Getting back to normal

I don’t know about you, but I was delighted to get my kids back to school this week. I love them dearly, I’d jump in front of a bus for them, but these last few summer holiday weeks they have been driving me nuts with their bickering and constant requirements. It’s so nice to get back to a peaceful house with non-demanding dogs and the ability to sit at the laptop all day long without someone asking me to do something for them. Bliss.

You see, I just can’t concentrate the same when they are at home all the time. Plus, being a mother and therefore guilt ridden that I am not doing enough mother/kid stuff, I’ve been taking them out and doing things with them. Not ever day, but I tried to do something every week. Apart from the expense (and it’s been expensive this year), it takes up a whole day.

And then there’s the mess. When they are at home, the house is so untidy. I can clean it and minutes later there’s mess. I do ask them to tidy up, but they take so long to do it (“Just a minute, mum.”) that I often end up doing it myself.

Yes, having them back at school is great.

So, how have you been this week? Hope you’ve had a good week so far. Mine has been relatively quiet. Truthfully, I’ve been binge watching Lucifer, first on Amazon and then on Netflix. Can’t believe how addictive that programme is!! Talking of programmes, I can’t wait until the new series of Peaky Blinders starts. Such a great series.

Book news – still editing the second Nina adventure and I’m about to launch the audiobook (finally I hear you all gasp) soon. Watch this space for more news.

Bookwise, having also been obsessed with the tv series of Agatha Raisin over the summer months (I just love it, it’s so easy to watch and gentle and humorous), I’ve started on the books. I love reading, as you know, and I will read anything. I will read big heavy books and I will read light and fun books. Agatha Raisin by M C Beaton is definitely in the latter category, but sometimes that’s just what I need. I’ve started at the beginning with The Quiche of Death and am going to work my way through. Still reading Anne Lister’s diary and still enjoying it, but I can read two books at once and that is what I’ve been doing.

I’ve started up another wee blog called The Canny Lass, which I hope will help me with my online shopping habit and encourage me to be more canny with money. Not that I’m a bad money manager, I could just do better. If anyone has any tips about living well for less, drop me a message below or email me: I collect a lot of old books, mainly from the Victorian and early 20th century, that are either cookbooks or household management type books. I love them for their illustrations and good advice. I’ll be sharing some treasures I find in them as well as more modern tips.

Right, that’s me for this week. I have a busy afternoon ahead, so I am going to finish up here. Til next time.



A busy and hot week

Wild Scotland.

So this week has been a bit of a whirr again. In fact, the summer holidays are scudding by at a good rate of knots. Anyway, I am here today to update you on the latest goings on a Nelson Towers.

On Tuesday, my youngest nephew celebrated his eighth birthday. Happy birthday C! And I also took my son and his friend out to Glasgow. The aforementioned friend had stayed over the night before, but despite that we still didn’t get out the door until 11am… and it was already roasting hot. We got into Glasgow around lunchtime so went to have something to eat at a bar in Queen Street called Max’s. I used to go to that bar in my younger days when it was called The Rock Gardens, so it was a bit like going back in time for me especially as the place hadn’t changed.

The interior of the old Rock Gardens hasn’t changed much in 30 years.

Anyway, I enjoyed my food and after we had finished, the three of us went to George Square to hop on one of the tour buses that go around the city. I thought the boys might like to see the city from the bus, but they got bored really quickly so we got off at The People’s Palace at Glasgow Green in the city’s eastend.

People’s Palace is full of great things such as Billy Connolly’s famous banana boots.
Hand sewn cards.
Mock ups of shops and the local Steamie.
An Anderson shelter.
A gas mask.
Oor Wullie.
And other items from Glasgow’s fascinating past.
Then we jumped on the bus again and went to The Riverside Museum (our transport museum) and once the boys had run around the museum, we went out to the Tall Ship, The GlenLee.

I’ll tell you, I was shattered after that day. It was really hot all day – something we’re not used to in Scotland – and the heat was draining. Anyway, we got home about teatime.

On Thursday, I visited my father-in-law who turned 91 this week. Happy birthday Eddie. Then I popped back into Glasgow to have lunch at La Vita with my friend, Laurina. She’s a friend of mine from my last work and it was great to catch up with her. We had a good old gab before it was time to head home.

