Saturday, 26 October 2013

Dog Tales

I'll begin this post by saying that I've never really considered myself  'a dog person'.  I'm not keen on the low level house destruction a dog causes and the full time attention that our canine friends require. In all honesty, I prefer cats with their independence and less demanding companionship. However, we have a dog, little Luna, and despite all my reservations I cannot help but be hopelessly attached to her as part of our family. This week in The Little House my feelings have been put to the test as Luna has been poorly, so much so that we had to call out the vet and she went in as an emergency last Sunday for investigation as to what was causing the problem. An anxious wait, a few sleepless nights and scrambled egg laced with doggy antibiotics, and I'm pleased to report that she is on the mend and much more her usual self.

Her usual self is an excitable one. She bounds about the house in the hopes that someone will play with her and if they don't respond then she steals something in order to force them into a favourite game of 'chase me'. Socks are a favourite, slippers, toys, even the Sky remote. Like lots of small dogs she doesn't have an accurate perception of her size and she seems to think she's a much bigger scarier dog than she really is. She is, in fact, the perfect size for Build-a-Bear clothes as the girls like to prove on an all too regular basis.

Luna is a Bichon Frise which quite literally translates as 'curly lap dog' - an accurate description. This breed is apparently white and they have a double coat which, although is good for anyone who normally would have an allergy to dogs, is prone to the very worst sort of matts and tangles. When we are no longer able to cope with it using our full range of Pets r Us grooming tools, we call in the professionals. 'Whiffy Woofers' the grooming technicians arrive in their mobile unit and at least an hour later Luna emerges looking very much like a small, rather startled, shorn lamb. This process costs us more than it does for me to have a cut and blow-dry at my hairdressers!

Wool cycle maybe?
Luna was rescued from a puppy farm and was definitely the runt of the litter; even now she tends to take a small amount of food from her bowl and run off to a corner to eat it .  She suffers with many of the inherited disorders common to this breed including allergies, cataracts and deafness.  This means that when she's off the lead she doesn't always hear us when we call her and even if she does, she's not quite sure where we are. Once when we were out at the beach she ran back to another family altogether and got really quite distressed when she realised they weren't us!  She barks at the washing on the line convinced it's a person moving around outside.  

Despite all of her imperfections and quirks we all love her; it's hard not to be won over by such an endearing little creature. The Wonderful Man even has to admit that she has a special place in his heart though he did insist on changing her pink lead and collar to a more manly black. 

Favourite place: by the log burner of course

Linking this post up with Hello Wall and #somethingfortheweekend.

Monday, 14 October 2013

The First Time

There are first times for everything, I guess, and a year ago today I wrote my very first blog post. I'd been an avid blog reader, lurker and follower for a few years before taking the plunge and starting my own and I'm so glad I did. I'm not sure that anyone, other than my family or close friends, read that first post or many of those that followed, but the process of thinking, writing and recording my thoughts is an enjoyable and strangely therapeutic one.  Now my blog is a year old today I thought I'd share with you what I've learned about blogging (probably a short post then!)

Blog names and Post Titles are Important
If you want someone to read something think carefully about how to draw them in. I rest my case with this post's title - 'The First Time' - which might just make someone curious enough to read on!
I chose Little House in The Borders as a nod to, yes you've guessed it, Little House on the Prairie. That whole series of books are favourites of mine and my childhood daydreams and imaginary games often had me as Laura Ingalls, bravely exploring the frontier of our back garden.  Consequently, I've found that many of my regular readers tend to like them too. I'm drawn to funny blog names often suggesting an honest appraisal of family life hence Hello Wall, 3 Children and It and Slugs on the Refrigerator are regular reads.

Visiting and Linking are Fun
I always feel that if someone has taken the time to read and comment on one of my posts that I should do the same. Receiving a lovely comment really makes my day and I like to read comments on other blogs too. I've found that if I like what a commenter has to say then I'll often like their blog too. 
Linkys are fun and I've discovered so many other lovely blogs that I have to discipline myself to how much time I spend online. I'm not much of a crafter or a cook but I am a great admirer of those who create such beautiful and delicious things. Haggiz and The One Handed Cook are frequently visited and Rusty Duck makes me determined to untangle our wilderness of a garden.  

