Saturday, 21 April 2018

Peacocks on the Pentlands

The weather has been glorious the last few days, so I had to go out this weekend and do something fun and a bit different for Missy. A friend of mine had suggested doing the Pentlands a few times, the first attempt was snowed off, the second I called off owing to having some teeth pulled (orthodontic work, every tooth pulled has been good and healthy, if a bit squashed) so this was actually the third time we've scheduled this and I think possibly half of Edinburgh too!

We met at the Flotterstone Information Centre and, at 10 am the car park was full, but thankfully I got a wee space in the small overflow section. My friend has walked the first reservoir a thousand times, but has never actually climbed them, despite living only five minutes away. We decided to do both the reservoirs and have a bumble about the bottom of the hills, but not actually walk them this time (we've got an action plan picked for next time!) owing to the fact its lambing season and, whilst Missy has no real inclination to sheep and would be on a lead, I didn't fancy the risk of upsetting a farmer with my big scary flobble dog.

I feel that comment needs explaining. Owing to her colouring, people at a distance (and sometimes rather close up too) think she's a rottweiler and her habit of running and showing of her sparkling pearly white teeth can give people a fright. Hence her pink collar. And the pink raincoats. And the little red parka jacket. And her cupcake one....
I do my best, but At 20 kg of pretty much just muscle, she's a sight to behold when running full pelt towards you, so I concede to the fact that people automatically see a big scary dog.

Anyway. It was a beautiful day for it. There were people fishing in boats, anglers out on the shore, dog walkers, joggers, cyclists and plenty of walkers. We could hear shooting at the MOD base there were running an exercise, but loud bangs don't bother Missy, so we spent a good 4 hours enjoying a nice walk and exploring a bit.

There was plenty of wildlife. As the title suggests, in addition to the sheep and local birds, we saw a peacock. Just strutting about like it owned the place! I need to stress that the Pentlands is fairly remote, and peacocks don't fly so well, so I have no idea how it got there or what it was doing, but it was certainly a highlight. Missy will flush birds but wont actually hunt them, and she was certainly curious and bemused in equal measure by the electric blue monstrosity strutting about. I feel a need to confess that, as it was on a wall far too tall for her to jump, I wasn't worried about the bird, however, I did not expect it to actually fly down right in front of her. Needless to say, she instantly went to flush it and the peacock very quickly went back on the wall, feathers ruffled but none harmed! My poor heart though, after Missy being so utterly well behaved I'd have died if she'd caught the thing - I'm too used to bunnies and squirrels that do their utmost best to keep out of the way of anything of the canine persuasion!

After the peacock we saw some toads which rounded off the end of a really nice day and we made a slow trundle to the car. By this point there were cars everywhere, both carparks full, the nearby pubs was full and people were parking on the street and verge, which really added to the impression of how busy it was. Still, it was really nice seeing people out and about enjoying the nice weather, and Missy got to bounce with lots of dogs and is now snoring away on the sofa. 

A very good day!

Sunday, 15 April 2018

Victorias Baby

I am referring to, of course, Victoria the female polar bear in the Highland Wildlife Park, and her cub who is being very well advertised as the UKs first cub in 25 years. With a friend of mine recently moving up to the Inverness area, two birds were killed with one stone as another friend of mine and I visited and we three went to try our luck seeing the baby.

With the drive up being horrendous fog, we weren't hopeful, but Saturday cleared for us and turned into an absolutely beautiful day. I don't want to be a jinx again, so I'll just say that it felt like a season we all sorely want had arrived! 
We arrived fifteen minutes before the park opened and were shocked to be in a quickly building queue. Fortunately we had prepurchased the tickets and got in no problem - apparently last week the park filled and they had to turn people away.

Weirdly enough, despite the fact that by lunchtime all the car parks were full, we only ever felt like it was busy at the talks and at the female bear. Of course that was one of our first ports of calls (after the red panda) and we were fortunate to see mother and baby straight away. I got some photos, but with them being right at the back of the enclosure they weren't great. I was super pleased just to have seen them and we continued on with our day.

The snow monkeys put on a terrific show for their feed and then it was the big cats and the wolves. It was one of those rare days at these kind of parks where we saw everything. And even managed to get good photos of them all.

