Quick Visit Back To Our Old Stomping Ground: Day 2

Saturday 9 April, Day 8 of the Easter Holidays

I didn’t enjoy my sea-induced sleep for long: Maxi woke me at 2am, crying because she needed to go to the toilet ages ago and couldn’t hold it in much longer.

You know, once you’re actually out your warm sleeping bag, stumbled into wellies and struggled into your big down jacket, it’s not so bad being up at Silly O’Clock. There’s something about a silent campsite that makes me feel a bit like a kid sneaking around on Christmas Eve. Maxi felt it, too. We strolled / waddled / giggled over to the toilet block, torch-light making the rabbits dance around us. They were as big as cats! We gawped at the bright Milky Way above us as we plodded on, and promised to stop and look for meteors on the way back. However, in a short few minutes the clouds lapped over the stars and, just as we reached the tent, the first raindrops fell. How lucky were we?! The pattering of rain on the taut roof, hissing waves and Mini’s piglet-snores in my ear sent me back to sleep. Normally I fight sleep, only closing my eyes when I can’t keep them open any longer, frustrated at the ‘waste’ of time. But the comforting sounds, wrapped around my most-loved 4 people, in my favourite place, relaxed me for the first time in months. Years!

Jammies TailThe Boss earned yet another ironed shirt from me by getting the coffee ready for us as soon as we woke up, then poured hot porridge into the kids. I promise I told him about his jammies tail before too many people saw him…

breakfastWe unleashed the kids on the brilliant onsite playground to burn off some energy while The Boss packed everything away (he doesn’t trust my packing: he takes the gentle origami approach, whilst I favour the stuff-and-hammer-it-down method). Midi taught Mini how to hurtle down a zip-slide without rapid death ensuing. All sorted and car shifted by 10am, The Boss announced that it time to hit the beach.

Oh, I love that beach! I got immediate flashbacks to a walk The Boss and I had taken along it almost exactly 6 years earlier with a baby Mini on my chest and still high on painkillers. It was probably all the lemon primroses and the cave with the ever-present discarded Buckfast bottles in it that prized that memory out…

The minxes and I settled into our usual beach routine – climb anything not moving / draw lovehearts with ‘Mummy’ in it to earn an extra massive hug / build a big beach collage / turn over every rock to find a starfish – while The Boss had a clamber around sites of near-epic bike crashes in his past life.

By the time the tide came in and shepherded us back to the main bay, it was about time to sort out a treat lunch: Scribbles Pizza Restaurant, scene of many a minx disaster and wonder and our favourite place to eat in Elgin. Although the inside has been completely renovated since we last visited 3 years ago, they still make my favourite beef chilli melts (I craved them throughout my last trimesters when I was expecting Midi and Mini) and the coffee and walnut cake was just as delicious as I’d remembered.

Cummingston gorse - if only that scent could be bottled!

Cummingston gorse – if only that scent could be bottled!

With sunshine fighting back against the drizzle and our little bubble of nostalgia unburst, we drove back again to one of our favourite beaches: Cummingston. At this time of year, the gorse is incredible: a coconut sunscreen scent hangs over the whole area when it’s hit by sunlight. All 3 girls love the looooong slide at the playpark because it feels scary. As does dodging the nesting seagulls dive-bombing people who get too close to the cliffs, but today we wanted to look for cowrie shells and sea-glass so headed for the beach on the far right initially.

Although we could have happily stayed for many more hours, eventually we realised that at 6pm it really was time to reluctantly head for home. We only winkled the minxes back into the car by promising to come back to the area the very next weekend that we could. It was an easy promise to make, and personally I can’t wait!


Bank Holiday Blues

2 astronauts and air traffic control crafting

Well, The Boss was back in work today so it was just the minxes and me. Yippee! But they weren’t at all interested in my ideas of going to the beach, going to spot new leaves in the woods, or helping me sow some seeds in the garden.

play helmets

Major Tom and Commander Tim try their helmets out

Oh. OK, what do you want to do today, then? It’s your holidays too. You want to build a space rocket. Ah. Another stay at home day, then. Well, you can do what you like with pens, scissors, sellotape, glue, pipecleaners, card, playdough and anything you find round the house. But no glitter. GLitter’s right out. No chance-eroony. I blew my glitter tolerance valves out months ago.