Blogging is an Enriching Experience
I haven't learnt very much at all about the technical side of blogging. I have yet to work out how to add a button for Instagram or Pinterest (other guilty pleasures of mine).  I also have no real knowledge of how to increase readership; my followers are few and once I've discounted the spam robots my statistics make for dismal reading! 

What I have learned though is something just as valuable to me and that's the fact that blogging makes you truly thankful for what you have.  Sometimes my posts are more of a rant, sometimes about trivial things I find amusing, but very often, I blog about things I want to cherish and remember. Blogging has a way of making you mindful and reflective about the good things in your real world. Whilst it's easy to look at other shinier blogs with images of a seemingly perfect family and imagine that your life somehow falls short, I feel certain that there are less salubrious aspects that are simply hidden on these blogs and not shared with the online audience.  There may be things I would like to change about my life but a quick scan through previous posts and images reveals the many things I hold dear and wouldn't change, not for a minute. 

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Dens, hideaways and lookouts...

Autumn always brings to mind one of the great childhood pleasures - den building.  I think it is probably the dry leaves and abundance of fallen sticks and branches, plus the idea of hibernation, that create such nostalgia.  Yet, if you ask children today about building dens you'll often get a blank look in return. If they do give an enthusiastic response then the chances are that most of their creations have been made indoors or as one 10 year old told me, 'I like Monsters Den' - an online adventure game!  

Not that I'm knocking the indoor hideaway in any way. I have great memories of setting up camp under the dining room table, behind the sofa or simply hanging a blanket over a clothes airer. But, there is a real Bear Grylls-type thrill in gathering natural materials, building something outside and attempting to keep out the elements.  The problem is that outdoor play space is more limited now and parents are, understandably, anxious about their children's safety if they are out of sight, even for a minute.  It's a shame because I think dens play an important part in childhood development. It's no coincidence that the appeal of creating such a space tends to start as a child's sense of self develops between the ages of 3 and 7. Dens in this sense become like a little home for the soul.

(image credit: littlegreenshed)
When we lived in Somerset, S was lucky enough to go to a lovely Steiner-inspired kindergarten and later she spent some time at forest school.  The kindergarten had the most beautiful playstands that were set up with a silk canopy that added privacy but let the light filter through. A playstand is really like a more crafted version of a wooden clothes horse but, unlike a manufactured playhouse, their simplicity allows them to be far more open-ended - this play space is often used as a house but it could equally be imagined as a cave, fort or a magical tent.  A quick search on Pinterest certainly has some inspiring images and tutorials on how to make your own. I badgered L to make some for us when the children were younger and now we still use them as functional shelves around the house.

Our playstands set up as a playhouse with a rainbow silk canopy
At the end of our garden we have a ready made den.  Being terrible gardeners, the vastly overgrown hedges, weeds and ivy have joined forces with the conifers to create a hidden glade.  S has added her own furniture (commandeered pallets from our builder neighbour) and made a doorbell. She has also made a sign, making it clear that adults are not allowed! Many happy hours have been spent there playing out imaginative games both by herself and co-cooperatively with friends. Her older sister was pelted with mud grenades once when she dared to peek in!

Where the wild things are!
You need to ring the doorbell with a stick 

Log stools, pallet table and plastic plant pots for making mud and leaf stew!

As well as this hideaway there is a lookout too, up in the tree outside the front of the house. It's useful for pirate games but S is most frequently found there with a book, Luna by her side. 
Cap'n S up in the lookout with first mate Luna
Do you ever grow out of den-building, I wonder? I think all we do is recreate more sophisticated versions in our homes and gardens. I could possibly argue that my bed has become a bit of a den, especially on weekend mornings, with cushions, books, smuggled supplies of biscuits and mugs of coffee on the side table. It's definitely a place to hide away from the housework and to be honest...the responsibilities of being an adult!

Linking this post with The Theme Game at The Reading Residence