After lunch we went back to see Victoria and her cub and we were treated to the cub (it's not known yet if it's he or she) having a wee swim before playing with mum in the long grass. I got some photos I was pleased with and then we just spent  about half an hour watching them and chatting to the keepers who were doubling up as crowd control.

A very successful trip. Although I was pleased to hear that, once they know if it's a boy or girl, the cubs name will not go out to the public to pick (although they may allow the public to vote from a shortlist) - they don't want Furry McFurface the polar bear!

(Edit: Its a boy!)

And I can't forget my own Missy McMischief. After the drive home today, I was very pleased to be welcomed with a big cuddle. I'm always worried she'll take a huff with me when I'm away. So after cuddles we both had a well deserved walk in the sunshine.

Sunday, 8 April 2018

Sunday Snoozing

Not a lot to say this week, although it certainly feels like its been very busy! I think Missy is longing for the nice weather - she seems a little put out and generally wanting cuddles with us on the sofa. Her appetite is fine and she's in good health, so my only conclusion is that she's fed up with one day being warm enough walk without hat and gloves, then the next its more a swim and then the next:

My first site visit. Needless to say we ended up aborting early, even in our radioactive neon bright day glow high visibility coats its was getting a struggle to see each other through the sleet. Still, a day out the office is nothing to sniff at, and an early finish just means more cuddles for Missy. Even though we are both sat on the sofa enjoying the late evening sunshine coming through the window, I don't think either of us is ready to quite believe that it may be spring.

Missy scoping out future projects
Its been a good week for crafts, but I cant share any of them yet. I've just completed the nephews birthday present, so will get some good photos and store them to one side until after the big day - his birthday isn't until late May. Other commitments mean I wont be able to make it, so I decided to get it made early and managed to blitz through it much faster than expected!

Next weekend I'm up visiting a friend up north and hopefully we'll get to see the new baby polar bear. If I get any good photos I'll share them! Until then!

Monday, 2 April 2018

Post Easter Update

This year, Easter had proven to me that really, it's being with family that counts. My sister came up for Easter celebrations now that Inkling, the youngest, is sleeping through the night and a longer drive seemed more plausible. We've had a terrific long weekend all together; trampolining, spooky dog walks, baking and just enjoying one another's company. Felix is positive that the hubby is a real wizard, so we had magic with lunch and a bedtime magic quest where she had to save the Princess after completing three trials. I honestly have no idea how to best this visit - I had thought the otter cuddle party impossible to beat, but Felix really seemed to have a wonderful time and was loathe to go home.

Easter itself was full of high points - we had dippy eggs for breakfast (an absolute must in my household) followed by a battle of bubbles in the garden. We woke up to a white Easter, but it quickly warmed up enough to allow everyone to get out and play with bubbles. No one is too old for bubbles, and I have evidence of both my sister and brother in law delighting in them - one day when her kids think she's old and boring, I can prove otherwise!
And then it was off to 'grannies' for the bonnet competition.

I knew Missy was never going to win the bonnet contest (although look at her in those snow drops, is that not the perfect summary of Spring?), but the competition was fierce this year! As a quick update, my family have recently started the tradition of having an Easter bonnet competition after Missy inadvertently gatecrashed and then totally owned a neighbourhood one of my older niece and nephew. Last year, I came in at a dead last having continued in the traditional vein of flowers for bonnets and...well, artistic taste. So this year I upped my game with the multicoloured stove pipe monstrosity on the far left, top picture below and still failed to rank!
Nevermind! Back to the drawing board...

I can finally share now the gifts I made for my sister for Easter! My nephew is having a hungry caterpillar theme for the big day of his first birthday and I wanted him to be suitably attired (with a matching hairband for his sister!). I've felt bad for a while now that I haven't sewn more for my nephew, but truly, boys clothes just aren't as cute! I'm hoping to remedy that, so suggestions are welcome!

I also made some cat coasters for my sister as I had been asked not to do eggs owing to the millions they knew they would end up with by the end of the day. Not sure if she recognised the fabric, but they are scraps I have hoarded since making my neices baby quilt nearly five years ago (and yes, I have a problem, I'm trying to remedy it!)

Well, that summarises this weekend, far too much to tell. Missy is completely exhausted, she has been absolutely terrific with the kids about but her need to keep up with all the going ons has meant that she's not napped all weekend. We are fairly certain she has been training Inkling. My nephew has suddenly developed a hard stare when there's food about that he wants but isn't allowed, and it's almost as intense as Missys unflinching gaze! My nephew has been rewarding her for the advice, he seems to be deliberately dropping food for her.
The start of a beautiful friendship, I think!

