Christmas was finally all about the boy in our house this year.  He LOVED the build up.  We had many chats about the bearded fellow I discussed in my last post, and whilst we did not entirely give in, there came a moment when he asked ‘Mama, can we just pretend that Santa will come to our house?’ Such a rational compromise from a little boy who was enthralled by the enchantments and enticements fed to him at preschool and wanted to find a way to engage that would suit his reluctant parents.  So, we acquiesed, and filled in a Portable North Pole dossier with him so that ‘Santa’ would send him a (very convincing indeed) video message that gave us all a giggle.  We also watched Raymond Briggs’ Father Christmas just about every day over the festive period.  So whilst we did not really ‘do Santa’ – the wee one knew we bought the presents and was pretty much part of the charade – we had a bit of fun with it all the same.

Other delights that gave the wee one something to talk about included a preschool visit to the Snow White Panto at the Byre Theatre – here we are en route, I took the day off to be a mother helper, and it was just as well – a slick production, but altogether a little too loud and scarey for many of the wee ones and K was happy to escape home with Mama afterwards.

Off to the panto with the tiny ones

We also went to the Craigtoun Park Christmas Fair and after getting a bit of a disappointing gift from Santa (mainly because it was not the same as the gift his little pal got before him – gone are the days of one present for boys and one for girls!), the wee guy elected to be painted up as the jolly fellow himself, there was no escape for us!

Mr Claus

The house is decorated and it is just us for the festive season, peace and goodwill to you all!

Welcome again

Whiling Away the Winter Days

The winter days are lengthening finally.  We no longer leave for work and drive home in the dark.  But there is an icy grip on the land still, and whilst darling little buds are appearing in the garden (pinch me, I have a garden, with buds in it!) we are still cosying up for the final weeks of winter.  And the light has been low enough to warrant some mellow afternoons with candle power…and trains in the living room…and the toasty glow of the gas fire…and the eeiriness of a little iPad entertainment…

Wintry afternoons also call for a little home baking with Mama – and the wee one and I have tried our hand at gingerbread, choc-chip-cranberry-oatmeal cookies, muffins and shortbread – rolling and cutting out is the best part (apart from the gobbling down later).

There have been wonderful arty outbursts – wads of paper and oodles of ink later…

…and on the rainiest of days we have gathered together all the birdy friends in the living room for impromptu picnics…

…it seems that Pukeko are particularly partial to carrots…

…and of course, when the cars are out, sometimes they just need organising into a massive convoy…

So we are whiling away the winter days indoors, but also heading out into the chilly gardens and parks in anticpation of everything thawing out soon.  It has been the mildest of winters, so we have been lucky enough to spend much more time outside than previous winters – but the short days must also give way to warmth and hours of daylight to venture out after work and those days cannot come too soon!

Christmas Recap

And, January disappeared!  Where did it go?  Before the rest of the year escapes me…let me fill in a couple of gaps.  Christmas was a fab festivity.  Finally I get why it becomes all about the kiddoes – Kaz had a marvellous time.  With all of it!  He began by eagerly anticipating the arrival of the southern family members:

He woke at a wonderfully civilised hour on the day, but we whiled away half an hour in bed opening the stocking treasures – which staved off the eager anticipation of the presents under the tree until breakfast and lunch prep was dispatched with.

And finally, the presents!  He delighted us with squeals, clapping, punctuating his delighted expressions of ‘wow’ with huge beaming smiles and little shivers of glee. He was VERY grateful.

Table decor was simple this year – cobbling together some outdoorsy elements (branches from the garden, conkers we saved from yesteryear, tiny pinecones), wedding linen from Ireland, Great Grandma’s crystal, little glasses from Egypt and some cute napkins with robins and a St Louis MO postage stamp on them.  A little bit of our family story everywhere…

Kaz kept himself occupied through dinner with the cracker treats…

…and after dinner he managed to sing the ABC song 26 times with Grandpa and Dada helping him along to complete the very colourful Lion puzzle from Nana in New Zealand.  It was a charming and very relaxing day – it seems worlds away, but it was a lovely festival.  Hopefully, I will have some more contemporary news in a day or two, still catching up with myself!

Christmas Countdown

Only eight more sleeps to go…This year I really wanted to initiate Kazuo into the counting down to Christmas that was such a cherished part of my childhood.  He is still acquiring the capacity to deal with delayed gratification, so this has been an interesting lesson.  I did feel that having a tiny treat each day might just help to pass the time and fend off any attempt to try opening the presents under the tree, or raid ‘the secret place’ upstairs where the unwrapped gifts were being stored away.

But I didn’t want to just pick up some over-commercialised, once-only cardboard calendar (though I realise that would have done the trick admirably).  In the spirit of establishing a tradition, I made a Christmas Countdown…  Out with some stamps, some garden pegs, some leftover fabric from my bridesmaids’ skirts and Kazuo’s birdy blanket, a little ribbon and twenty-four tiny little treasures and hey presto:

When we presented it to Kaz on 1 December and mounted it on the wall, we explained that each day there was something to eat, something to do or something to wear.  [This year this translates as Chocolate Penguins, stickers, tree decorations, bubble blowers and some cutsey little badges]. He has been quite excited about opening the Countdown-Thingy each day and we have made a little ritual out of it.

Last weekend we collected our Caring Christmas Tree and decorated the house for the festive season.  This year Kaz was not so phased by the spiky needles, and was keen to help put up decorations, though he did have a charming propensity to put them ALL on the same branch at his height…but with a little help from mama and dada they are now evenly re-distributed.  He was VERY pleased with himself afterwards.

