The Most Wonderful Time of the Year – In Edinburgh

Christmas

Christmas

Christmas in the City

Here’s a quick list of some family events happening in and around Edinburgh at Christmas, these are all things that I’ve been recommended recently by pals, however, I obviously haven’t had the chance to try them all out – so please use your discretion!

  • Christmas Fairy Trail @ Archerfield Walled Garden, ran by Rogue Village – we were really fortunate to be invited along to this and it was stunning! We would definitely pay to go again. Beautiful immersive experience for adults and kids alike (*gifted experience)
  • Project Elf @ Fort Kinnaird – elves are roaming Fort Kinnaird during the weekends of December, why not stop by and get an ‘Elfie Selfie’? They are also encouraging shoppers to give back to those in need and have partnered with Forth 1 Mission Christmas Appeal. There are a number of donation points around the centre where visitors can leave a small gift for charity! We’re nipping over the weekend before Christmas to make a donation.
  • Festive Forest @ Beecraigs – billed as being a ‘mesmerising secret forest’ light show with a Santa’s Grotto amongst other things, we have booked (and paid) to go to this and I really hope it’s as good as it looks!
  • Breakfast with Santa @ Conifox – on from 21st-24th December. I’ve not been, but I’ve heard that their Superhero Breakfasts are good, so I think this would be too!
  • Christmas at the Botanics @ Edinburgh Botanic Gardens – this is the events third year and it’s running till 29th December. This has been highly recommended by quite a few pals… maybe I’ll finally make it next year!
  • Giant Lanterns @ Edinburgh Zoo – This year the theme is Lost World. We went two years ago with Oscar who was 2 and a half and it was our last day out as a family (on Hogmanay!) before Scout arrived a week and a half later. We really enjoyed it, and I remember Oscar loved it – I’d defo go back.
  • Edinburgh’s Christmas Markets @ Edinburgh City Centre – Food, drink, rides for all ages and a Santa’s Grotto! Great for a day out with or without kids, a bit pricey, but markets always are, aren’t they?! Remember, you get 10% off ride tickets with an EH postcode (we weren’t asked for proof).
  • Sleighbell Sundays @ Brewhemia – for Sundays in December, Brewhemia in town are putting on a christmas experience for the whole family where you can meet Santa and Mrs Claus, hang out in their Grotto and even watch a festive film all alongside a Sunday Roast dinner… sounds pretty decent!
  • Spectacle of Light @ Dalkeith Country Park – on from 7th December till the 5th January where you can experience Fort Douglas by night and see the magical Sky Maze all lit up! I very nearly booked this… However, we used to live close to DCP and spent a lot of time there, so went with Beecraigs for a change. I’ve seen a few people go to this though, and it looks great, especially for slightly older kids (and by that, I mean 4+… I always find Scout is a bit too young to enjoy  Fort Douglas to it’s full potential!)
  • Christmas Adventures @ Callendar House, Falkirk – Now, this is supposed to be a VERY good Santa… I’ve booked and paid for tickets to this so I hope it lives up to the hype. Fairly reasonable at £7.50pp – I hope the gift for the kids is good, I’ll report back!
  • Porter & Bramble Bauble Workshop @ Skapa Studio, Falkirk – Go along and create a custome bauble with your little one! I fear these may now be done for the year and I’m gutted I never made it to one as I know Oscar would have LOVED it! Keep your eyes peeled for next year! On a side note: they do loads of cool workshops all year round!

If you were looking to go along to something, I hope this is helpful, and if you have any suggestions or recommendations, please let me know!

Christmas Fairy Trail @ Archerfield

BUT – Most importantly, these are just ideas. Events like these are aplenty, but remember, they are not essential. They don’t come cheap and no one can do everything, and no one should feel guilty if they don’t have the time, money or inclination. Instead, for FREE, why not try –

  • Walking around the town or your neighbourhood and looking at Christmas lights!
  • Making a few decorations for the tree (that’s our plan for tomorrow!) – Hobbycraft are great for really cheap plain paper mache and even ceramic decs to decorate – with us, it’s mostly with purple glitter!
  • Try making some homemade christmas paper using some kraft paper (I got mine in Wilko for £1) and stamps and/or paint… or ya know, glitter again, if you’re brave.
  • Toasting some marshmallows at home and having a movie night – current fave in our house is Arthur Christmas (it’s on Netflix just now)
  • Make some Christmas cookies, or maybe even a gingerbread house – this is something we’ve never got round to… maybe this year?!
  • Or, why not try putting together a food parcel for the local food bank. Oscar’s old childminder did this a few years ago and he had to take an item every day that he was with her and then just before Christmas all the kids took it down to the collection centre and handed it in. Or maybe donate a few small gifts, picked by the kids to the collection points at Fort Kinnaird mentioned above!