Actually, we had a lot of fun. Instead of trying to direct the girls in their crafting and building efforts, I just stepped back, tried not to shudder when Midi

The Captain. Naturally. All leaders have those funny antennae. And zips up the back of their necks

wielded her scissors a bit too close to her sister’s long, beautiful mane of hair, and let them get on with it. I asked the odd question to get them going when they paused, like: “What do space astronauts wear? What colours? What clothes do you have that are that colour?” (So now you know why Maxi is wearing head-to-toe white and Midi is in pale pink. Pink? Well, would *you* ever buy Midi Minx anything white?!)

They decided that I was allowed to play, so long as I was the token alien. Maxi made me a fetching third eye for my forehead, thoughtfully sticking it on with double-sided sellotape.

The all-important 3 warning lights on the rocket's dashboard. Obviously.

The navigational dashboard

Midi made some dashboard controls: one is obviously full of writing, and the other has the crucial red, amber and green warning buttons on it.

scotland flag

Maxi: "That's one small step for a scot..." Mini: "Oi, Captain, shift that pile of space-junk off the pan!"

Maxi was too busy making a nice Scottish flag to stick on the moon to notice that Midi had grabbed the pilot’s post. “Never mind!”, I breezed, “You can be the Captain and therefore the boss. Here, have a light sabre”. She perked up a bit when I let them have Space Drinks (juice cartons) and Space Snacks (bananas in some silver foil envelopes). Still, the most miserable one of the bunch was Mini: she relished her role as shrieking Space Traffic Control, yelling abuse at Midi The Dastardly Space Pilot through her echoing microphone.

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday, Day 9 of the Easter Holidays

Saturday we spent watching Toy Story 2 (minxes), making Simnel Cake (me) and catching up with the mountain of housework (me and The Boss). Sunday was a similar home-based day.

First we got the minxes to decorate their boiled eggs – guess whose was whose? (and please ignore the second row of photos – I do apologise for my incompetence at posting pics right now):

Then all the decorated toilet-roll carnations (directions at the bottom of this post) had to be stuck to cheapy bonnets. Yes, I realise that Easter has nothing to do with flamenco dancing, but try explaining that to a secularly-brought-up 2 year old? While I’m looking at the photo, yes, that’s a pink potty, and yes after the Easter break I’ll probably start actually-properly-honest-to-goodness potty training Mini Minx. Yikes!

Building up to a proper chocolate frenzy - the 6ft 1 perpetrator tries to look innocent in the middle

Normally I can’t stand the increasingly Americanised/pop media-led encroachment into traditional customs. But here we are encouraging it ourselves with a chocolate Easter egg hunt. Wearing Easter bonnets. I am a Grumpy Old Hypocrite. In my day, Easter meant that you boiled an egg, decorated it, rolled it down the nearest hill. And again. And again. Only when it smashed (and you picked out the grit and ate it) were you allowed your single, solitary chocolate Easter egg.

Although I’m a non-practising anything, I want the minxes to be aware of different religious tenets, festivals and what they mean. So we had a chat about the symbology of the eggs:

Me: “Girls, why do we decorate boiled eggs at Easter?”
Midi: “Cos they’re actually called slimeys and cos we all like them! Except me. Cos they’re slimey. Even when they’re hard”
Mini: “Egg! Egg! Egg! Yum! Mine! Mine! Waaaaah! MINE!”
Maxi: “Because Jesus, who was a very, very, very nice and kind man, was put in a cave when he died, and the egg is kind of like the stone in front of the cave”.
Me: “That’s right, well done! So we roll the egg because..?”
Maxi: “It makes the colours look nicer?”
Me: <watching out for a sudden thunderbolt from above for not teaching her kids some basics>

double rainbow easterAnd on the subject of religion, I have to include this photo that I took on Easter Sunday. I know it’s a seagull rather than a dove, but nevertheless, some might enjoy the vague symbology; some might just enjoy the pretty rainbow.

‘Rest’ Day

Good Friday, Day 7 of the Easter Holidays

Current ban on glue? No problem for Maxi - use a whole roll of sellotape instead

What a yucky day! Unrelenting rain. But because we were all a bit frazzled, we decided to have a stay-at-home-day today. Well, except for me and Mini Minx who zoomed off right after breakfast with a long shopping list and 5 shops to visit. And every bin in the high street. Have I told you that Mini is obsessed with wheelie bins and skips..? Again, she refused to go in the sling or even hold my hand. “I walk!” she insisted. “Woe do!”

