Back to blogging….

It’s been literally months since I last wrote… we were just edging into spring, watching the first daffodils open; and since then the busiest few months have tumbled by, leaving us with September just around the corner – the new start and fresh notebooks of the academic year and the first yellowing leaves in the air. ❤

We’ve had such a full few months here – one nursery year drawing to a close, six weeks of summer holidaying with both girls home (and even a short holiday away down to Northumberland, our first in sooo long), and another year beginning – with a whirl of work and family twists and turns weaving through it all.

I was just beginning all 3 of my new ventures when I last tapped out a blog entry (which goes some way to explaining why it’s been so long!) and am settled in to all now, very much at home at my care home, settling to bank shifts at the NHS, and properly bedded into the playgroup, all of which have complemented each other really well and been such a learning experience individually and together – challenging, rewarding and fascinating – and have kept me very busy as I’ve tried to get up to speed and find a balance that works for family life.

I’d love to write a post when I can about our summer holiday away – it was only 4 nights but was our first proper wee holiday as a family of four, and first since summer 2019, and we all loved it so much. But there’s been so many wonderful experiences too just here at home over the summer – in woods, at wildlife parks, having picnics and explores. Been so grateful for the extra time with the little ones. 🥰

Can’t blog without mentioning the pets too – our beloved rabble. Just after I last wrote, it was Charmer’s 26th birthday, which he celebrated in style ❤️❤️ , closely followed by the cats’ 1st birthday – our little kittens no more! – and then a couple of months’ later by Sparkle’s 2nd, making him approx 100 in his little dwarf hamster years. We were lucky to have him to a wonderful age, especially he was already in his older age when he first arrived with us last November, but we said goodbye to him earlier this month.

Charmer turning 26!
… and Rosie and Teddy turning 1 ❤️
Stitch Sparkleworks “Sparkle” ❤️

Charmer, Rosie and Theo continue to be thriving, as well as Fish ❤️ who moved to his new tank not long after I last wrote and seems to be enjoying life!

Even young Pidge (for anyone who remembers our short term stint as pigeon owners!!) is doing well. He was actually due to leave for a sanctuary in Derbyshire at the beginning of the summer who take pigeons and lots of birds, Linjoy Sanctuary. I’m sure it would have been fantastic, but in the end Pidge had so charmed the pigeon rehabilitater who had done so much to help him, that he has ended up staying there among other his pigeons and birds. ❤️ A happy ending for our handsome arrival into a winter barn if ever there was one.

We’re looking forward to new chapters here – the little ones are hitting their stride again, the oldest beginning her deferral year before school next year, and the youngest back to toddlers, music classes and soft play. I am also starting my HNC in Social Services at college next week, which I’m really excited about, first time as a student since I left uni in 2009!

It’s lovely to have a chance to tap out some thoughts again, and I hope to again very soon!

Hope you are all well ☺️ xx

A Springtime Hello 🌷

Been so long since I wrote here and just wanted to say a springtime hello from us… Here in our wee corner of the world things are coming to life… the daffodils in the driveway have been out for a little while but our first doorstep daffodil opened up yesterday, causing much excitement among the kids!

We’ve had a mix of weather recently – mostly really lovely and warm and sunny which has been amazing, but also some dashes of rain, hail, wind and snow just to keep us on our toes. I’ve been reminded as I am every year of my favourite quote about this time of year…

Life has been hurtling on a fair pace, with the kids reaching new stages and keeping us on our toes, and in the past few weeks I’ve started a new job as well as taking on another voluntary role that’s been keeping me busy too. Really loving my new work – still in elderly care, but in a new care home I’m so enjoying settling in to; and also the new challenges and lots of learning as chair of the committee of the playgroup the kids have been to / will go to!

I’m going to start working more over the next little while – in the care home and also (eventually, taking a little longer to get all the training set up!) in the NHS at our local hospital too. Both are very similar roles and both on a relief/bank basis so I can build up my hours slowly and adjust as needed, and I’m really looking forward to it all.

But I continue to love all the time I get to have at home with the Littles – which has been all the more this week as we’re one week into the Easter holidays and filling our days with soft plays, park explores, cycles round the village and just all those chilled-out everyday things – and we met Bluey this week which definitely wasn’t an everyday thing and blew everyone’s mind!