Whatever you get up to this Christmas, have a good one and spend it with the people that matter most!

Kept this short and sweet, hope it’s not too obvious that I threw it together while Scout had been napping today – OVER & OUT!

Lou x

Christmas

An anniversary with a difference

Yesterday was my 9-year-cancer-versary.

The irony is not lost on me that my diagnosis came on the 13th… unlucky for some right? But at the time I remember it being something of a relief after being in hospital for a day and night with only the clothes I was stood in, a phone with no battery and no idea what was going on before being told at about 1 in the morning that “it’s serious, it could be something like leukaemia, lymphoma or HIV” by a less than helpful doctor with a below par bedside manner.

9 years isn’t exactly a major mile stone is it? But it feels it as at the time I had just started my fourth and final honours year at uni and my all important and exciting 21st birthday was looming, and this time, it’s my 30th birthday approaching.

Looking back now, I realise a lot of my twenties were tainted and affected by this, probably more than I realised. A time when I shouldn’t have had a care or worry, I had far too many. I’ve always said that having cancer in many ways made me better, stronger. To borrow a phrase from my dear friend Corrie (who also overcame it recently – I know, we’re a rather unfortunate bunch) I’m a “thriver, not a survivor”… but still. It left some ugly scars. Maybe some that I didn’t even recognise till years later. Until now when I look back at behaviours (some destructive) and the shit show of emotions that I had no idea what to do with. Maybe this clarity comes with time and emotional maturity?

At times I have felt like I was robbed. I no longer looked the same, I was devastated. I still joke now that I peaked at 20. I joke, but it’s also a bit of a kick in the gut. Vain? Yeah, perhaps… But it felt important. And so, a lot of my 20’s has been spent readjusting to a new me. Shaped first with cancer and chemotherapy and central lines and steroids and immunotherapy then secondly with pregnancy and babies. The former can feel unfair, But at least the latter is easier to reconcile in my head.

Robbed of time – Long months spent in hospital full time (7 in total) when my friends were able to carry of with their studies and travels and life. But then also diving head first back into ‘normality’ (or at least some semblance of a new normal) once i was released following cure. Real life is tougher than it seemed. All the emotions. All the fear and trauma of what had gone but also what might come back. None of which were dealt with, just packed away in a little overflowing box. Only now looking back, I realise I struggled. The ‘semi-woke’, or maybe just maturer, person in me today recognises that I could probably have benefitted from some help back then and there would have been no shame in that. But ‘throwing myself back in and hoping for the best’ seemed like the best way to cope at 21.

Time has helped. Maturity, and emotional maturity, has helped. A sense of new perspective has helped. I no longer have the same dread looming over my life. For a long time, I had a (somewhat secret) fear of relapsing, a fear of something else cropping up, because of course the cruel irony is that cancer treatment often causes… well, more cancer (that’s great isn’t it?). Sleepless nights spent dangerously scrolling the internet looking at survival rates beyond 1 year, beyond 5 years, the fact that the little cocktail of chemo drugs while saving your life can screw your heart up and shave some years off your old age (if you make it that far in the first place… ) of course, this was mostly kept to myself though because no one likes a hypochondriac Debbie Downer, do they? Over time I have become more able and equipped to rationalise these feelings to find ways of dealing with them and in the past few years, find ways to stop myself projecting them onto my children. AML is caused by a chromosomal mutation, but it’s not genetic. But often, that doesn’t stem the flow of worry after worry… but I’m getting there! Nowadays, I’m less likely to google every damn symptom… When I get a cold. I’m not constantly poised, ready for my body to betray me. I’ve found a sense of peace, which was at first, in the years following treatment, forced, but now just natural.

Most scars have healed. I’m able to look at cancer again. I didn’t want to for a very long time. I can look at other peoples stories, struggles, tragedy and scars now. That’s new. For a very long time, it was still too close and I needed to protect myself. But maybe that was healthy or just necessary.

Cancer has not defined me, but it has changed me in lots of small ways, and I can still see some of those are for the better.