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Isle of Dogs

The sun is out and spring feels like it's here - the washing is out drying, squirrels are roaming in abundance and it's a pleasure to be out walking. Snowdrops are peeping through the ground once more and the crocus flowers are even poking their heads out for all to see. Even the threat of Beast from the East: Part 3 seems ridiculous and a long way off...

So...naturally the highlight of the weekend was being sat in the dark! The Cameo Cinema chain decided to run a dog friendly preview screening of Wes Andersons new film, Isle of Dogs, and naturally we had to go along with Missy. It was incredibly well organised. We arrived for 11am and were handed a fleece to put over the chair so that Missy could sit between us for a cuddle whilst we all watched the film. There were water bowls all along one wall and the lights were kept on (very dim of course, but it wasn't total darkness) and I'm fairly certain that the soundtrack was a little muted.  

All of the dogs (and there was plenty of dogs!) were incredibly well behaved and, apart from the odd woof or bark, didn't disturb anyone at all. It was really nice to be with so many like minded people and to chat away before and after the film - the unanimous agreement was that dog friendly screenings should just be a thing, its perfect for those wanting to catch a movie but feeling guilty about leaving the pooch alone yet again during the week.

The film itself was brilliant. I preferred it  to Fantastic Mr Fox, which was the last Wes Anderson film I've seen and, although the animation etc was very similar, I liked that this was its own unique story and it really celebrated the loyalty of man and dog. Well worth catching!

In other news, I did it! 6 days in total and I managed to make my full-length wizards coat. Hubby had it in time for his magic show and he was the envy of the Magic Circle. There was a lot of new techniques to learn (Thank goodness for youtube with those welted pockets!) but I'm really pleased with the end result - as always the photos never do it justice. The show itself was brilliant, its really nice to see people taking pride in hobbies, especially one that brings joy.

Well, that's all for now. Its been a busy week and with Easter around the corner will only get busier. I managed to get my bonnet made yesterday for our family bonnet contest, so next update, I'll be able to show it off and say who won!

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Longings of Spring

Well, one good thing about all the snow and poor weather (because yes, we've had yet more snow) is that there's plenty of time to fit in some big craft projects and not feel like I should be out doing something. Missy is fed up with the ghastly weather too, but I suspect that has more to do with a lack of bunnies and squirrels to chase than longings of spring.

This is a bit of an off-the-cuff project as the fabric was a whim buy (on a very good deal!) when in Ramsbottom. I adore Peter Rabbit (the classic stuff, but I'll settle on the movie print since it was so reasonably priced!) and spent a lot of time playing about with ideas on this king size quilt before deciding that keeping it simple was best - the sheer scale of it was a challenge alone. I'm glad to say that I'm really pleased with how it turned out, and it's brought a touch of much needed spring into the house.

I've also been looking at ways to start using up my scraps and cobbled together these cute coasters - practical and stash busting! It almost justifies my need to keep every pretty bit of fabric more than a few inches big...

In the wings, I've been working on this years bonnet contest entry for Missy. I intend to keep hers simple and classic, but for myself I'm having to up my game and produce something truly over the top! I wont divulge details just yet, but with my sister coming up for Easter, everyone is making sure that our first full-family Easter in some years will be well remembered! I was also terribly pleased that I managed to make an Easter wreath with all the left over bits from bonnets past, so at least I can pretend spring is here!

In other sewing news I've been working on some pressies which I will reveal later and its a race against the clock to make a wizards coat for the hubby for the show that the Magic Circle are putting on this Friday - its my first shot on welted pockets so fingers crossed all the youtube videos I've watched has paid off!

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Camera Obscura and World of Illusion

With it being Year of the Dog, I've noticed a few places advertising their dog friendly status online, including a few that I had absolutely no idea would welcome our furry friends. One of these places was the Camera Obscura and World of Illusions - a popular tourist attraction and just the kind of place that the hubby and I love. We used the excuse of Mothers Day to get a small gang of us together and made our way up the Royal Mile in the chilly rain.
Yep, we've gone from the Beast from the East to the Pest from the West - I don't know if these PR people should be shot or given medals, either way, it was dreary and chilly and an indoor activity was exactly the right kind of thing we were looking for. Whilst the hubby and I are used to just ignoring the weather despite how miserable it is in favour of the dog, my mother and brother are not so well hardened!

