here are a few highlights of our trip to London.

Our first event was football – Spain v Japan – at Hampden Park in Glasgow. The wee guy thought it a bit of a lark at first, but when we realised that the concessions didn’t take card and we only had £7 between us for 6 hours of spectator activity, it became a bit of a challenge.  He managed brilliantly, and we were all a bit starstruck being in an actual live Olympic venue for the first time:

Next up was the cycling road race in Richmond Park, which we watched with our lovely friends the Ryan-Pryors who live nearby and hosted us for lunch and a stroll in the park to take in the peleton wizzing past. 

Our final family ticketed event was the Volleyball at Earl’s Court.  The players were fiesty and the spectators even more so.  Somehow the stands were packed to capacity with Polish fans for the Poland v Lithuania match and they made for an electrifying atmosphere.

By this point the wee guy was pretty spectatored out and so we were intensely grateful for the diversions of the iPad.

And when things got just too much altogether, he and I ventured out for a spot of retail therapy, burning off steam and doing a little crazy posing with the Great Britain Hand.

But the real Olympic excitement for Kazuo came on the morning that Dada was off watching Weightlifting with the grandies at Excel.  He and met up with my friend Karen and her lovely girl Kit for a playdate at Coram’s Fields and then headed to Kiwi House for lunch in the BBQ zone.  We plonked ourselves and the tots down next to this fellow – who had just won yet another medal in the Equestrian arena.  Kaz eyed his medal up for a while and Mr Todd invited him over for a little chat – it was a delightful exchange, especially since K was quite forthcoming about his own medal that he had gained at Legoland that week.

It was an eventful week or so and with the paralympics making an appearance at the end of the month, we are glad to have such a wealth of wonderful sporting endeavour to inspire us.

Early Summer in the Garden

According to good gardening wisdom, one should wait a full year in a new garden before doing anything to it.  I am not sure that this advice extends to avoiding weeding, but so far my erratic health and the dreary weather have created a sense of inertia that has meant the poor garden has had to thrive in spite of my neglect thus far.  I am glad to report though, that it has mostly managed to do so, and is putting on a rather lovely summer showing just now.

This is a favourite vista from near the chicken yard, by the pond rockery.

The bees are ALL over this lovely little pink shrub.  I have no idea what it is (such a gardening novice…guess I will learn eventually) but it is right outside the end window in the lounge – which enhances the view no end.

I don’t think I had ever seen Honesty at this stage of it’s growth, having only ever encountered it in hideous 80’s dried flower arrangements.  I rather love the greeny-purple nature of this incarnation.

This is apparently (forgive me if I am wrong) Orange Hawkweed – which is noxious in some places, as it is an amazing alpine self-seeder.  It has rather taken over the rockery, but I think I kinda like it – though I do think that perhaps a little more thought to colour scheme could have gone into this garden, it has been a rather haphazard lurching from one shade of the spectrum to another – which does not appeal to the minialmist in me.

There is a certain wildness to the garden – which is not entirely due to my leaving it to it’s own devices.  Little yellow poppies have appeared everwhere, not always to the Doctor’s liking, but I have been cheered by their sturdy delicacy.  I suppose I should probably nip them in the bud at this stage to limit their spread for next year.

Another alpine that is doing remarkably well is the Alpine Strawberry which I discovered quite by accident this past weekend.  Kaz was very keen to munch them all up, they made a tiny little treat for his afternoon tea.

Whilst we made a bit of a slow start in planting our vege garden this year (and thus may have missed out with some things), there is some evidence of growth – especially with the Elephant Garlic we planted at the outset of our gardening endeavours.

We discovered last year that many things we might have grown well in other places we have lived, will not survive the cool damp climate of Fife.  But the ever-reliable poatato does extremely well here.  We tried no-dig potatoes this year and they did not eventuate, but we love the lusciousness of our potato grow bags by the shed and are looking forward to harvesting them next month.

Family Wedding Time

June was wedding month.  Sadly, our circumstances did not allow us to jet off to Michigan to join our lovely friends Tim and Ruthann on the occasion of their flowery country nuptials.  However, since we had missed a few wider-family events in the past couple of years, it was grand to be able to don our glad rags and join with the doctor’s family in Ireland for his cousin’s wedding.

Kazuo was so excited about being SMART for the wedding.  I made him a little outfit to wear and he was so proud of looking neat and tidy.