A quick google (lol, as if I actually had to google… it’s not like I’ve not googled it approx 7800 times over the past nine years) tells me the AML survival rate post 5 years averages out at about 20% well, 👋🏽, here I am… and you know what? Some days, just some, cancer doesn’t even enter my head at all anymore (If you’re in the throws of something similar now you might not believe it to be possible. I didn’t)

And so, I’ll be moving into my 3rd decade (and tenth year post cancer diagnosis) feeling like I’ve reclaimed myself. I’ve let go of the resentment I’ve felt for my body and my lost time. Cancer will always be part of me, and the memories will always be there alongside the knowledge that treatment can ultimately be “life limiting”, but I’m not as scared.

So I suppose, in some ways, this does feel like a milestone. Most of all, I’m the happiest I’ve ever been… and man, I’m beyond grateful for life. ✌🏼

Well done making it this far, I don’t half harp on…

Lou x

Scallops for Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner

Scout's Room Makeover

Scout's Room Makeover

Me Again!

Hi, Hello! Been a while since I wrote anything, not really been feelin’ it, but that’s a story for another day. Anyway, lots of people (really, I’m not just saying this) have been asking me about Scout’s room as we finally got round to giving it a lick of paint… only took me 11 months since we moved in… whoops.

As you may have seen, I created a scalloped half wall round her room and I ended up with an influx of messages asking how I did it. And the truth is, it wasn’t that difficult, but I also didn’t have the foresight to document how I did it – rookie mistake. So instead, here are some photos and a little written guide as to how I went about it. I’m not that artistic, so believe me when I say – it’s doable for a novice… and really striking.

For the colour, we chose ‘Plaster V’ by Paint + Paper library and had it mixed by Decorating Centre Online (who were SO helpful!), it’s not dissimilar to Farrow & Ball ‘Sulking Room Pink’ but it also comes in lighter shades. We loved it because it’s quite neutral and not overly “girly” so it’ll grow with her and can be complemented by loads of different colours. I used this little Raduga Grez piece as loose colour inspo (on a side note, Bon Tot now stock these!)

Scout's Room Makeover

How to Scallop

So, I was considering doing scallops for a few months and thought of a few ways to do it. my initial plan was to draw a line around the whole room as a baseline for the scallops, but to be honest… I couldn’t really be bothered. What I did instead was use a piece of string.

I wanted the scallops to be high enough to be viewed over the top of Scout’s cot and chest of drawers and higher than the window sill so I played about with different heights and finally settled on the scallop baseline being 90cm from the skirting board… it was time to start –

  1. First, I marked 90cm from skirting in each corner of the room. Scout’s bedroom isn’t a rectangle and has an angled wall where the door is so I had a few extra corners to do. I then used small pins and ran a length of string round the room pinned at every corner on the 90cm mark this gave me the baseline round the entire room without having to worry about drawing it or using rules or spirit levels etc. I reckon it made it a lot easier and quicker!
  2. I used a really technical piece of equipment to draw my scallops… an IKEA pasta bowl. I played around with a few pieces of crockery before I settles on this one. Side plate was too small… dinner plate too big… pasta bowl was Goldilocks! I then used a Sharpie to mark the diametre points on the edge (I told you this was technical…)
  3. I then moved along the wall placing the marked points on the bowl edge on the string and drew round them using a pencil.
  4. I also drew round the bowl and cut it out on a piece of card to form a template that I could then bend into the corners of the room so that the scallops continue without any breaks… and well, that was it really! it was all marked out and ready to go.

Scout's Room Makeover

The next week my paint arrived and I had a whole child-free day (and night!!!) to get it painted. I bought a round furniture bruch on a bit of a whim in Wilko’s and it turned out to be the best! I cut in all the scallops free hand, and as long as you really load the brush, remove any excess and paint with confidence it’s really easy. As I said, I’m not artistic at all, and I was concerned about getting clean lines, but it was easier than anticipated. the first coat took me around 4 hours to cut in and then fill with a mini roller, not a piece of frog tape in sight! the second coat was around 2 and a half hours as it doesn’t need to be so precise on the cutting in.

The Details

I was really impressed with the finished product, even if I do say so myself! It’s a really effective way to jazz up a room and add colour. Plus, the fact that it’s a half wall means you don’t have to faff about with ladders which made a huge difference.

Here are a few more pics, and I’ve added some details of where bits and bobs are from too!