In between all these, I’ve been also attending my Pilates and Zumba classes in extremely hot halls. That’s fine though because I’m hoping I’ve sweated off at least two stones! 🙂

What I haven’t been doing this week: any writing or editing (hangs head in shame) or reading (although I have been listening to audio books as I lie on my bed wilting in the heat).

Thankfully, today is a bit cooler and the dogs aren’t suffering so much from being too hot. The two youngers ones are okay, but our elderly pug is really feeling it (wee soul).

Okay, so I am going to end this week’s blog here and wish you a great weekend. Although I’ve been moaning about the heat, it is nice to get a bit of good weather for a change. Til next time.

Dawn xxx

What we did on our holidays…part 3.

Dunadd Hill Fort.

This is just a little post to say how much we enjoyed our holiday. Although the weather was not great until the Saturday morning when we were leaving, we still had a good time.

I forgot to tell you that we also managed to climb Dunadd Hill Fort on the Thursday afternoon. It dates from the iron age and was believed to have been the capital of Dal Riata. Here’s some pics…

This is where the kings were crowned by placing their foot in this carved out footprint. They must have had size 6/6.5 feet because my feet are size 6 and they fitted perfectly.
The view halfway up.
Going back down.

After the kids had been horse riding on Friday, and we had lunch, we had a quiet afternoon and evening back at the house. It was a bit drizzly outside, but I took the time to take some pics of the garden:

The little private chapel.
The bridge over the burn leading to the little woodland.

Yes, it was a good holiday. I am so glad we stayed here. It was remote, but lovely. Would recommend it.

Anyway, I shall finish this final post for this week here and wish you adieu until next time.

Dawn xxx

What we did on our holidays…part 2.

Carnassarie Castle.

Carnassarie Castle is only about three or four miles from where we were staying and is just outside Kilmartin. So, wishing to explore it, I offered to take the kids there. Being about ten in the morning and wishing to stay in their jammies a while longer (lazy sods), they declined, so I went myself with the dogs.

At first, we had the castle to ourselves, but as I was climbing up to it, I turned around to see a tourist bus draw into the car park below. Sigh. So, I hurried the dogs up and we explored it in peace for about ten minutes. The tourists turned out to be German and were most taken with my mutts. We couldn’t stay long because Millie (aka Mrs Barky Pants) lived up to her name. She is a fabulous wee dog, but sounds ferocious when she barks. She’s not.

Anyway, here are some pics:

There’s nothing I like more than exploring a castle, any castle, including those in ruins. You can climb right to the top of the castle to see a magnificent view. However, we – me and the three dogs – only managed to the second top level as the pug (who is a bit elderly) was struggling on the stairs. It was great.

Later that same day, me and the kids drove down to Inveraray to meet up with my youngest sister and her kids for lunch. They were coming to say overnight in the house with us, along with my parents and their dogs (although the latter stayed for two nights). We had a really nice lunch at the George Hotel, I’d recommend it. Anyway, our parents caught up with us there and me, my sister and all the kids did a tour around Inveraray Jail, which was fun. Then we all went up to Auchinellan where we had dinner – beautifully made by my mum who is a great cook (home-made steak pie, heaven!) – and wine.

The following day, we drove up to Tayvallich for a cuppa. It’s a gorgeous wee coastal village. We popped over the hill to a beach which had a stunning view of Jura. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t too great, but the kids still had fun hunting for dead crabs on the beach. My boy found a dead bird, so the kids had a short ceremony and burial for it.

We then drove down to Lochgilphead for lunch. At first we couldn’t find a cafĂ© or restaurant that was big enough to take us all (there were seven of us – the girl had declined to come with us. Teenagers!), but we eventually found The Smiddy bistro, which was able to accommodate us. Can I just say that The Smiddy makes the best Cullen Skink I have ever tasted. It was so good, that me and the kids went back there the following day.

Anyway, we said farewell to my sister and her kids later that afternoon. It was such a shame they had to go home for we were all having a great time. However, my parents were still there and we had a nice meal in the house with some wine.

On the Thursday, me, the boy and my parents drove up to Crinan with the dogs and took them a walk. There’s a really nice cycle path there and the scenery is just gorgeous. We had a cuppa in the local cafĂ© and then parted ways. My parents went home and we popped into Lochgilphead for supplies. We then went back to the house, fetched the girl and returned to Lochgilphead for lunch at The Smiddy again.