Mid-film, mid-munch

When we got back, Maxi and Midi had transformed the downstairs. I think the idea of having a home cinema day to watch their new DVDs had caught their imagination. They’d lined every stuffed toy in the house into row upon row of ‘audience’. A huge number 8 outside the living room door gave me a clue which cinema was showing Toy Story that afternoon. hot cross bunsMidi had made a big decorated hand to go beside it, but we’ve still no idea why. Both girls happily ripped up paper into confetti-sized tickets for all their toys, and The Boss had taught them how to make paper bags for their popcorn. Maxi also had time to make a random spring-time collage (photo top left).

The latest knitted horrors that I'm going to inflict on Mini Minx

As soon as Mini went down for her nap, the curtains were drawn, DVD on, bags of popcorn readied, and everyone settled down for a lazy afternoon.

After the film / nap, we all belatedly made hot cross buns – I did the dough and The Boss and minxes did the rest while I finished a Fairisle cardigan that’s been on the go for weeks. The buns tasted good, but by golly they were tough!


Thursday 5 April, Day 6 of the Easter Holidays

So the weather forecast changed again. Quelle surprise. And I realised I’d been reading the train timetable wrong. (Don’t ask… my excuse is that I’m chronically sleep-deprived. I no longer eat with sharp knives or forks). Both of these conspired together to mean that we went from chilled to argh-get-out-the-door-right-NOW in the space of 2 minutes! The Boss hurriedly threw a packed lunch together (today was going to be a very expensive day) and I unpacked and repacked the cold/wet weather crates for the car. But paused long enough to find 2 old CDs for the car: Air’s Safari and the Bookbug CD with the incredibly toe-tapping drums & bagpipes of ‘The Meeting’. I was pretty overjoyed to find the latter, as all 3 minxes like to sit in the back, pretending to play bagpipes or drums along to it. Hugely entertaining for me and The Boss.

Then we set off on a looooong drive to Aviemore. As we went past Forres, the snow got thicker and thicker. We got caught behind a Glasgow lorry doing 35mph. For some reason The Boss wouldn’t overtake. I pointed out that if he tried another gear – perhaps reverse – we might get there faster… Then I really got snippy. I’m a grumpy sod, me, especially when I see time ticking away for no good reason. Life is *short*! Don’t waste a single second! I waited, though, until we finally reached Aviemore to completely explode and roar at him when he floated ineffectually around Tourist Information instead of simply asking the right direction to the train station. I’m ashamed to say that both Maxi and Midi burst into tears when I hysterically announced that we were unlikely to get on the train after all because Daddy was being an air-head. The sight of those sad little faces burst my anger-bubble instantly.

But 2 lucky things: a very lovely man knocked on the car window as we parked and gave us his parking ticket until 1500hrs. He refused to take any cash for it. What a kind soul! And secondly: we ended up waltzing up to the train station ticket office, bought tickets, strolled to the platform and straight onto the train. The Boss had actually timed it to perfection. I did apologise profusely.

Steam Train Travelling from Aviemore to Boat o...

Steam Train Travelling from Aviemore to Boat of Garten (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So: why were we going to Aviemore train station? To go a trip on the Strathspey steam railway! We’d budgeted for a very, very flash outing, going First Class. For that, we got our own compartment, so we could let the minxes take their wellies off and let off a bit of steam themselves without disturbing anyone else. It was also very comfy and toasty warm, with plenty of space to pack away a mountain of down jackets, fleeces, 5 hats, 10 gloves a change bag and a picnic bag. The complementary coffee, Fruit Shoots* and shortbread biscuits went down very well, too. And it was spotless. Actually, the entire train was spotless, even the Tardis-like toilet (in a tasteful mustard. Ahem!)

* Honestly, I’m relaxed about the kids drinking stuff like Fruit Shoots – so long as it’s not more than twice a year 😉 Maxi made me laugh when she gasped and whispered in horror, “But Mummy, we’re not allowed these!” as I’ve never actually forbidden or discouraged them.