Since I last wrote, we’ve had the whole spring term and got established a school start date for our biggest girl, something we’d been spending lots of energy deliberating over as she’d been on the younger end of her year and we had the chance to defer and therefore choose whether it was best to go at 4 1/2 or 5 1/2. We’re now set that she’s starting in August 2023, with one more year left of nursery, where she’s really learning and growing, which feels like the best decision – and it’s lovely to see everyone settle into a new settled-on plan! Our littlest too has been enjoying her toddlers groups, wee music class and a new gymnastics one too which is right up her street – building up her confidence of different places and groups before she starts at the playgroup in October when she turns 2 and a half.

It’s been lovely to have lots of time with both wee ones – and we had an extra special time last week as the tiniest turned a big 2!

We spent the day the four of us at the sea life centre we’re lucky to have just ten minutes away and are very excited to have booked a family pass so we can make trips there more often, as it’s something both girls are loving just now.

The animals have been doing very well too, with “young” Charmer creeping up on his 26th birthday and even younger Rosie and Theo following a few days later with their 1st! The last week of April is a big one for the furry members of the family, celebrating our oldest on the 23rd and the youngest pair of tearaways on the 29th… so expect more ramblings on all of them very soon!

Little Sparkle-hamster is doing great too, 21 months old and enjoying life – in fact this little positioning of chosen bed and food bowl the past few days have been making me laugh that he has life made – doesn’t have to move far! Though actually he really does choose to, such a happy wee exerciser, especially for his age!

We have actually added a new addition to our pet count since I last wrote (and it’s not Pidge, though more on him in a minute as he is still going strong – against all odds!! – with the rehabilitation people who have him) – a new very handsome six-year-old Sarasa Comet goldfish, inherited from family and here with us to join our household now. ❤️ I had no idea there was such a lot to learn about goldfish, it’s been such a learning curve so far! But also no idea how quickly you could become attached to one, very fond of my swimming friend.. ❤️

(As is Rosie….!)

(If anyone is a fish expert let me know!.. as I am learning all I can about them and currently like a little chemistry student with my test strips navigating the world of nitrogen cycles before we transfer Fish to a new tank we’ve got for him..!)

Last but absolutely not least is the handsome Pidge, who has made a remarkable recovery and is still in the very capable hands of the pigeon rescue experts at the moment. They don’t have the capacity to keep him long term so we do think at some point he may come back to us again for a wee stint before finding where he’s best to spend his days! Part of me would love to keep him and offer him a base here but I’m really not sure we’re the best place and want him to have a happy life after all he’s come through. But wherever we end up finding for him, or what next twists and turns his wee journey takes, Pidge has had some story and we will have been so glad to be a part of it for as long or short as we are.

It’s a very eclectic mix of animals at the moment! Been taking me back to my days of rat cages stacked up and new and interesting characters coming in from rescues and teaching me lessons every day. The last two have just found us when we were least expecting them, and very glad to have them all as temporary or permanent additions to our home.

Saturday morning now as I’m finishing this off and and have enjoyed a wee bit time with my biggest boy and some whole-family biking fun before my back shift later. With the new working routine time making the most of all the time we get to have the four of us and a proper springy day this morning to enjoy it.

Hope you’re all doing well, have a lovely weekend.

Building an outdoor area for the cats

This week we have completed a project we’ve been deliberating over since we first decided to bring home our cats almost a year ago now, and built them a secure outdoor area in the garden they can access from the house. They are absolutely loving it and thought I’d do a wee post just with the progress of it in case it helps anyone else doing something similar!

We live in quite a rural setting but on a really busy road that we’d never be happy letting a cat free roam on, so when we’d first started looking for one to join our family, we’d been looking specifically for a rescue who had already been used to living indoors and who would also be happy living with our young family. This turned out to be a bit of an ask however, and after a couple of months we started looking at whether it might be possible to have a kitten introduced to an indoor-only life from the off (and then ended up with two, but that’s another story 😬).

