Cock-A-Leekie Soup-A Recipe for Burns Night

Every year on January 25, Scots (and those who have plaid hearts), come together to celebrate the life and literary works of Scotland’s beloved poet, Robert Burns. Burns Night is a night for making merry. Though celebrations vary among its participants, generally it’s a night to gather with family and friends to eat traditional Scottish fare, to be entertained by all things Burns, and of course, to drink whisky! At more formal occasions, the evening commences with the joining of hands as everyone sings ‘Auld Lang Syne.’ Mr. C and I celebrate our own version of Burns Night, but to celebrate this event IN Scotland is one of my bucket list dreams.

The traditional fare on Burns Night is usually some sort of soup (such as cock-a-leekie), haggis, neeps, tatties, and something sweet (like cranachan or clootie dumpling). Today, I would like to share with you my recipe for cock-a-leekie soup. I know it sounds funny, but it’s just chicken soup with leeks. The addition of allspice really takes the taste up a notch. Enjoy it on Burns Night or any other occasion. It’s utterly delicious!

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Pilrig House-A Historical Gem in the City of Edinburgh

Hello, my friends. A very happy new year to you. I hope your 2019 has gotten off to a great start!

Today I would like to take you to a place in Scotland that is extra special to me. I know, I know…you think I always say that. Haha, you know me too well, dear reader. And it’s true, I suppose. But this place really does put a skip in my plaid heart.

Isn’t it lovely? This is Pilrig House, a historic Scottish townhouse located in Edinburgh, next to the burgh of Leith. It is believed that the name ‘Pilrig’ may have derived from the former ‘Peilrig’ and ‘Pellryge’ (rig=ridge), where a peel tower stood in the 15thcentury. According to pilrighouse.com, “stonework in the basement walls suggests the remains of a peel tower”. For a newby history geek like me, that is fascinating.

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“Autumn Fires”, by Robert Louis Stevenson

“Autumn Fires”

by Scottish poet Robert Louis Stevenson

In the other gardens
And all up the vale,
From the autumn bonfires
See the smoke trail!

Pleasant summer over
And all the summer flowers,
The red fire blazes,
The grey smoke towers.

Sing a song of seasons!
Something bright in all!
Flowers in the summer,
Fires in the fall!

Trees with green, red, yellow, and orange leaves.

Parks and Rec Made Me Cry So I Booked a Trip to Scotland

In typical fashion, Mr. C and I were late to the game.  A few weeks ago, on a lazy vacation day in Kentucky, we discovered the comedy series “Parks and Recreation” produced by and starring Amy Poehler.  Never mind that the show ended like three and a half years ago, but hey.  We’re not big television watchers, and it takes a lot in a show to impress me and hold my attention, but boy, when I find a show that does both, I’m ALL in.  Smart, witty, hilarious, and occasionally quite poignant and touching, I think “Parks and Rec” knocked it out of said park.

The show’s characters are an extremely eclectic bunch, and I get such a kick out of them all!  But it’s Ron Swanson – that deadpan, highly private, masculine, meat-eating, whisky-loving, mustache of a man who I adore the most.

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Ron Swanson from the show “Parks and Recreation”, played by Nick Offerman
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Mary Queen of Scots-Part 2

“Mary, Queen of Scots entered the room where she would be executed. She told her friends and servants to ‘rejoice rather than weep for that the end of Mary Stuart’s troubles is now come … tell my friends that I die a true woman to my religion, and like a true Scottish woman and a true French woman.’

Mary was disrobed; her black garments were removed, revealing an outfit of deep red – the Catholic colour of martyrdom. She knelt down on a cushion, resting her head on the block, before stretching out her arms and crying in Latin “Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit.” The axe came down, but landed on the back of her head rather than her neck. A second blow cut into her neck but a third was required to sever the head completely.

When the executioner lifted Mary’s head it tumbled onto the stage, leaving him holding her wig. Her hair was short and completely grey due to years of stress as a prisoner. A final surprise was waiting for the executioner – Mary’s little Skye terrier had been hiding under her skirts, soaked in blood.”  –Laura Brown, Historic Environment Scotland


Hello again, friends. I hope this day finds you well. Today we are going to pick up where we left off in my previous post about the life of Mary Queen of Scots.

Statue of Mary Queen of Scots.
Mary Queen of Scots on display at Edinburgh Castle
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Mary Queen of Scots-Part 1

Greetings, everyone! Today, my blog topic is by special request from my friend and faithful reader, Paige. About to embark on a honeymoon trip to Scotland (fab decision), she asked if I would mind writing an article on the fascinating and controversial Mary Queen of Scots. My friend has a similar interest in history, so I am thrilled to oblige. Paige, dear, this one’s for you.


If there is one takeaway from my research on Mary Queen of Scots, it is that the relationship between Scotland and England is a complicated one. Always has been. May always be.

The story of Mary is also complicated. As with any events that took place half a millennia ago, sometimes that which separates fact from fiction is not crystal clear. I imagine there will always be scholarly debate and political and religious bias that informs individual opinions. Still, I think most people would agree upon the major points of Mary’s life. As for the finer, cloudier points, well, they are fodder for the imagination. With that said, let’s dig in.

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Happy Valentine’s Day

A red rose.

“A Red, Red Rose”

-by Robert Burns (1759-96)

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June:
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun;
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare-thee-weel, my only Luve!
And fare-thee-weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ ’twere ten thousand mile!

Happy Valentine’s Day to each of you today!

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*Photo courtesy of Pixabay.

The Bard of Ayrshire: Robert Burns

Welcome back! Today I would like to pick up where I left off in my previous post about Scottish poet Robert Burns and the annual Burns Night celebration. I promised you I would go a little deeper into the life of the man who penned “Auld Lang Syne” and who, some 222 years later, is regarded as the national poet of Scotland. So let’s dig in!

Ol’ Rabbie was a handsome chap, eh?

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The eldest of seven children, Robert Burns was born on January 25, 1759, in a small town in Ayrshire, Scotland. His father, William Burnes (the family later dropped the ