2021 ~ My Year in Books

First things first a huge happy new year all! Hope you are all having a peaceful start to 2022 and here’s to it being one of health, togetherness and better days for us all. ❤️

📚🌟2021 ~ Year in Books 🌟📚

Have really enjoyed having a look back at my reading diary in the last couple of days and remembering everything I’ve read this year.

I read 50 books in total, and there were lots of favourite genres and authors in there. I read seven pony (or horse) books, which I just love so much – everything from the classic Jill books to some of my favourites of the nineties to “The Horse Whisperer”; – plus nine books focused on other animals (my run of seven cat books when we were getting ready to welcome our own cats, the beautiful memoir The Penguin Lessons and the grown-up return to Animal Ark that was my first book of the year ❤️). I’ve read seven of the classics I love to get so absorbed in – Jane Austen and LM Montgomery cropping up two or three times each; five mysteries; and five Christmassy books at the end of the year.

Quite a lot were new to me this year – 36 of the 50.. quite good going as I just love a re-read! I still unashamedly love children’s books, and read eight children’s books in the year, an escape I always enjoy. There was a bit of a mix of fiction and non- with 14 non-fiction books: mostly memoirs, a wonderful Sarah Ockwell-Smith parenting book and Jane Badger’s study of Ruby Ferguson’s pony books that had me savouring some in-depth analysis of Jill. ❤️ Tom Cox was my most-read author this year by a long way, between reading his four “cat books” in the early summer, the short story collection “Help The Witch” in the autumn and most recently “Ring the Hill.”

📚 Favourite New Reads 2021 📚

My top 5 books new to me this year (just in order read):

📘 The Beekeeper of Aleppo ~ Christy Lefteri. Although much of this year I have stuck to only the lightest and happiest of books and have actively avoided more upsetting topics; one of the hardest hitting books I’ve read was undoubtedly one of my favourites this year. Moving, so very important and unforgettable, this much-needed spotlight on life as a refugee is utterly brilliant and so eloquently portrayed. 💙
📕 The Thursday Murder Club ~ Richard Osman. I was late to the party with these books but read the first in March and the second as soon as it came out in the autumn, and know I’ll be pre-ordering every instalment now! I couldn’t love Coopers Chase retirement village and its team of mystery solvers any more. As full of characters as intrigue, this is just a proper cosy mystery with a lovable cast and I loved it and its sequel! ❤️
📔 The Blythes are Quoted ~ L.M. Montgomery. I had waited so long to track down a copy of this and close the final chapter of Anne’s story (written in the last months of LM Montgomery’s life but only published in 2009), and when I did I was not disappointed in this poignant, moving and beautifully tied-up last instalment of the Blythes’ tale – and their enduring legacy. 💖
📗 Stepping Up ~ Sarah Turner. I was absolutely delighted to have the chance to read this wonderful debut novel this year ahead of its publication in March 2022. I had loved Sarah Turner’s writing for years as the Unmumsy Mum and was so looking forward to this book, and I loved it even more than I hoped. There is so much heart in this special story about loss, love, family ties and “Stepping Up”, and I couldn’t recommend it more. 💚
📙 Ring the Hill ~ Tom Cox. I have always enjoyed Tom Cox’s writing so much – dotted with poetry, humour and incredible landscapes – and this lovely book full of rugged hills, adventures and homes, sweeping countryside and animal companions was just a joy to read. 🧡

Huge recommendations for all of these! 📚

📚 Favourite Re-Reads 2021 📚

(This was supposed to be a Top 5 too, but it’s impossible to choose between books I love this much, so 7 there are! 😂)

These are all books I’ve loved before, most of them read several times, but that I loved reading again this year.. the Jane Austens I never tire of, my beloved Anne, a reconnect this year with Sara Crewe who I hadn’t revisited since childhood, a festive return to Scrooge’s London, my very favourite of Tom Cox’s touching and so relatable portraits of a life with pets, and my third read of Three Things About Elsie which burst into my favourite books in 2018 and continues to be one I just savour every word of. ❤️

📘 A Little Princess ~ Frances Hodgson Burnett
📙 Close Encounters of the Furred Kind ~ Tom Cox
📗 Persuasion ~ Jane Austen
📒 Three Things About Elsie ~ Joanna Cannon
📕 Pride and Prejudice ~ Jane Austen
📗 Anne of Green Gables ~ LM Montgomery
📔 A Christmas Carol ~ Charles Dickens

“Every book in [our library] is a friend” – Anne Blythe, Anne’s House of Dreams

Lots of love for these old-friend books. ❤️📚❤️

Let me know if you’ve read and enjoyed any of these, and wishing you all the best possible start to this new year. Xxx

2021 In Pictures ❤️

Have really enjoyed in the last couple of days looking back at some pictures from this year. Seeing the early ones especially reminded me so much how shut down everything was in the first few months of the year and, even though all the snapshots here were lovely moments, how much I was struggling with it. The thing I’m most grateful for as the year has gone on is more time back with family and friends – and when I look at some of these: getting back to my in-laws to stay after months apart, drinks out with my friends for the first time in so long, I remember the soar of joy. So many returns to things we love for us all and firsts altogether for our littlest – her first birthday, first beach and first soft play all in the highlights. ❤️

There has been lots of change for us all in work, nursery, toddlers.. seasons coming to a close and new ones beginning. There’s more still even on the horizon as I already know as the new year arrives I want to make a change again at work, and for our oldest January is time for decisions on school applications and deferrals, a big topic for us at the moment. In 2022 I can already see us moving on just as in 2021.

We said goodbye to our lovely Sandy hamster this year but also a huge welcome the family to tiny Sparkle; – and of course to Rosie and Theo our little cats too, who’ve been with us six months now and fill the house with happy chaos… And Charmer throughout the year has been enjoying having the whole family running after him as much as ever, turning 25 and even toddling off on a couple of retirement-defying hacks. 🥰

As this year draws to a close it’s a big one we’re looking back on. Can’t wait quite believe it was a just-turned-3 year old and a little 9 month old who couldn’t walk yet (just! She began on day 2 of the year!) who we entered 2021 with this time last year… our 4 year old and creeping up on 2 year old seem so grown in a year.

Looking forward to lots more adventures this year, and wishing you all the very very best for 2022. A very Happy New Year one and all when when it comes. ❤️

September – December Reading Diary 📚❤️

I’ve not kept up too much with reading on here recently but have still been keeping a record as this year I’ve been absolutely loving being part of the bookstagram community on Instagram and having somewhere to easily share all my reads and share and swap book recommendations. I’m on http://www.Instagram.com/a_coffee_anda_book if anyone also happens to be on there and I do a wee review or at least a wee note of everything I read on there, but for now thought I’d do the quickest of round ups of the last few months’ books, as I’ve really found my way back to loving reading in this second part of the year.

💛🍂📚September Reading 📚🍂💛 Such a wonderful reading month, all books I really enjoyed and two shooting in to the top 5 of the year so far quite easily ❤️ L.M. Montgomery’s “The Blythes are Quoted”, the long-awaited final chapter of Anne & Gilbert Blythe’s story, was a book I’ve looked forward to reading for years, and it didn’t let me down, sweeping me up in the family and community once again just as I hoped ❤️. And “Stepping Up” by Sarah Turner (aka @theunmumsymum, whose parenting books and blogs I have always loved) was one I was already counting down to reading come publication in March 2022 when I was absolutely delighted to be accepted to read an advance review copy through NetGalley. I wasted no time in getting started and just couldn’t put it down, I simply loved this so deeply warm, moving and funny novel so much. ❤️ “Ponies in the Valley” by Diana Pullein-Thompson too was an adventure- and compassion-filled pony book I thoroughly enjoyed, and Fergie and Sandy’s series one I’ll definitely look to read more in very soon; and Shirley Barrett’s “Rush Oh!”, an atmospheric telling of one summer’s whaling on the coast of Australia with some engaging characters and beautiful descriptions of the dramatic seascape. These books were all very different from one another, though both “The Blythes” and “Rush Oh!” were set in the same time period, with the First World War looming; and some common themes – loss, coming of age and the binding of family ties – came up in most or all. It was a cosy month’s reading, one I really enjoyed, and got my autumn off to a lovely start. 🍁📚

📚🍁 October reads 🍁📚 Really enjoyed reading in October as I always do when the nights draw in and there’s longer darker evenings… 🥰 Actually read a lot more than a three-book stack seems because I was part-way through three others I’d been enjoying a lot of the month too that all tipped into November. But really enjoyed the books I finished this month – first “The Man Who Died Twice” which I’d been counting down to release day for, a wonderful return to the mystery-filled Coopers Chase retirement village; followed by “Haven’t They Grown”, an absolutely gripping thriller that has me wanting to read a lot more from Sophie Hannah; and lastly Stephanie Land’s moving memoir “Maid” which I also so enjoyed. Definitely a great month for books, would recommend all! (All reviewed in earlier posts). Photo star Teddy-cat Theo who enjoyed both his first Black Cat Day and Halloween this month and very much enjoyed the season 🤩🎃🐈‍⬛

📚🌟November wrap-up 🌟📚 Read six books last month which is a bit skewed by having finished off Tom Cox’s beautiful nature ramble “Ring the Hill”, Emma Barnett‘s ground-breaking “Period” and Cressida Ellen Schofield’s festive and horsey family drama “Mistletoe and Whine” in the first week of the new month after beginning them all towards the end of October.

These were all new to me, which I only realised this month was a continuing trend, and when I looked back saw I hadn’t re-read a single book since July, very unusual for me as I usually can’t resist the old favourites over and over..

However, I more than made up for it in the rest of the month with three re-reads, my beloved “Three Things About Elsie” by Joanna Cannon, Nicholas Evans’s atmospheric and moving “The Horse Whisperer” which I hadn’t read in decades, and, my last book of the month, the one and only “Pride and Prejudice”. ❤️

It was a mixed month of books, with some fascinating non-fiction and thought-provoking learning in “Period”, the prose I just love to sink into in “Ring the Hill”, a first splash of Christmas in “Mistletoe and Whine”, such emotion and a strong challenge and message in “Three Things About Elsie”, the sprawling ranch saga of “The Horse Whisperer” and the drawing in of the truly classic “Pride and Prejudice.”

📚🎄 December reads 🎄📚 I read 7 books in December which is a lot for me, but in there were four much shorter books than normal and three were children’s which kept my month’s reading light and cosy. There were also four purely Christmas books, as well as touches of Christmas in Anne’s little world, and it was a wonderful month of reading just what took my fancy in this beautifully festive time of the year.

I started with Adam Kay’s “‘Twas the Nightshift Before Christmas”, having enjoyed “This is Going to Hurt” last year – moving and funny, I really enjoyed it, all the more for reading on my first Christmas working in a care home with all its ups and downs. Then it was to Avonlea, my very favourite of places to disappear, to my beloved Anne. ❤️ I always enjoy re reading “Anne of Green Gables” so very much and did this time more than ever. Enjoyed a wee pony book in Susannah Leigh’s “Dream Pony”, one from my childhood, and then on to a wonderfully infused-with-Christmas-cheer novel “The Christmas Invitation” by Trisha Ashley. As Christmas arrived I was re-reading another favourite and a tradition for this time especially, “A Christmas Carol”, which again I loved as much as ever ❤️❤️, and then I had an extra dose of the season in Matt Haig’s “A Boy Called Christmas”, a children’s adventure full of magic and hope. My last is not quite finished yet but as the year draws to a close I’m reading “Mad About The Boy”, Helen Fielding’s return to Bridget Jones’ world in later life – the first two books are two of my favourites I love to return to but although I read this when it came out I haven’t revisited it since – so far have lots of thoughts on how it’s aged!! But am enjoying being back with such a familiar and loved narrator.

In December I also followed a tag on Instagram #literarychristmas hosted by some lovely bloggers which saw me dip in and out of some very well-loved worlds:

Weeks 1 and 4 were east for me as I was already reading “Anne of Green Gables” as the month began, and was able to enjoy the beautiful “puffed-sleeves” Christmas it contains, and I always read “A Christmas Carol”, ticking my Victorian Christmas box. But although I didn’t read in full anything from the Prairie or New England it gave me the perfect chance to look up some favourite extracts and enjoy Laura and Mary’s mittens-and-candy-cane Christmas morning and the March ladies’ memorable generosity. ❤️

On the note of Anne, do have to share as well one of my most special Christmas presents that I think will lead to me reading even more frequently than normal! – this beautiful framed print which contains the whole novel. It’s not even found its place on the wall yet but already I’m loving pausing by it for a wee chapter as I pass by and am absolutely delighted to have such a beloved book hanging at home. ❤️

In these last few days I’ve loved having more time for reading and enjoying taking life at a slow pace. Looking forward to looking back on the year’s reading and will write another wee post when I do. For now, enjoying the peace and the slow days ❤️ Hope you are all managing to do a little of the same however the season is panning out, and enjoying the last of the year. Xx

Hello from our now Christmassy corner of the world 🎄

It’s been so long since I last wrote and having just realised how much I’ve neglected this lovely wee space that I do so appreciate gathering my thoughts in, thought I would do a little catch-up post, as we somehow (how fast has time gone this year?!) enter the home straight with just under two weeks to go until Christmas.

Since I last wrote, here in this little corner of the world we’ve just enjoying watching October turn into a sunny and bright November, and then before we knew it we were here in a stormy December, with our tree up and excitement levels for the little ones reaching heights I could barely do justice to!!

Term has tumbled on and I’ve so enjoyed in this first half of this year getting my littlest one out to a village toddlers group where she’s grown so much in confidence, her little weekly toddler music group we’ve always loved so much, where again she’s ruling the roost now, and just all our usual play dates, wanders and adventures. She’s at such a fantastic age where she’s starting to look forward to meeting her friends and learning the routines – leading me down the hill in the village from nursery to toddlers very determinedly. ❤️ Meanwhile, we’re two terms in at nursery for my big girl who’s going to be 4 this week!! (Can’t quite get my head around that one..) and for the most part she’s settled so well, finding her feet and now loving coming to the end of the first half of the year, Christmas party around the corner and coming home with her face shining with a Christmas centrepiece for the table and stories of dressing up for the little nativity play 🤩 We’ve still kept nursery part-time for the moment and as a result I’ve still been loving some time with both my girls in the afternoons – and our activities are growing steadily more festive every day just now, hanging lights and baubles on our old bedraggled but beloved Christmas tree in the garden, making a wreath for the door under the direction of Grandad who does them every year, and wrapping up to head round the village on “twinkle walks” that definitely do not disappoint. 🤩❤️

And if the kids are hyped up at this time of the year, I’m not sure what that makes these two….

Rosie and Theo, now almost eight months old, could not be loving their first Christmas more!! I am forever gathering baubles from around the room, re-adjusting the branches on the Christmas tree from where some cat-shaped dents have materialised and re-hanging stockings by the fire.. but they are having quite simply the time of their little kitten lives, so we can’t mind too much!

Teddy-cat in the Christmas tree

We also have another little character in our home that I still need to introduce on here, the lovely Stitch Sparkleworks 🌟🐹 (long story short… he was originally named Stitch, but my wee My Little Pony fans had decided his new name for his new home was to be Sparkleworks… however by the time we went to collect him they had also got attached to the name he had in the rescue centre and didn’t want to part with it… so Stitch Sparkleworks he is, often variously shortened to Stitch, Sparky or Sparkle which gives him a range of identities but which he doesn’t seem too troubled by 😂)

He is a little 17-month-old dwarf hamster, a Campbells x Winter White hybrid. He came from the lovely local hamster rescue where we also adopted Sandy from back in 2019, and he is a truly lovely little character. I am so so happy to have him in our home and he seems so happy and settled which is just wonderful. We weren’t expecting him to be especially friendly, and knew in the rescue he had been a great character but handling very much on his terms and he was likely to want to be left alone a lot, but since he arrived he’s actually really got into interacting and when I open the cage door is often climbing out and keen to be handled and is just a wonderful wee soul.

Arriving home, 2nd November 2021, his fan club waiting ❤️
These two are endlessly fascinated by him, not that he minds one bit, think it’s mutual as he climbs up the bars to have a good sniff at them!

And I couldn’t forget Charmer in a round-up of pets, who is doing away really well so far this winter. He’s been out at nights, and at the moment just comes in for a wee breakfast and 2 or 3 hours at his hay in the morning, and I’m so glad he seems to be thriving on that. We’ll just have to play the winter by ear depending on the weather that comes our way but for the moment enjoying him living his favourite outdoorsy life. ❤️

Life is going at some pace, the end of 2021 coming round fast, and we’re so looking forward to this Christmas season, hoping for some lovely cosy times at home and with family. ❤️ We had a first little impromptu gathering together in a family home at the weekend, round a Christmas tree with all our usual pets, kids, chatter and chaos, which was all the more special as my mum was just back recovered and able to join us again after having Covid. This year more than ever before just so glad for us all being safe and well, and for the cosy glow of time together. ❤️ Have definitely enjoyed gathering some wee thoughts on the last few months and will write again sooner! Hope you have all had a lovely weekend and have a lovely start to your week xx

🍁 A Scottish October Holiday 🍁

We have just had the October holidays here, and we had a really wonderful time off all together – all work, nursery and toddler classes suspended for the week and just some lovely quality time. We originally planned to take a few days away in North Berwick, but in the end decided just to base ourselves at home (ever so slightly influenced in part by worrying how the kittens would cope without us for a few nights! 🙈) and take day trips every day. It actually worked out a wonderfully relaxed way to have a holiday – the girls are at the stage that any change of routine overnight means a lot less sleep, and this way we were in our own environment every night all getting well rested but had had adventures all day.

We visited some wonderful places and really enjoyed them. We went to the Scottish Deer Centre near Cupar which we all loved – it was a properly cold day with a very wrapped-up picnic in the middle but we had a lovely time seeing the deer. We didn’t see too much of some of the other animals that we’ve enjoyed seeing the other time we went a few years back – they have some wonderful foxes, bears, wildcats and wolves who are incredible to see, but, a big plus to me, they have wonderful big enclosures and can keep themselves to themselves if they choose to, which on this occasion they did! I’m always so glad to know the animals have the choice over where to be and never mind seeing them a little less. We weren’t there for too long as it was a proper windy October day, and we do plan to go back soon with other family for more of an explore, but we had a wonderful time. The kids played in the play barn, we watched a bird of prey flying demonstration; and the deer were absolutely lovely, we all enjoyed feeding them and they seemed so happy, some entertaining everyone galloping around. ❤️

We had a really lovely day out too one day to Craigie’s Farm near Queensferry, for cosy hot chocolates, pumpkin biscuits, adventure play and pumpkin picking.