Friday, and the kids went pony trekking. Me and the girl had already done this on the Monday and she loved it so much, I agreed she could do it again. The boy, who had not wanted to do it on the Monday, now wanted to do it, so I booked them both into the Lunga Riding Stables.

This place is on the Lunga Estate on the Craignish Peninsula and surely has the best scenery for horse riding in Scotland. It’s gorgeous. On the Monday, my horse was Winnie and, thankfully (for I was a bit nervous), she was a gentle soul. The girl had Paddy, who was a bit mischievous. She got him again on the Friday and the boy was on Ralph. They both really enjoyed it and while they were away, I took the dogs down to the beach for a bit of adventure. I basically love exploring and that is what we did. We had a wander about the estate and then went back to where the car was parked. We literally sat in the car for about 15 minutes before the kids showed up on their horses. They were both red faced and smiling. They’d loved it.

We went back to the house for a final dinner and to pack (although I had already basically packed).

I’ll fill you in on our last few hours in Auchinellan House in the next post. Til then.

Dawn xxx

We went to the Hillhouse today

Okay, so still being in the holiday mood, I decided we would spend a bit of time going to see the recently re-opened Hillhouse in Helensburgh. Designed by Charles Rennie Mackintosh and built between 1902 and 1904, the house interiors and furniture were also designed by Mackintosh along with his wife, Margaret Macdonald Mackintosh. It was created following a commission by Glasgow publisher Walter Blackie and is a stunning example of Art Nouveau and Symbolism. It’s one of my favourite places, I am a big fan of this couple’s work, particularly Margaret’s panels and soft furnishings.

Anyway, the boy came with me and we had a lovely time returning to the house. You see, it’s been closed for some time now while the National Trust for Scotland, who look after the property, began their restoration work. They started by covering the entire house with a large steel frame covered with chainmail. The idea of this is to protect the house from the elements, If you have ever been in Helensburgh during the winter, you’ll know just how exposed to the bitter winds and rain the town is. Anyway, the walls have become saturated with water and the frame is protecting it from further damage. The frame, although covering the entire house which is a shame, also features a brand new entranceway, shop and cafĂ©. It also has a steel walkway inside which takes you alongside and above the house so you can see it from all sorts of perspectives from the outside. Me and the boy climbed it and the views from up there of the town and the River Clyde were impressive.

Anyway, I will finish up here and let you enjoy the house for yourself. Here are a few snaps I took. I didn’t manage to take pics of all the rooms (the living room alone is wonderful) because of the amount of people in it, but this gives you a flavour of some of the things you can see:

You can see the steel roof above the structure and the walkway.
Looking down from the walkway.
The entrance way to the house.

Hope you’ve enjoyed this whistle-stop tour of the house. If you are ever in Helensburgh, I’d recommend you visit. It’s well worth it.

Dawn xxx

What we did on our holidays

Okay, so me and the kids headed north last week to spend a lovely week in a Victorian villa near Lochgilphead. Auchinellan House is the main house in the Auchinellan estate near a tiny village called Ford (which is a few miles away from Lochgilphead). It overlooks the picturesque Loch Ederline and is surrounded by lush greenery and forest. There’s a stream running down one side of the garden and a little pathway through the trees. It’s magical.

The view from my bedroom window. The weather has been a little overcast and drizzly, but it’s still gorgeous.

The house itself is lovely. Although it needs a little bit of work on it, it’s still an impressive holiday home. There’s a living room, a library, kitchen, dining room, a toilet, two bathrooms and eight bedrooms. As the payer of the holiday, I bagsied the bedroom with the best view (see above). Let’s face it, I’m the only one who will truly appreciate it. My kids are 14 and 11 and not interested in views. I, however, enjoyed it very much. There was nothing nicer than waking up to the birdsong, opening the curtains and seeing that view.

So, what did we do on the holidays? Well, we arrived on Saturday afternoon so our first full day was the Sunday. I took the kids down to Kilmartin for lunch in a local hotel. We went to the Kilmartin Hotel for something to eat. The dĂ©cor there is in dire need of being updated, but the food was fine, if a little pricey. I ordered the smoked fish with a mornay sauce and veg. The kids just had chips and onion rings – they have restricted and awful diets, but will not eat properly. I have tried everything to get more nutritious food in them, but they rarely go for it. Anyway, we ordered and our orders arrived within ten minutes, which makes me think the dishes weren’t made from scratch there and then. My food was burning hot – had it been microwaved to reheat? And the girl’s onion rings were a bit soggy – also microwaved? That’s the impression I had about the food. My dish cost me nearly ÂŁ14 and it wasn’t worth the money. Anyway, it filled a hole and gave me the energy for the rest of the afternoon.