Scout's Room MakeoverCerise print: Wolfnoodle, Rainbow print: Wonder + Rah, Canopy: Amazon, Nightlight: Beaba (gifted), Light shade: Iconic Lights

Scout's Room Makeover

Hanger: Red Hand Gang, Bookshelf: IKEA, Unicorn Garland: Meri Merin(I think?), Wooden Rainbow: Raduga Grez

Scout's Room Makeover

Pram: Olli Ella, Clothes Rail: Tutti Bambini, Cot sheet: That Darling Brand, Cot: Mama’s and Papa’s, Pom Pom hanging: Love Indy

Scout's Room Makeover

Bunting: Bokuno shop, Cloud Mobile: Mama Tot (gifted)

Scout's Room Makeover Scout's Room Makeover Scout's Room Makeover

Scout's Room Makeover

Staying Home

Staying Home

Staying Home

A New Normal

It’s been over a month since I was supposed to return to work. I wrote a wee post back in December after I decided to hand my notice in during my last month of maternity leave and enter into my new role of the ‘stay at home mum’… a title that perhaps I’m still struggling with?!

Anyway, my decision to take a break from work was based on various factors from financial to logistical and of course, I was excited to be able to be home and spend more time with the kids, but it’s not been without it’s challenges. A bit of a mental juggling act of me trying to get my head round the “new norm” and find my place.

Now, let me just say first off – being at home is easier. There, I said it. Logistically it’s not the headache that getting to work and arranging childcare around a shift worker and a 9-5er was. I can arrange our days to suit us so there is a LOT more freedom which is brilliant! When I was working, even though I was only part-time (4 days), I was often stretched. Between the stresses and strains of my job while also juggling home life. I struggled when I first returned to work after having Oscar – I even wrote about it. Being home has lightened the mental load, there is no doubt about that and I feel incredibly fortunate that I was able to have that choice especially at a time when I was facing dwindling job satisfaction.

Staying Home

The Challenge

However, being at home has still had its challenges for me. Some have been par for the course, but others unexpected.

Let’s be honest – it can be boring… I mean, I’m sorry, but it is. It can be mundane and repetitive and some days feel like a cycle of meal, clean up, nap time, drawing, another meal, more clearing up, maybe another nap, then, oh look… it’s time for yet another meal and I have to clear up all over again and finally – bedtime (except, bedtime for Scout means very little as she likes to wake every hour anyway!). In that respect some days I would prefer to be at work and thinking about a project or event other than play-doh and being able to split the home ‘burden’. I sometimes worry that this sense of monotony means I am not able to as good a mum as I so desperately want to be and that maybe I don’t have enough to give. Whereas, if my time with them was more limited I’d “make more of it” but equally, I suppose I can see that really I’m the only one that can make sure I do my best.

I used to get annoyed when people suggested work was a “break” and I standby that because to me a break is doing something I want to do, whether it’s going for lunch with pals or shopping etc, whereas work was work and taxing in its own right. However, now I concede that I can maybe understand what people were implying as there are aspects I miss such as eating in peace and the social aspect. Work also provides a space that you are you and the work you undertake has a defined value and of course… you get paid.

This idea of “value” is one that I think I may struggle with at home for some time. At the moment I don’t quite feel that I’ve settled into a role with no monetary value attached and it feels somewhat alien, especially as I have worked pretty much constantly since the age of around 13. What is the value of what I am doing at home? Is it valued and respected? Does it have a positive impact? These are all somewhat unanswered questions at the moment. But I am sure time will be the key to unlocking the answers.

Staying Home

Stay At Home Feminist?

I was proud to be a working mum and I think after a period of adjustment, I was doing ok at it. I enjoyed having that aspect of my life away from “mum-life” and was proud of my dual-roles. Keeping my head above water most of the time. I was (and am still) resolute in the belief that creating a balance was good for us all as a family.

And so now when people ask me how I’m finding it “being home” I struggle to find an answer. I feel embarrassed.

When I published my blog post about handing in my notice this was something that came up over and over again. I had an influx of messages from people saying that they were thinking of doing the same and some saying that they were finding it hard to tell people, worried about what they might think! They felt maybe a wee hint of uneasiness or that they were being judged for taking the step and I can totally relate to it.

To me, it feels a little anti-feminist.

Now, it’s not. I have never thought this about any other Mother (or Father) that’s decided to take a break and stay home to raise their children, so why do I think this about myself? But I can’t help but feel that niggle. Will people think badly of me, are they judging me, do they think I’m lazy, but ya know what? That’s my issue really, isn’t it?! We’re always just hardest on ourselves.

Ultimately, individuals make a decision that’s right for them and their family based on their circumstances and that should be applauded. I can’t say I’m particularly bothered about what people think of me in other aspects of life – so why should this be any different?