Our biggest venture was up north for a jaunt to Pitlochry and Aberfeldy, two places we often find ourselves on our holidays and weekends away. We really loved the road trip, the beautiful seasonal world outside the window as we passed so much incredible scenery, and our potters back in our favourite towns. We’re usually in Pitlochry at this time of year for the Enchanted Forest, and although it had been cancelled again this year, it was lovely to be there and do our other October traditions of buying a new decoration for the tree in the Christmas shop and starting some Christmas shopping in the pretty shops, windows all lined with decorative leaves.

In Aberfeldy, we visited the holiday park where we’d had our last couple of family holidays and enjoyed a walk in the town we’ve come to know so well through our trips there. We stayed late that night out and about, and pyjama-ed the little ones after tea to drive home sleeping, which they loved the novelty of. ❤️

Another day, we went back to our old home town of Stirling, where my husband and I first met and lived for years, and enjoyed introducing the kids to some of our old haunts; as well as just very close to home doing a very first family cinema trip, and some adventure golf.

It was a really lovely way to enjoy the holiday and we all had a wonderful week- there was the added bonus of lots of time with extended family too as well as the pets, and no travel stress. That’s two years now we’ve just done at-home holidays all year, apart from one night away at my in-laws at the beginning of the summer, and it’s actually been really great, although I do really look forward to planning now a week away or so next year.

Also have to give a quick mention of all the wonderful book shops we got a chance to visit in our tour, a little more about them all on my all-things-books Instagram but below are some of the lovely ones we got to stop for a browse at.❤️

Back home here, we’ve re-started our normal routine again, both of us back to work, nursery started back and all the littlest one’s classes and groups too – including a new village toddlers group it’s lovely to have and we’re going to enjoy helping out with. Everyone is settling to normal life and we’re looking forward to Halloween this weekend. We carved our pumpkins last weekend and look forward to dressing up for a wee wander around the village, as well as parties at nursery and music group.

Do have to give a wee update on the furry members of the family too while I’m writing, and sadly we’ve said our last goodbye to our wee Sandy hamster, who lived to a wonderful age but who we lost last Friday. We are all missing him lots and have loved having the last couple of years with him, since we brought him home when he was just 4 months old in July 2019. He actually arrived into our home the very day we found out our youngest daughter was also on her way to join our family; and at the time our oldest was 19 months, exactly the age her little sister is now. He’s been a huge part of our family life and a lovely pet for all of us. He was always so friendly and relaxed, so content in his wee world but curious about everything around him too and interested in whatever we were doing – nothing ever phased him and he was just a brilliant character. We are very glad he lived such a lovely long life, and we were very lucky to have him share it with us.❤️❤️

The others are doing well, the kittens without a doubt having found their season – they are Halloween black cats through and through!

And as we’ve been faced with some proper torrential rain here the last few days, my biggest fluffy boy has been very much enjoying some cosy nights in his stable and is thriving on a little more time in and pampered.

We’ve really enjoyed our October break and looking forward to a Halloween weekend and winter bedding in. Hope you are all well and enjoying the season. 🍁🎃 x

Animal Adventures – September into October 🍁

As we move deeper into my favourite season of all, watching the leaves slowly change on the trees and begin to tumble to the ground, just a wee summary of how the pets are getting on, filling our wee world as they do with so much character and love.

It’s not long since I last wrote about Charmer, and not too much has happened with him, just a shiny new pair of shoes since I last wrote, and a start to our October of charity walks with his first couple of half-mile wander on his rope this week, one just with me and one with the A Team in tow!

Little Sandy too is still pottering away very happily, almost 31 months now and I’m so delighted with the shine in his coat still and how he’s holding his weight.

The cats are our biggest changers ❤️ Rosie and Theo have just turned 5 months old, and been with us just over 3 months, and they are growing and changing all the time. Their characters are really becoming so clear and they have transformed life in our little house. ❤️

Rosie is very relaxed and loves cuddling and playing with the whole family, often joining in the kids’ games (kids’ toys and cat toys appear to be interchangeable, there is often a cat toy joining in the dolls house and one of the kids’ dinosaurs turning up in the cat bed!). She is always on some mission or other and tends to keep herself busy nipping upstairs to steal the bath plug and hide it around the house or paddling in the shower or sink after someone’s used them – and whenever I open a book, especially a big hardback, she jumps straight in, I barely do any reading anymore without a purring Rosie on my knee with her nose in the pages.