Theo looking out the front window over the road

I wasn’t too sure at first, always having cats freely accessing the outdoors growing up, but we found some really good articles and forums online with a lot of people who had chosen for various safety reasons to keep cats indoors, in cat-proofed gardens or with enclosures, and we started to explore it. Interestingly, we found out, this is pretty much the norm in some countries, either to protect cats and or to protect birds and wildlife; so when we started reading further we found lots of options on ways to let them out a little without letting them on the road.

Ideally we would have loved to cat proof our entire back garden, but although it’s a good space in many ways, and already had fencing we could definitely have worked with (when the kittens were little enough it was secure without us trying due to the height of the fences); the different levels in the garden and various extension and shed roofs made it too big a challenge once climbing was mastered; so we decided to go with a smaller “catio” enclosure in space just at our back door that leant itself to door and window access.

The kittens playing in the garden at a few months, before they figured out the scaling the fences thing!

We looked at a few different options – buying some panels with cat-proof mesh (which we found was recommended to be 16g) to put together, buying the mesh and posts seperately and doing it ourselves, or buying a ready-built enclosure; and in the end settled on the Omlet Cat Balcony Enclosure which fitted the space we had almost perfectly, and which we’ve made some adjustments to to attach it to the house and let the cats access freely from a small window in the kitchen.

I was worried that a small space would be too little for our Rosie, who is a big adventurer, and had already been trying to make a break for an open door at any opportunity; and also that Theo, who likes human company and is quite the opposite in terms of adventuring, wouldn’t particularly like it at all; but a few days in we are amazed at how much they love it!

Our space (spikes are next door’s and not part of our cat proofing!!)

On Thursday, we began work (overseen by the cats of course!) and started to get the enclosure itself put up. It was relatively easy to build between two of us and we were pretty impressed with it. We do plan to move in the next few years and it will be ideal for shifting to a new place, not being too permanent, and if we have a bigger space in the future it can also be added to with extension panels to any size.

By Friday morning, it was up, decorated with help from the kids and standing with all panels on and door access only; and Rosie and Theo had their first morning’s exploring – which they really enjoyed. Theo took a wee while to settle, but Rosie just sat as if all her dreams had come true chirping to the birds and enjoying the fresh air!

Later in the day, my husband did his handyman bit and began the DIY modifications to secure it to the house wall and remove a panel so that they could get in and out through the window.

This was huge hit with both of them and a game-changer for Theo who instantly warmed to it much more when he could come and go as he pleased – they have spent the entire weekend going in and out like a pair of little yo-yos and just loving their freedom.

Today some final additions have been added – a shelf to make access easier as the window was a bit awkwardly high (not that it stopped them!) and a ramp to make getting down easier too.

The result seems to be two happy cats and we’re so pleased to have done it. I’ll keep my fingers crossed the novelty doesn’t wear off and they start protesting to get further, but at the moment just having that little bit of the outdoors and their choice of in or out is making them very happy!

Theo flits between being in with us and having an explore out there, and Rosie can be found sitting out for hours on end just watching the world go by, between the deepest sleeps she’s ever had inside! (She’s also not diving for the door anymore as she knows she’s got her own route out which is a big relief!)

So far our little corner of Scotland has given them a crash course in just about every type of weather, and they’ve enjoyed zooming about in the wind and shaking their wet fur on their way back in out of the rain. One thing they’ve not yet got to do is lie in the sun, but I’m sure they’ll enjoy it when spring does come!

I still don’t know where I would land on contained vs free-roaming for them long-term – if we lived somewhere that felt safe enough in the future (and when they’re less reckless teenagers and more sensible grown cats!) I’d maybe like to see them finding their own territory, but I’m kind of a convert now to the idea of knowing they’re definitely safe, even if they could have a bit of a bigger space, and I’m relieved that for now it’s working, so we’re sticking with this for the time being!

Hope you all have a great start to the week! X

The Pets ❤️ ~ Winter update

Just a wee round-up of how the animal members of the family have been doing this last little while… 🥰 Have been feeling very lucky to have our wee brood recently and to be seeing them doing so well. Life has been as busy as ever here, with the kids at all their various ages and stages and lots going on, but (even though it’s been so packed it doesn’t feel much like it!) I’ve actually got a bit of time off for a few weeks before I start two new jobs; and so I’ve had a real chance to focus on these wee furry (and feathered!) characters!