So, why go on a steam train? Well, with the snow lying on the ground, it made the very beautiful journey from Aviemore to Broomhill (Glenbogle in Monarch of the Glen, apparently) via Boat of Garten even more spectacular, especially as we chuffed past the lazy rolls of the River Spey. The journey was long enough to see different views – ogling big houses, farmland, river, mountains – but short enough to keep the interest of the kids. At Broomhill we got out for a leg stretch and all the children lined up to look inside the engine and the fiery boiler. The driver and stoker happily lifted toddler after toddler up into the engine, showed them round, then perched them at the window with a driver’s hat on for a cute opportunity. Maxi and Midi were delighted!

Back in Aviemore we decided to squeeze in a little walking before the rain came down, so drove round the corner to Rothiemurchus. Well, the carpark at Loch Eilein. And hit that nightmare of all multi-child parents: Midi wanted to stay in the car, Maxi wanted to plough on to see what she could see and Mini wanted to pick up every stone in the lane. And play in the carpark. Then zigzag back down the track in the opposite direction to her sisters.

We maybe managed to walk a mile round the loch. The girls played Pooh Sticks/Stones together a few times but I gave up trying to herd them together after about 2 hours. Maxi pointed out to me that she’d not whinged once, despite being tired. My God, she was absolutely right! She’d been good as gold, keeping up with her sisters, happily letting Midi answer all my questions of “What signs do we see when it’s springtime? What will we maybe see round the corner?” despite knowing all the answers. What a girl! I think our fellow walkers thought we were mad standing in the drizzle, applauding her wildly.

Giving up to go home, I put Mini in the sling, especially as she’d asked, ” ‘Ling?” Strangely, she then protested long and hard at actually being put in her sling. No, before you suggest it, her nappy was fine. So I’ve no idea what was going on. Over-tired from missing her nap? Actually, I think we were all a bit over-tired from the past week of tearing about. Everyone happily agreed to have an at-home-day the next day. Except for me – I’d have to go into overdrive washing all the muddy outdoor kit, get out to do a week’s food shopping and catch up with the housework. Yawn! But it needs to be done, so we can have more fun later in the week!

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Five Go Playing in Aberdeenshire

Wednesday 4 April, Day 5 of the Easter Holidays

Maxi Minx woke me up with a typical 5 year old conundrum:

“Mummy, which is more effective: a gun, a cannon, a cutlass or a coconut on fire?”

Gun, because you’ll do more damage and are less likely to miss. Good morning, Daughter. Thanks for keeping me awake most of the night, then swapping your Wake Mummy shift with your younger sister. Pass the coffee. And park me on the laptop, on the Met Office site…

Well, what do you know? The weather forecast changed, and so did our plans. A quick shifty of where it was raining or sleeting, where the best visibility was, when it would clear and warm up (oh ok, become a bit less cold) and which day it would bucket down left us deciding to get out in the fresh air today. So… Aden Country Park near Mintlaw it was!

I gave up loading the car with bags and just put everything in 2 big laundry crates. Well, have you seen how much space 5 pairs of wellies take up? The Boss has very big feet. And then there’s 5 sets of waterproofs and fleeces, 5 complete changes of clothes, 5 snacks, 5 drinks, etc.

We stopped in Banff for lunch. No fancy treat lunch today – The Boss did a brilliant run and grab at The Co-op and we ate our quick, healthy, cheap-ish picnic lunch in a little car park on the East side of the bridge over the river. The Macduff side of the bridge, still on the A98. Right here. And watched the mental waves. Don’t watch them drunk – they come at the shore from literally all directions! I uploaded a 17 second video clip, because still photography doesn’t do it justice.

Eventually we came to the country park, got changed into (freezing) cold weather gear in the car park and discovered our visit would be free as the machine was on the blink. It would have hardly broken the bank though – 70p for 4 hrs parking, £1.50 for all day. So, ready for the cold, we went to explore!

The kids’ playground was really good. Only a couple of swings, but plenty seesaws, a slide, clambering tube, zip line, whirly roundabout and a great wee ‘outdoor gym’ trail – things like stepping poles, balance poles, wobbly bridge, tyre chains. The minxes loved it! We had to prize them away to go and find coffee / milkshakes. Me and The Boss loaded up on heat and caffeine while the girls guzzled ice-cream, milk, squirty cream and marshmallows. After a snack like that, you have to let them run around. So we went off exploring the arboretum.