Theo (affectionately known as Teddy) is more of a reserved type, he’s very affectionate but keeps more of a distance from the chaos and comes into his own in the evening when the house is quieter – he has also settled to being a bit of a one-master cat, he definitely loves my husband most of all, seeking him out for 3am cuddles every single night, but now and then I get my moments with him and he’s a gorgeous and lovely boy.

Last week I had them both at the vets for their neutering, but in the end Rosie was still a little too little at just under 2kg, so she was given a few more weeks to bulk up. Theo, who was originally the littlest, has streaked ahead of her to become a strapping boy-cat, and at 2.4kg was ok going ahead with his operation.

He did really well, charmed everyone in the vets, the receptionist reported she’d barely been able to get any work done for cuddling him as per his demands! And when he got home he recovered really well. Unfortunately wee Rosie though was disconcerted by the smell of the vets or maybe just their first time apart, even though it was only a day, and gave him a hard time when he came back, hissing and not seeming to recognise him. It only lasted an evening before she settled, but it seems to have upset the balance a little between them and they had not been sleeping curled up together or spending all their time together since.

About a week later we actually made another appointment for Theo thinking something was wrong as he was sleeping round the clock and very lethargic but the vet could find nothing and believed the poor wee dot was just reacting to Rosie having been more aloof with him and missing the security of how close they were. The vet nurse at our local practice has a keen interest in cat behaviour so she gave us a few tips on ways to ease things for both of them to hopefully allow an improvement and fingers crossed it does seem to be working – We’ve gone from them keeping to opposite sides of the room to this….

To this..

And yesterday, briefly, their old tumbly cuddly selves ❤️

Teddy seems much more relaxed and like himself as a result so we do hope they get back to their wee pack of two before too long; but they are both such wonderful characters regardless and we just love having them in our home, it feels like they’ve part of the family forever.

Last but not least a wee cameo from our newest unofficial “pet”, Henry the Hedgehog (named by our eldest!) who frequents the garden at night. Was so happy to see what an excellent size he is! But we’ve been putting a wee bit of the cat’s food out nonetheless and a wee bit shelter in the bushes for him and love to sit out late and watch him in the dark.

We are on a week’s holiday here at the moment, and really looking forward to it, we were originally going to go away for a few days but have decided to stay closer to nine and do day trips here and there which we are all so excited about. Will post at the weekend some at-home adventures. Whether October break where you are or not hope you all have a really lovely week. X

Theo watching the world go by this morning ❤️

Pony diaries: Ambling into autumn 🍂

The last few weeks have been good ones for my fluffball pony, who looks forward every year to the change of season between summer and autumn. Charmer has actually had a really good summer – he has kept his weight well, enjoyed his time both out and in and not suffered too much with the midges – and he does love the great array of grass that summertime brings!!; but between the heat, the flies and his sweet itch, it’s never his comfiest time; and it’s always a total joy when the temperature breaks, the nights draw in, that furry winter coat starts growing and he can relax into the most contented of days.

We’ve not been doing any riding the past few months – partly because he’s been a bit stiffer and partly because I’ve put on a bit of weight myself and would like to lose some before I get back on (I’m always quite near the top end of what’s probably ok for him at his age so definitely don’t want to add any pressure to those old legs!), but the last few weeks we have been enjoying a lot of little walks on his rope.

I had actually been walking him just in and out of the barn the shortest way for a few weeks back in August, having noticed that he was moving a bit less easily and wanting to keep everything as easy as possible for him, but after a few weeks of this he voted with his feet and started dragging me the long way round, where there is lots more to see and he loves just to feel like he’s on an adventure – and, as it turns out, he’s moving all the better for stretching his legs and having his wee brain busier again. One day we even found a little free library just at a cottage on the edge of the farm, and he always likes to stop for a munch of grass and a watch of the horses in the fields across the track especially his old hacking buddies.

I also took him a bit of a longer walk last week to see how he got on, and he absolutely loved it. In October, my lovely friend who works for the ambulance service is organising a fund raiser at the yard for the Scottish Air Ambulance Charity, with a lot of the girls and horses at the yard embarking on a month of long hacks racking up the miles. Every mile counts and can be added to their running total so we thought we would join in where we’re at just now, and went for a mile-long walk in-hand last week to test the ground. We found that it was the perfect distance for Charmer who absolutely loved every second, so we will do that wee loop every few days whenever he’s up for it and see how many we can count up in the month! – (and will maybe help me shed some pounds too, maybe by the end of the month I could be doing an amble on him!)

We’ve also been enjoying a bit of messing around and watching the leaves fall in the little sand school behind our barn, which seems to be a start to the day both of us love. ❤️

… and on the rainier days, it’s just breakfast on the barn and a shelter with a huge pile of hay.