First the biggest and oldest of them all, my Charmer 🐴❤️, who is doing very well at the moment despite some highs and lows of temperatures and a few storms in the last few weeks. He had managed until early January to winter out in his field pretty much all the time, coming in around 8am for breakfast and a wee stint of hay in his stable and going back out about 11 or 12. It’s wonderful to see him spending lots of time in the field and being enthusiastic about it at that – it’s his natural lifestyle he’s always loved, it’s good for his movement for his arthritis and it means he’s eating more grass than hay which is easier on his teeth these days.

However, I always do him a wee weekly weigh-in with condition scoring and a weigh tape on a Monday, and I did notice he was starting to lose weight ever so slightly week on week. Totally normal for this time of year I know but I know from the years I’ve struggled with his keeping his weight up that once he loses it can be hard to get back on, so we’ve had a slight routine change and he’s now spending every second night in the stable. I know that’s a strange routine to some but it seems to work for Charmer – it gives him more time in, building himself up with hay, some nights away from the cold but still some that he gets to enjoy being out in the moonlight. So far it seems to be working. He seems happy enough, I don’t feel like too much field time has been taken away and we’ve nipped any weight loss in the bud.

Last weekend he actually moved stable, just within our barn when there was a wee reshuffle happening, to one with extra thick matting for those wee arthritic knees, and he seems very happy with his new surroundings. Next week we have the vet for an MOT, jags and teeth so will see how everything is, but I’m very happy with how the old boy’s doing. ❤️

To bridge the gap between barn and home, our wee companion who began in the barn and followed us home, Pidge, our little rescued pigeon who I wrote about last week (https://amischiefmanaged.wordpress.com/2022/02/04/the-adventures-of-pidge-❤%EF%B8%8F/). We are not quite sure what Pidge’s future holds. Since I last wrote, I had been very grateful to have found some help with a pigeon rescue team not far from us who were giving me some advice on housing, feeding etc, as this was all so new to me. I’d been sending photos and when I did at the weekend the wonderful pigeon rescuer I’d been talking to was able to see that Pidge was looking unwell, something I couldn’t as such a novice.

He offered to help and I took Pidge over that night, where it turned out that firstly, he is definitely a boy, and secondly, he was a very strange case as although he presented very healthily to look at, shiny and clean and broad, underneath he was very underweight. Since the weekend, he has been in their care and he remains a mystery. There seems no reason for his illness as he’d been eating and drinking and appears generally bright but doesn’t seem to be putting on weight. I’m not sure what the future holds for him, and I think it’s probably most likely poor Pidge just reached us at the end of his life, but he’s got the best chance where he is just now, so we shall see.

The good thing is he seems to have no injury preventing him from flying so if he did manage to get back up to health the hope would be we could bring him back here and release him, but at the moment I think that’s a long shot, although you never can tell with these amazing animals, and the people looking after him at the moment for us are certainly doing all they can.

In the house, the cats and little Sparkle the hamster are doing well too.

Our big project of the week has been getting and building Rosie and Theo’s “catio” , their wee outside space out the back of the house. They are indoor cats primarily as we live in a small village but unfortunately right on an A road that gets very busy and we wouldn’t have them out there, but we have been so excited about giving them a space to come and go as they please and enjoy the outdoors. I’ll do another post on that when it’s complete and they’re in it (should get their first morning in today!) as it’s something we’ve wanted to do for ages and borrowed ideas from lots of other people online to choose what route to go down. For the moment however, certainly on these stormy nights, I would say both cats have been pretty happy with the indoors ❤️

Rosie relaxing
Theo ❤️

The project getting underway….

And last but never ever least, little Sparkle ❤️ For Sparkle, a part Winter White hamster, this is an interesting time of year as his coat lightens and much whiter.

He is around 19 months old now and still very active and a lovely wee character, we’re very lucky to have him.

It’s been lovely to have a bit of extra time to spend on the wee troops, and will post again soon with the kittens’ outdoor adventures and the progress of wee Pidge.

Hope you’ve all had a good week and have a lovely weekend. X

The Adventures of Pidge ❤️

This week we unexpectedly added a new “pet” to our little family here, though we don’t quite know how long she’ll stay, and we are very much winging it!