Weddings are not really pre-schooler friendly events, so it was a quite a big ask for the wee guy to keep fairly quiet (he mostly managed this, though he did echo the wedding vows, which I thought rather endearing, especially the ‘Love you’ part!) and on best behaviour for an entire day.  In the above picture he was hungrily eyeing up the chocolate cookies on the tea tray…but after munching them down, he eventually lost the plot and crawled under the sofa – so we took a little break.

Thankfully Kaz brought some of his friends to keep him company for the weekend.

Dinner was a lovely but rather lengthy affair.  I was so grateful for the diversions provided by the iPad and some new creator Lego – it kept both the lads occupied.

Akira’s very kind family made it so easy for us to enjoy their celebration and we are so grateful for their thoughtfulness.  For the first time ever, I settled Kaz to sleep in the onsite suite we were staying in, and a lovely local girl baby sat so that we could go back in our dancing shoes and continue to join in the festivities.  This bodes well for our future social life!  I’ll not forget the bride and groom…they were charming and elegant hosts and we had a lovely weekend celebrating with everyone, may they have a long and happy life together!

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.

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!

Packing Up and Packing It In

This last weekend was a holiday again.  And for once, Akira took Labor Day off work.  Of course we spent most of our Kazuo-free hours packing up for the shipping day, which is tomorrow (arrrgh…are we ready? it is gonna be a long night I think).  But during our family times, we got out and about as much as possible.

The weekend began on Saturday morning with Kazuo picking up some of the packing boxes and toting them about the apartment.  He is totally fascinated by all the ‘stuff’ that keeps accumulating in the barricaded kitchen.  I’ve tried explaining that some things are going on a ship tomorrow, some things are going with us in the plane and some are staying here and other people will have them.  He seemed to really try hard to work that out, but although he knows the difference between a ship and a plane, I am certain not much of it sank into his inquiring little mind.

We took our usual trip to Tower Grove Market to pick up meat and other fresh produce.  Kazuo avoided the pool/fountain as per usual, but had a lovely play in the playground.  And for once, all his little friends converged on the same spot, which I think was a bit overwhelming for him, but nice for us!

Since the local outdoor pool closed this weekend, we took one last dip with Kaz.  It was a little too cool to stay for long, but was well worth the entry fee to hear Kazuo say ‘nice’ when he waded into the toddler pool.  It has taken all summer…but he is finally somewhat accustomed to being in some water.  I am resolved to maintain his pool experiences over the winter in Scotland if at all possible.

The next morning we headed out for a final family outing to the zoo.  We rode the railway, took in the performing sealions, saw the penguins, puffins, gorillas, birds, giraffes and strolled around in a perfect autumnal St Louis morning.

We began Monday morning in the most beautiful place.  Castlewood Sate Park is only a half hour drive from our house, but for some reason we had never all been there.  Two weekend river excursions in a row really cemented the little guy’s delight in tossing rocks in the water and pottering about in the water.  Then we tossed him in the backpack and hiked up to a beautiful plateau where we had a stunning view of the Meramac Valley.  We descended to river level alongside the old concrete steps that the Edwardians had used for their accessing their mountain top party venues.  It was fascinating to catch glimpses of the steps in the woods and imagine the partygoers in their finery ascending the same hillside.

Our lovely weekend was topped off by a holiday picnic in Forest Park, not far from where we lunched for Mother’s Day.  The Finn Barios joined us and the boys and Harvey doggie had a fabulous time pootling about in the dusky light alongside the little creek.

So many happy hours to reflect on later…now we are finishing the final flourishes on our gathering of ‘stuff’ and hoping that the rest of the move goes like clockwork.  Hope to catch you soon, but the PC is going on the ship tomorrow, so it will be all little stubby fingers on the netbook, and looking out for Wifi access over the next few weeks…Haere Ra for now!

Wardrobe Wednesday

It’s our penultimate week in St Louis and I’ve been cramming in favourite activities, which has given me little time for online reflection again.  This morning we had to take Akira to a medical appointment out west.  So our usual Wednesday visit to MOBOT had to be postponed.  Which meant I kinda forgot about WW and threw on some comfy playing-on-slides-and-playgyms clothes as we dashed out the door.

Then I remembered at the playground, so here I am:

The 3/4 linen trousers are from Topshop, the tank top and cardy are from Zara and the necklace was picked up a few years ago on a boarding school trip to the ClothesShow.  It has cooled down somewhat, enough to spend the days with the air off and the windows open – this morning was cool enough for a cardy which was lovely.  Soon enough I’ll be rugging up completely!

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.