It’s getting darker and darker every night at the moment, and at the weekend after work I had both my girls with me for a just-before-bedtime torchlight visit to the field which the horses and children loved – and I did too, always enjoying so much those first nights in the bright lights of the barn with the rain hammering and the dark fields outside.

I’m really pleased with how well Charmer seems to be doing and looking forward to our month of little walks for a good cause, and to the drawing in of winter. ❤️

Hope you all have a good week. Xx

Book Review: Stepping Up ~ Sarah Turner

Have to start by saying the biggest thank you to Random House UK / Transworld Publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity I was very grateful for to read an advance review copy of this absolute treasure of a book.

I have loved Sarah Turner’s writing as The Unmumsy Mum in her books and blogs for years, her ever-brilliant stories always shared with the right balance of humour, honesty and tenderness, and I couldn’t have been more excited about the idea of her first novel, which – despite the high expectations! – met them and more.

Following 31-year-old Beth as she finds herself thrown into the role of guardian of her teenage niece and toddler nephew in the wake of a family tragedy; it is a beautiful and sensitive exploration of the family relationships and friendships that provide a much-needed lift and pull through both the journey of grief and the challenges of everyday life.

There are so many wonderful characters in these pages, and all are drawn with understanding and relatability – from 3-year-old Ted (so often both the light relief and, even simultaneously, an inspiration to the others) to elderly neighbour Albert (whose fresh perspective, wonderful book club choices and text messages that made me laugh out loud brought so much to the story).

This book has everything I love in an involving and memorable story – it is full of such perfectly-drawn moments (a pre-school nativity play, a hospital waiting room, a bonfire-lit garden, all brought to startlingly-recognisable life so expertly); deals with some difficult topics addressed with the right mix of depth and lighter touches; and does justice to all of its characters and storylines, not just those of Beth herself.

Stepping Up is poignant, funny and ultimately so uplifting, and I truly loved it and cannot recommend this wonderfully-written debut novel highly enough. 💚

Hope you are all having a lovely week. X

Happy (half) birthday to our wee Sandy… and big love for all the littlest ones ❤️

Our little Sandy hamster turned 2 and a half on Friday, and we decided to make a proper little fuss of him and give him a wee day of celebration! I think it’s quite hard to judge but have seen some hamster to human years “conversions” showing around 2 and a half creeping up to a very good age maybe even around 100 equivalent, and we are absolutely delighted to have little Sandy still with us and in very good health.

We brought him home at 4 months old from a lovely little hamster and small animal rescue not far from us in Fife where a couple of volunteers work tirelessly to help wee ones find their forever homes, and we’ve been lucky to have over two years of his company and counting. He’s a pottery wee soul these days, sometimes a little wobbly on his feet when he first wakes up, but he’s just doing away, enjoying life in his cage and some explores out and about with us too and he’s actually holding his weight really well which is great. He has been completely and utterly unfazed by the arrival of two curious kittens into his life who like nothing more than to watch him going about his business, and regards them with interest but no fear whatsoever, getting on with his important work of moving food around and now and then doing a wee bed reshuffle.

The kids loved making him some decorations and giving him a treat stick which he got straight to work on and is still very much enjoying a few days on!

I’ve been thinking a lot about the small pets in our lives the last few weeks as it was August eleven years ago, just as the back to school feeling was around us and the change of autumn in the air, that I decided to really start our little animal family. I’d already had a lovely wee companion for a couple of years while at uni, briefly back home, and then in my first flat of my own, in the form of my very first hamster, little Annabelle, who I’d always so enjoyed the company of. She had died a few months before and I had really missed her. I always remember so clearly the day in August 2010 I came back from a weekend at home with my family and all our assorted animal companions (always a full house ❤️) to my empty flat and realised that I wanted so much to have a pet again. That led to me bringing home Smokie and Peatie, my first rats, two such wonderful wee characters – and never having been without pets since.

Smokie, Peatie and Simba, our original wee team ❤️

I knew so little about small pets then (Annabelle never having caused me any trouble, we’d never even seen a vet!) that it took me a few weeks to realise the boys I took home (originally Smokey and Petey) were actually girls. They taught me my first lessons early on and from that day on I’ve loved and lived and learned so much with my tiny companions. Within six months Smokie and Peatie and I had moved in with my husband and his house rabbit Simba and since then we’ve had a total of 14 pet rats, 5 hamsters and the rabbit (and also two Giant African Land Snails who were more my husband’s charges, I still know very little about them!) – mostly rescued or given their second home with us and all of them bringing so much joy to our home.