Last weekend brought some very stormy weather here, as we’ve been used to every few weeks over the winter – and this time we weren’t brought some slates from next door’s roof or a flyaway trampoline, but instead found this lovely little lady (best guess female, she may yet be re-gendered!), a racing pigeon, in Charmer’s barn, sheltering and not keen to fly off.

We weren’t quite sure what to do at first, so she spent the first night in the barn in a little makeshift corner some of the girls set up for her. We were all delighted she was still there in the morning, so having done a bit of reading the night before we agreed I would take her for some food and shelter and read her ring numbers to find her owner. She was such a good wee soul travelling and absolutely fell on the food and water I gave her in her little makeshift cage at home, so really must have been starving. We’d discovered it was very common for racing or homing pigeons to become exhausted in high winds and need food and shelter to get back to full health. She was obviously used to being handled and I managed to read her ring number easily and trace her owner within a few minutes with the Scottish Homing Union which was absolutely amazing, so I thought we would just be feeding and sheltering her for the day until they could come to collect.

However, our wee Pidge (as we’re now calling her! 😬) had an interesting story, as she’d been lost from the owner we traced since 2016 where she’d not returned from one of her first flights as a youngster, and where she’d been since then is a mystery! Her registered owner was very nice, and was willing to come and collect her, but some of the other girls at the farm had read that often older pigeons don’t have a place in a racing loft any longer when past the age for flying and when I checked with him if he would be able to welcome her back it did seem that at six years old, and away from his loft so long it wasn’t a home for her, it really wasn’t an ideal place for her to go back to.

She seems in such good health, and I could already see was such a great wee character and so tame, that I wanted to give her every chance to recuperate and live a full life… and so we agreed with her owner that we would keep her here, make sure she got her rest and recovery and take it from there. He believes she must have been with another loft nearby us all this time (though not registered so no way of knowing), which makes sense with her tameness, and there is a chance she’ll home back to there when built up enough to make the flight, but he also advised she was likely to stick around with us if she knew where to find food and water.

And so began a week of learning about these beautiful and interesting birds and finding our feet with how best to look after a pigeon!

For the first day or two we kept her in our old rat cage – the closest to a pigeon loft we could manage at short notice – but as we’re really lucky to have a very sheltered little area by our back door, the last couple of days we’ve released her by day and shut her away again at night, a routine she’s settled into beautifully. She is wandering around happily exploring her food and water and finding corners she likes to settle in but as yet no attempts at flying.

The general consensus from those that know a lot more than me still seems to be that she’s just tired and recovering. She’s bright eyed and doesn’t show any signs of pain or distress, but we do have an appointment with an avian vet booked for Wednesday if she’s not up and flying by then to check if there’s anything underlying. We really have no idea how this will pan out – if she takes off for her home then we’d have to trust she’ll make it and that’s a happy ending for her. If she turns out to be injured we can make the best decision for her at the vets, and if she sticks around – well we’ll just have to play it by ear. We know she’ll need a mate so we’ll either have to find someone with a small loft who could take her, or maybe instead of being “that time we adopted a pigeon for a couple of weeks” it’ll be “how we got into our lifelong hobby of pigeon-fancying”!!

For the time being, I am loving learning what I can, getting to know her and seeing her enjoy her food and her little space. She’s a hit with the whole family, the girls loving measuring out her seeds, visiting her in the mornings and tucking her away at night.

I’m never happier than when I’ve got a rescue animal project on the go – our pets have pretty much always been rescues (except the cats who were just farm kittens) but our Sparkle hamster and our last hamster Sandy were such well adjusted wee souls when they came to us from the hamster rescue near us that they adapted so well and it’s been years since I really had to put the work in! I’d forgotten how passionate I get about actually having to nurse and coax a wee one, it takes me right back to those wonderful days when I first started this blog when our house was full of cages and I had pet rats at various stages of warming to us and recovering from their past lives all the time, and I’m just never happier than when seeing those little faces get more and more relaxed and settle to home and routine.

We don’t know what the future holds for wee Pidge – part of me hopes she takes happily to the skies, part of me doubts she’ll make it past her vet appointment if she’s bravely hiding a wee injury, but whatever happens we’ve given her a chance and for now we are delighted to welcome her to the family. ❤️

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