Over the next 3 hours we played Pooh Sticks (except for Mini, who prefers Pooh Stones. And is eternally exasperated at never winning…), swapped round which daughter was in the wrap, wiggled through the beautiful Sensory Garden, wandered round the all-abilities buggy-run, up the tracks and over the dog exercise area (clean! It was clean! Some really, really responsible dog owners! Thank you!), around the duck pond, past the mineral well, up the tree house and then the best bit for Maxi and Midi: clambering all over the enormous fallen tree that they honed their bouldering skills on.

We were really sorry to leave, especially when the spring sunshine finally blasted through the chilly air. But dinner called. And The Boss was feeling flush. So a quick stop and clean up at the absolutely spotless toilets and off we went, past the fields of wobbly new lambs (I’d seen one sheep in the middle of giving birth as we drove past that morning). We stopped at the Gold ‘n’ Crispy in New Pitsligo. It was busy at 1730hrs on a Wednesday, so that bode well. We all ate in and shared 3 big fish suppers. Yum! Crispy and delicious. I guess we could have zoomed home afterwards, but it was far nicer to bimble along the coastal trail, even though it was straight into the sun.

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The funniest bit of the day was little Mini desperately trying to stay awake to eat her treat of a chocolate chip cookie. She fell asleep clinging to it. When she was wakened 15 minutes later, she started biting at it before she’d even opened her eyes.

Before I go, I have to give a quick mention for Deeside Holiday Park – I phoned to cancel our camping booking with them, explaining that although me and The Boss were happy camping on snow, our little girls weren’t yet accustomed to extreme weather. I cheekily asked if I could shift my booking a few months to the summer, when The Boss would next have time off work, and not lose my deposit. The witty and funny Shona did exactly that, even though the Ts&Cs say that you can’t. What a lovely lady – I can’t wait to go!

Boy, Did It Snow!

Snow cushions

Tuesday 4 April, Day 4 of the Easter Holidays

Well, it certainly snowed – 4 inches of settled, wet snow. Bearing in mind that we live 1/2 mile from the sea, this is really, really unusual. Not the fact that it snowed, though – I’ve had more white birthdays (end March) than white Christmasses – just the fact that it settled.

snow angel

Who needs to shovel snow when you can get your kids to thrash it away, making snow angels...?

So, what’s a woman to do, but replan? Again? To hell with our new plans – the snow kept falling, the back garden was pristine white… it was just *begging* for 3 little minxes to trash it. So they did!


Snow Frankenstein

Around lunchtime we had hot chocolate and marshmallows then figured it would be an opportune time to head off to the swimming pool. Maxi and Midi spotted and waved to their favourite swimming teachers, then spent an hour thrashing around the pool, falling down slides, being thrown off huge floats by me and The Boss and generally having a very boisterous time. After the disaster of our holiday last autumn, I absolutely loved playing in the water with my daughters – it was fantastic fun! There were a few Women Of A Certain Age bobbing around the pool with their grandchildren. You know the kind – if you splash them at all they screw up their faces like it’s sulphuric acid hitting them, not somewhat dirty very dilute bleach. I don’t know… if you care about your hairdo that much, don’t come to a wet swimming pool in the school holidays. Or wear a swim hat! Sheesh. Idiots. Actually, maybe they were drawing me filthy looks because my mascara (I was making An Effort) had smeared round my eyes and down one cheek. And with my blue and turquoise hair and disregard for whatever’s hanging out my too-big swimsuit this time, I perhaps cut a scary figure. Anyway. I did a fair job controlling the girls from being too mental around smaller kids because the lifeguards didn’t even glare at us once. (Or maybe they’re scared of me, too…?)

Me and The Boss swapped back and forth watching / holding daughters. Well, why should I have all the fun? Little Mini was very, very cautious with the water. At first she clung to me like a little limpet and shrieked going near the water. Then gradually she inched towards the side and splashed at the water a little. The Boss got her to sit *in* the water and kick her feet. Then splash at our faces. I got her to blow bubbles in the water. That was by the 45 minutes mark. By 1 hr, though, she was chucking a watering can of water over my head, her own head, happily being swooshed through the water on her front and back, and lying right back in the water. She was never scared – she just needed to do it all in her own good time.