The rats: Smokie, Peatie, Sylvie, Lizzie, Chae, Winston, Pipkin, Harvey, Ty, Reuben, Perry, Marley, Jasper and Jet

Keeping small animals has been so incredibly rewarding for me. The rats in particular always taught me so much, there were so many health issues to learn about and absolutely fascinating behaviour to study and interactions to be had. Our hamsters too, Annabelle, Grace, Darcy, Rosie* and Sandy, have been such amazing characters. I always hear of people complaining of grumpy bitey hamsters but the five I’ve been blessed to share my home with have been such lovely wee souls.

The hamsters: Annabelle, Grace, Darcy, Rosie and Sandy

As the kittens keep us busy with new lessons to be learned (back on the back foot again after almost always knowing what the vet would say before I took the rats with a few years of experience under my belt, suddenly I realise how little we know about our new pets and I am googling and researching cat information at every turn!); and Charmer – as he has for over twenty-one years now – fills my animal world; I’m so so glad too for all the space taken up in our home and hearts then and now by the tiniest of our pets – and love having wee Sandy around so much.

Happy birthday little gent 🧡.

Hope you all have a lovely start to the week. X

*yes we have now had so many pets that we are repeating names! Little Rosie-ham who we brought home back in 2014 was our first Rosie, named for her pinky-red eyes and bright wee face, but when our oldest daughter was determined to call our girl cat Rosie from the moment the idea of getting a cat was floated we went with it, she can be Rosie-cat for long! My husband’s second snail was also called Sandy so it’s not even our first offence… But when Sandy hamster arrived to us so perfectly coloured and so in love with his sand bath he couldn’t be anything but…. ❤️

September’s Eve 🍂

Just a quick update tonight as August tumbles into September, with so many thoughts whirling in my head as we settle in to a gently shifting change in season once again.

Our world the last few weeks has been filled with a back-to-school air – or off to school for the very first time really, as our biggest girl has started school nursery, and we have found ourselves in the primary school playground every day for drop offs and pick ups, finding our feet in a whole new world. She is settling in so well to nursery life despite what a big leap it seems to have been for her from her couple of mornings at playgroup last year, and it’s wonderful to hear all the new stories every day.

It’s been a time of transition for all of us in a smaller way, maybe most of all for our littlest who is adjusting to mornings without her sister around. We’ve picked back up with our usual toddler groups, music classes and song and rhyme sessions, only this time I just have her in tow, and she’s found that a bit different, her natural confidence taking a little longer to come out without her usual shadow to walk in. But it’s been really really lovely watching her too adapt to a new stage, growing in independence and changing all the time.

For my part, I’m enjoying this new era as much as the ones before it, especially with the freedom that’s returned more over the summer, and making the most of the time I have both with one and with two. Today after the nursery drop off, on a wander with tiny down to a lovely free sing-along session in a museum in town, we discovered a little library we had no idea was there. It was so nice to be able to choose a book to take home for the kids and we have some of theirs and mine we need to donate so it’ll be a lovely place to do it on our next walk.

After our little class, as we walked back up the hill, we came across a gated entrance that captured her attention, and I’d forgotten how enjoyable it was to be able to just take the path because she fancied it and do the exploring. Before we knew it we’d wound down into the glen with the squirrels and birds and it was a lovely impulse to be able to follow.

And we only had to wait until this afternoon for the pace to be shifted once again with both girls back home together (we’re building up the nursery hours slowly over the year so still have lots of times all of us). It was lovely just to settle at home, read our new book all together, do some quiet activities and enjoy the old routine.

Spent some time in the garden too in the newly-fresh air, a slight nip to it today after so long of hot days – with the kittens out too for one of their first wee plays while we watched them explore (just over 4 months now and a pair of energy-filled leggy tearaways at the moment, full of fun and doing well ☺️).

There’s so much else been going on I will write more on later – the pony doing well as we come to the to the end of the summer and making a start on getting him prepared for winter, starting to feel more settled into my new job at the weekends and the training along with it too keeping me busy of an evening, my husband taking his first tentative steps back to office life some days (though still with the home office as the default for foreseeable future which we’re so thankful for for time all together).

One of the things we’ve been most glad of in the last few weeks in the midst of everything else is that we have had some wonderful chances to catch up with friends and family. At the weekend we had the loveliest family garden gathering under twinkling lights, breathing in the smell of woodsmoke and the togetherness we’ve missed so much. It can feel sometimes to an extent like we’re still living tentatively in a hangover from all the disruption to life last year, and so it was so liberating to have such an old-school family day and night and remember how much we love to assemble. 🥰 I’m looking forward so much now to a season ahead of wrapping up for chiminea nights and cosy gatherings. ❤️

Hope you are all well, and wish you a really lovely start to September.. 🍁