This past week has  been full of wintery tummy bugs.  First Kazuo (all week – he is on the mend today, but it was a long week for him I think) and now Mama.  We are now hoping that we are not having to quarantine ourselves for the festive season, and hope to have the door open to you if you care to drop by and celebrate with us.  Happy holidays.  Hope you enjoy the rest of the countdown!

Finally At Home

It has been a rather lengthy hiatus of painting, re-insulating, packing, unpacking, getting a hundred colds and flus and trying to juggle the minutiae of daily life with the desire to prettify and make homely…but I can finally report that we have made ourselves well and truly At Home.  I mentioned some months back (in another long winded apology for my absence) that we were looking for a house.  After a protracted round-the-houses search, we finally settled on the very first place we looked at, in the charming village that had initally caught our eye.  So now we are slowly settling into village life.

Our Scottish village is a little unusual in that it has all the essentials of an English village.  It boasts a village green, a charming kirk, a couple of pubs, an art gallery, a pottery, an antique shop,  a village shop, a butcher, a post office, a school and – to the little one’s delight – a playground.

One thing that I am particularly glad about is the abundance of footpaths and walking routes.  A year of being somewhat stranded at the house without any way to go walkabout has taken its toll on me and I am itching to get out and about exploring.  But for now, we moved in just as the winter weather crept in and we are gathering gloom on our way to the shortest day, so exploring will have to wait a little longer…

The house was a cottage that has had a little extension done to it.  We were grateful to find a home that had room for everyone, and a garden for the chooks who have settled in happily and seem to be thriving.  The doctor even found a pond in the garden, so we should have some hoppity friends in the summer.  There are still little homely tasks to complete, but we have managed to make ourselves comfy enough to welcome one lot of visitors and now we are cosying up for Christmas.

The little one settled in pretty well, he seems to love racing down the hallway, and pottering about in his new room – ‘working’ at his ‘office’ or building towers or constructing train tracks in the lounge.  I even managed to unpack the sewing machine and cobble together a hasty Bob outfit for his first day at nursery after the move (a little more warning for next year’s Halloween costume would be handy!)

So we are at home for the holidays and hoping that new space and more organisation might just mean I pop in and out of here a little more often.  Finger’s crossed!


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!

Welcome to A New Year

New Year Happiness everyone!  It seemed that once we hung the decorations on the tree, the holidays simply overwhelmed us.  I am not one for spending too much time online when there is a house full of people…so I have taken a little hiatus.  But here is another wonderful new year full of possibility, so it is time to welcome it in and think about the days ahead whilst still basking in the loveliness of the festive days past.

For the first time, Kazuo really grasped the delights of the holiday season.  Presents…cakes…visitors…reindeer…candles…turkey (not that he would actually eat it…)  The constant refrain was:

He was a little bemused by the bounty under the tree (despite the fact that half of our gifts were still in transit and are still slowly dribbling into the house via various slow-poke courier companies) but days later, he still talks about the tree (which is out to pasture) and the stocking and the presents with Grandpa and Grandma and Uncle Kenji – and of course his favourite things were the smallest, like the electric Thomas the Tank Engine, and the little roll-back bugs from Nana in New Zealand.

After the disruptions of the severe weather we experienced before Christmas, it was lovely to enjoy a festive week with Akira’s family from London.  Kazuo was a little prince who basked in all the attention – this is slowly wearing off right now (and I think the poor tyke is experiencing quite a degree of withdrawal) but it was great to know that he felt safe and relaxed enough to be his usual charming self while they were here.

We had some lovely walks in the snowy fields around Newbridge House and managed to spy deer and hares at very close range.

The rest of the holiday period passed in a relaxed fashion, yet suddenly Akira is back in the department and I am starting to refocus on employment and childcare issues once again.  So there is time yet to feel an easing into the year, but I suppose I shall have some more resolute thinking in the next week or so.

Our next milestone is Kazuo’s second birthday next week.  He is suddenly obsessed with the idea of a party – which involves “friends, a cake with candles, balloons and some presents for you”…so it will be a low-key affair, but it is kinda sweet how much importance this has assumed in his otherwise not-so-social little world.  I am filled with hope that his new-found confidence with welcoming some of his new friends round to the house will help ease the necessary transitions this year.  I am also excited about planning a little celebration of Kazuo, he is daily our delight!

Of course I am always given to resolutions…and this year is no different.  But I am still trying to formulate them…so will share later…I hope that wherever you have seen in 2011, that you are able to see beyond the challenges that this year seems to bring, and look forward in happy anticipation.  Aroha!

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

Our driveway – like many others in these parts –  has turned into an ice rink, and so the treacherous journey to the road is perhaps the worst part of any outing at the moment.  This did slow our efforts to bring Christmas to the house this year…we set out and abandoned the tree-purchasing venture a couple of times in the past weekend.  But Sunday morning, we managed to find a flat-access farm shop with some real trees still for sale.  Amazingly, it bundled neatly into the back of the Honda, and Kazuo poked at the needles all the way home.

It was good that we avoided the tree issue last year when he was just getting walking (Christmas with the O’Connors in London mitigated the need for a tree at home) and this year he was totally excited about the project.  He helped Mama choose places for decorations and was quite interested in the little lights and the sparkly tinsel.

He is not a big fan of anything with a human face right now (dolls are COMPLETELY out).  So having a few little angel decorations in strategic places, combined with his discovery in the car that pine needles “make you go ouch”, has meant he is pretty much in love with the tree, but not that keen to get too close!

After a happy afternoon of decorating, the doctor and I finally got to sit down in the lounge with some proto-mince pies and a cuppa.  It is looking and sounding and smelling a lot like Christmas around here now.  The snow is set to roll in again this coming weekend though…so we hope that we will not be eating turkey alone when the actual day comes…