I guess the months of taking Maxi and Midi swimming has gotten them in a good routine – we took the time to have a good shower, with our 25 or so toiletry bottles, then very, very quickly got dried and dressed. It made me realise that I could maybe do this with the girls myself. Maybe.

Back at home while Mini napped, I taught the girls how to make Toilet Roll Carnations. It’s really easy and little girls seem to love it. Even The Boss found it addictive.  Photos below in a slide show (plus the other ones already in the page – sorry, just skip over them), and here are the written directions:

  1. Take 2 squares of toilet roll, still joined by the perforation. Hold the strip like a piece of paper that you’re about to write on, with the short side nearest you.
  2. Fold the strip up in a concertina, like a fan.
  3. Slide a kirby grip / bobby pin across it to hold it.
  4. Now unfan the strip. It’ll look a bit like a flat frilly flower.
  5. Carefully peel all the layers of toilet roll apart, so you have 4 layers of frills either side of the kirby grip.
  6. Spin the flower edges into some paint on a plate to highlight the frills.
  7. Leave to dry.
  8. Use to decorate an Easter bonnet!

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Lucky, Lucky, Lucky!

Monday 3 April and Day 3 of the Easter Holidays…

My original plans of heading out on a woodland trail fell apart when we woke to a freezing cold gale. The snow forecast possibility was now a certainty. Flexibility being the key to both Air Power and staying sane as a parent, I quickly replanned: trip into the heaving metropolis of Inverness to spend some birthday vouchers, Tiso for new approach shoes for both me and The Boss (I’d found photographic proof that mine had been worn many days each week for the past 6 years, so were justifiably in need of an upgrade), treat lunch, cinema, quick shop, put the tent up in the back garden, camp in the back garden instead of a snowed-in campsite near Aberdeen.

I loaded the car boot with 100 bags*, got everyone’s jackets and wellies on, lined the minxes up on the stairs ready to ferry them into their car seats, nipped out to the garage to grab a buggy, then spun round when I heard The Boss yell.

We had a puncture. A bad one. The tyre was totally flat and coming off the rim.

I could have cried. Instead, I shepherded the kids into the car while The Boss did the necessary, then insisted on watching him carefully and doing bits myself. Mostly bouncing up and down on the nut lever thing. That was fun. Besides, I never want to be stuck by the side of the road, flapping ineffectually at a flat tyre. So now I know I can change a tyre on a Grand Scenic with 3 screaming kids in the back seat, because I did! Also looking on the bright side, we had to put the winter tyres back on the car because Scenics don’t have a spare tyre. With snow looming and temperatures back below 10degC for the foreseeable future, this was no bad thing at all.

*100 bags might be slight hyperbole. But I need a nappy change bag, a complete change of clothes for Mini and Midi Minx, a bag of bags to pack shopping into, a bag of snacks and drinks for the kids if we’re going to be out all day, a bag containing phone, keys, purse, lip-balm. I could go on, but I’m losing the will to live…

This was just the start of our luck. We’d run out of time to do anything in Inverness before lunch, especially because we got caught behind a tractor and 2 very slow lorries, so went straight to the carpark. And straight into the perfect car park space. Cha-ching! Screeching past HMV en-route to lunch, The Boss decided he’d nip in and have a quick look. And immediately spotted Toy Story and Toy Story 2 on a 2-for-1 and costing the same as his birthday voucher was for. Cha-cha-ching! That’ll be 2 quiet afternoons next week sorted! We went straight to Pizza Express (serious treat lunch!) because I had a few vouchers to use there. We had our choice of tables. But in the time it took us to get coats off and Mini Minx strapped down, every single table had filled up. Wow, if we’d been only 5 minutes later… Seriously, seriously lucky or what?

Lunch was lovely: we all love garlic butter, with or without dough balls. Mini ate hers with a spoon like yogurt. The pizzas were good, desserts pretty fabby, and the girls thought drinking Bambinocchinos was impossibly glamorous. The service was fantastic and we left an hour later, full-up, happy and relaxed.

Walking back to the car, our luck was still in: H&M had a sale on. I love their simple, super-cheap summer dresses. At £2.99 you don’t expect them to last more than a year (though they usually do), but they’re brilliant on their own or layered with long sleeved teeshirts and leggings. I swooped in, grabbed a huge armful in 6-7 years for both Midi and Maxi, more leggings and out. Smug, smug, smug.