It was an eventful day from the start - after joining the queue outside the building and being supplied with wonderfully bright, and well branded, purple umbrellas (great marketing idea right there, and a well appreciated one as they kept the worst of the drizzle off) the fire alarm sounded. As a fire warden at work (I know, how sad) I appreciate a well executed evacuation, and the crowd control was remarkably well done. The fire crew arrived swiftly, it was a false alarm and they were off and we were back in the queue.
I like to always state "X number of adults and one well behaved dog" when going somewhere unconventional as I think it puts everyone on the right foot - I have a dog, yes, but I expect her to be behaved and calm, so lets not stress about it. And from the moment we entered the building the staff were absolutely brilliant. It was explained to us that we could come and go, if it was too busy for her it would be quieter later in the day, she was allowed everywhere and the only exception might be the show if there was someone afraid of dogs in the group (a fair enough exception in my opinion, forcing terrified kids to be next to dogs doesn't cure phobias, and it usually just stresses everyone out, including the dog).

And then we were in. This is exactly the kind of place the hubby and I love - it's unconventional, it's unashamedly good fun and we both just adore the whole art of optical illusions. You start off with a bang doing the mirror maze and the 'bewilderworld', a large rotating drum of lights that disorientate and make you feel dizzy in all the best ways. Whilst I was in hysterics at my mother getting completely lost in the maze, the bewilderworld was not to Missys liking due to the grating on the walkway. She managed to get across but wouldn't pose, so unfortunately no pictures with the beautiful whirling lights! We did however get some fun photos on the illusions floor that she was very happy to pose for, so clearly she did enjoy the rest of the visit.

Missy, being the only dog in the building, was an instant celebrity and, as we skipped the next few floors to be sure we arrived for the show on time, we were stunned to be greeted by the waiting staff with a "Oh, is this the Missy we've heard about?" Clearly her reputation proceeds her! Again, the staff were great as they explained to us again that Missy might have to sit it out (no one objected at the sight of her, so clearly not a problem) and that if at any point we felt she was uncomfortable, we were just to ask and they'd let us out. It wasn't a problem at all, she did take a moment to settle as the hubby and I split up and she didn't know who she'd rather sit with, but once I sat with her she just curled up and enjoyed the down time.

The show is the camera obscura itself, and it's like a periscope that uses ye olde technology to magically project the streets outside onto a round table. With the weather being so poor it wasn't the best I've seen it, but I would hardly consider it grounds to complain about the day (we were told that if we were unhappy we could request a free ticket for another day, but no one controls the weather so I felt that would have been absurd). Everyone still had fun 'picking up' the cars and people so it was still worth seeing.
After that we finished looking at all the other floors and went to the gift shop. Missy had outdone herself with her good behaviour and quickly endeared herself to the staff. It was quiet and they had fun looking for excuses to pet her and pointing out special pet candles to us (we picked one up, Missy seemed to like the citrus best as I let her sniff them all) and we explained how we had come to find out they welcomed dogs and that it wasn't actually stated on the website.

We all headed for a nice dinner at the Whistle Stop Barber Shop (I've eaten there previously and knew they welcomed dogs). My family always find it a novelty being out with Missy and just the amount of attention she gains by sitting nice and quietly. We all agreed to take advantage of the pop-in-and-out ability with the Camera Obscura, its its very generous late night opening, and headed back again - I was really pleased about this as my brother wasn't originally keen on the idea of the Obscura, so he had clearly been won over.

All of us were surprised that it was still relatively busy. It didn't stop us all having fun, and all four of us spotted something new we hadn't seen the first time round, which in my opinion definitely makes it worthwhile. It was also nice to each point out our favourite bits to one another as we passed, and I was pleased that we all liked and enjoyed different things. As we left (via the gift shop again, my mum wanting to get a postcard) we were remembered by the staff and were assured that they were going to definitely update the website. Missy got some photos taken which will hopefully go up on the Facebook page, which, to me, makes her famous! 

With the rest of the family now saying they'll have to go and visit, I can see Missy and myself going back in the future, and I'm really pleased to say that my mum had a wonderful day - which was really the whole point! 

Till next time!