What we did was to visit Kilmartin Museum which exhibits artefacts found on archaeological digs in the area. Before we went in there, we popped into the local church next door where mediaeval (and earlier/later) grave markers are on display.

Kilmartin Church.
Some of the grave markers.

We also popped into the museum next door which is there to display some of the ancient finds they’ve found in the area.

After that we took a wee drive around the area just to have a look around.

So, that was Monday. I’ll tell you all about Tuesday in the next post. Til next time.

Dawn xx

Cream Tea Day

Fantastic! Someone has actually started a day to celebrate the humble cream tea. For those of you who are not British, I’ll explain: the Cream Tea is a chance to indulge in some plain scones, cream (preferably clotted cream) and jam whilst drinking copious amounts of tea. It’s a heavenly pursuit and I would recommend it to anyone. So today, go out to a local cafĂ© and order a cream tea or make one at home. Delicious!

Take Your Dog to Work Day

If you are lucky enough to work from home or for a boss who is lovely and will let you, why not celebrate Take Your Dog to Work Day by taking your dog to work? Dogs are wonderful creatures who are so loving and they really lighten up an office.

If you don’t have a dog, but want one, pop into your local pet charity and adopt a dog today. And then take it into work!

Another day, another pizza

How are you all this week? Hope you are well. This week for me has been pretty busy. Father’s Day was on Sunday, so I took both my parents out for lunch on Saturday to a local Italian restaurant called Padrone. It’s on Helensburgh seafront and makes the best mussels in white wine sauce I have ever tasted. I also had a Hawaiian pizza. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. Me and the boy were on the seafront the following day to get ice cream after a disappointing visit to the Scottish Submarine Centre in the town. I had expected there to be more at the centre, but all it is is a small submarine hanging from the ceiling and a film about the said submarine which is projected on the wall. There weren’t any exhibits or anything else. Cost me a fiver, but it wasn’t a fiver well spent. I think you’d have to be a submarine fan to get any sort of enjoyment out of it. Sorry, but it’s a thumbs down from me. The ice cream, however, was sublime. We got it from Vanilla on the front and it was heavenly. Bang went the diet in favour of a three scoop tub for me (Scottish tablet, vanilla and raspberry ripple flavours) and a cone for the boy (can’t remember the flavours he choose, but it’ll be weird flavours like Irn Bru probably). Oh my God, Scottish tablet ice cream must have been made by the Gods because it is pure ambrosia. Happy sigh.

I’m still in the process of setting up my social media small business and have been out and about visiting local businesses with information about it. I have also sent out a mailing list, which went out last week, and this week have been concentrating on the second half of the mailing list. I will send that out tomorrow. We’ll see what happens. In the meantime, I’m continuing to keep up with social media trends through lots of reading and training. My latest training passion is learning to use my digital camera properly – at the moment I just put it on auto and hope for the best. I’m going to learn what all the buttons are for so I can hopefully take more arty pics!! That’s the plan anyway.

Currently reading: Aloha Wanderwell’s Call to Adventure which is the story of how 16-year-old Aloha became the first woman to drive across numerous countries, including India and Africa, in the 1920s. It’s a fascinating read. As you may know (what with me writing about the adventures of a female archaeologist), I love a good adventure story. What makes this great is that she’s a good writer and the book is easy to read. It’s full of adventures and mishaps and just a good read. Am so loving it. Here are a few pics from her adventures.

TV I’ve been watching:

  • What We Do in the Shadows – bat cod piece! Hilarious.
  • Gentleman Jack – love this series.
  • Years and Years – still to watch the last one, will do so after I finish this blog.
  • Killing Eve – I binge watched the entire series last week, which is why I didn’t get any writing done, but it was so worth it. NB I am in the process of editing one book and writing another, so I am doing some work this week!!

Right, I am going to finish hear and wish you all a very good and productive day. Til next time.

Dawn xxx