The cinema was another lucky time: it was 10 minutes to the showing, but The Boss, Maxi and Midi went straight in, barely had to wait in the queue, got tickets at 25% off because it was a quiet time (?! really? It looked like loads of Inverness folk had the same idea as us on what to do on a cold, wet day!). Still, we spent the money left over from our budget on the most enormous bucket of popcorn: I think Midi could have hidden in it! They saw The Pirates, and it was Midi’s first ever trip to the cinema. Maxi’s been once before with nursery, so she was An Old Hand, and talked Midi through it, especially when she got scared when it went dark (awwww, bless!). They had a brilliant time, and even The Boss enjoyed the film.

Meanwhile, me and Mini went for a jaunt through all the shops in the retail park. I can’t stand shopping, but this time I enjoyed aimlessly wandering about with my mind switched off, just relishing the time to smile at my baby daughter drifting off languorously to sleep. An hour later, when she woke, she ‘helped’ me carry some daft wee purchases from Homebase, then we went to look at the fish in the pet shop. As she’s only just turned 2, I suspect she enjoyed that more than she would have enjoyed the film.

More luck followed us home: a few petrol stations were sold out of diesel all the way to Nairn. But the cheapest, Sainsbury’s, was still open! Brilliant! Around then, it started to snow. And snow. And snow…

Grim Sandcastle Determination

I don’t care how cold it is, you *will* build sandcastles, minxes!

So, today is Sunday 1 April and it’s Day 2 of the school Easter holidays. Yesterday me and Mini went shopping for Maxi Minx’s birthday, while the elder 2 girls went slacklining with their Daddy, then burnt off the last of their energy at the swings. We’re planning on going camping from Tuesday, but the forecast is getting worse and worse – right now the heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures have turned into a severe weather warning. So I suspect camping just might be cancelled… Today we’d planned on going to the beach, but it’s cold, windy and rainy. Sod it – we’ve got waterproofs, fleece and down. And we’re all grumpy trouts who hate being dictated to by anything or anybody, even the weather. So off we went.

starfish winkles anemone seaweed

Can you spot the starfish? Winkles? Barnacles? Red sea anemone? Strange tiny yellow shellfish (?) Anything else?

I could happily spend all day turning over rocks to see what’s underneath, me. “Oh look, a winkle! Oh look, seaweed!” The Boss found a starfish on this beach a few weeks ago. Determined not to be beaten, I had to find one, too. In fact, I found 2. As well as some strange yellowy things. They reminded my friend of clusters of butterfly eggs. I’ve no idea what they are, but as there are huge mussel beds a few miles to the east, I assumed they were shellfish. Baby winkles, maybe? I didn’t poke at them to find out, because (a) I didn’t want to disturb them any further, and (b) my fingers were too cold to discern texture. Anyone have any idea?

Antique Ginger Beer Bottle Hay Sons

I wonder how many people actually went to prison for refilling these bottles, then? And how long this was lying in the sea?

Well, we built our sandcastles in the snow er, I mean, cold, wet sand. To be fair, apart from cold fingers, it was lots of fun. Midi taught Mini to stop adding sand once the bucket was full (sheesh – and there was me thinking Mini was a clever girl…) And the beauty of cold, yucky weather is that most people stay at home, so you have tons of space – in an already empty and spacious beach! – to race around and enjoy yourself.

We found spiral shells bigger than my hand, a mussel shell that was even longer, an antique Hay & Sons stone ginger beer bottle and a dead seagull. The seagull looked like it had stoofed into the sand beak-first. I wonder if it ate the monster mussel first, and that’s why…? We also played among the petrified forest of tree stumps to the west of Burghead, then called it quits and headed back for lunch before the rain really bucketed down.

They’re pretty enterprising minxes, but no way was that driftwood shifting!

In other news: Midi has taken to calling eggs ‘slimeys’. Mini can now say “I want more!” very clearly. I discovered that if you buy a £1.65 bag of shiny ‘gems’ from Tesco and give them to 2 minxes, along with sellotape, paper, cotton wool and scissors, you get peace for 2 hours, plus sparkly crowns for the whole family and all the stuffed toys. Nice! I bet Bagpuss was delighted…