I really want to just embrace it. I am confident that I have made the right decision and despite the challenges, it’s wonderful to be at home and have the freedom to do whatever we fancy – I’m especially excited about the summer coming and also that we can cram in loads of activities before Oscar starts school next year. I think the more I settle into this “new role” the more comfortable I’ll be in it and I wholeheartedly admire anyone that is 100% confident from the get go, I’m sure I’ll get there, it’ll just take time.

Whatever we decide as mothers, we should just own it. Whether that’s working full time, part-time, working nights, working weekends, deciding to stay home, or wanting to get back to work or study- just do you. But I suppose I wanted to write this for those people out there that might feel those little niggles of doubt that I have. You’re not alone, but I think we’ll be ok. 👌🏽

Lou x

A Year of Change // A Year of Adjustment

2018 – Year of Change

Here we are, and it’s nearly Christmas. I remember standing by our Christmas tree last year with my baby bump and saying to Robin “I cannot believe this time next year we’ll have a nearly one year old next to our tree” – and now it’s here and we have Scout and we couldn’t even have imagined last year who she would be and yet, I barely remember our lives without her!

It’s been such a huge year for us – Scout arrived in January, we finally moved into our new home after the most stressful selling & buying process, Oscar turned 3 in August and started at his new nursery, we got engaged in October and now we’re preparing to host our first proper family Christmas in our home as a family of four. At times it’s felt chaotic and completely overwhelming, but it’s also been one of the best and happiest yet.

This Christmas also marks the last few weeks of my maternity leave. When we had Oscar I decided to go back to work when he was 9 months old, but I did find it hard, especially at first and I always said that if we had another, I would like to take a full year. But man, that year goes fast and it’s been a lot more tiring with a toddler than that relaxed pace of life with your first born. I finished up work on 23rd December 2017 to start back at work on 3rd January 2019… Except, I’m not. I’ve decided not to return to work and I have instead handed in my notice.

Not returning to my job wasn’t ever my plan. Maybe I’ve just been burying my head in the sand a bit, but it’s only been the last few weeks that we’ve really sat down and talked it through so it all still feels a bit scary and a mixed bag of emotions. Worries about independence but also acknowledgment that financially, it wasn’t going to work. Wondering how easy it will be to get back into the working world a few years down the line weighed up against the quality time I’ll get to spend with the kids… but also the genuine fear that I’ll not be cut out for it.

Looking back to last time, I felt genuinely lucky to be able to return to work after my maternity leave with Oscar – for a lot of people, the financial implications of full time childcare is too much to justify, but we were in a really good position with Robin’s shift work to save money on childcare. This change will obviously mean me spending more time at home and although I feel incredibly lucky to have that opportunity, it’s still a little daunting… Of course, I adore spending time with my kids, however I don’t always love it 24 hours a day, 7 days a week – it can be tiring, overwhelming, demanding, repetitive and at time, just a bit boring. I think it’s ok to admit that, I reckon I can’t be the only one that feels this!?

When I returned to work after having Oscar, a huge bug bear of mine was people saying that work was a “break”. Now, I get where they were coming from but ultimately the pressures of work were also great and during that time away I didn’t relinquish my parental responsibility – my idea of a “break” is going out with the girls for dinner, not bashing out spreadsheets, but yeah, the relative peace and quiet and different company was a welcomed relief – what if I struggle without that now?

2019 – Year of Adjustment

I’ve been thinking about wee things I can do to ease the adjustment. I’m going to use the time to really think about what I want to do in the future. I mean, this isn’t retirement, is it? So I need to to think about what I’m wanting to do when I do return to work whether it be to develop my skills and remain in my current industry, go back to uni (that’s a scary thought) or something different altogether. Right now, I have no idea, but that’s ok. I’ve got time.

I’m going to take this opportunity to work on something for me – whether that be ploughing some more time into photography as a hobby or just dedicating some more hours to this little corner of the internet – my blog. I always think it’s important to have something to call your own and an interest outside the daily routine.

And I know this one might sound a bit silly, but I want to put time into developing some more friendships! It’s easy as an adult to sort of step back from that because you have your group of friends… I know I do, and they’re wonderful. I genuinely believe the older you get the harder it is to make new pals! But I have so many wonderful “internet friends” – now some of them I might never meet, but there’s a fair few that live close by – so I mean, what’s my excuse?! So ya know, if you live in a 40 mile radius of me – watch out…

All in all, 2018 has been a year of huge change but without a doubt, one of the best years yet and maybe the next will be the year of massive adjustment! It’s a bit early for resolutions, but I’m coming for ya 2019.

Lou x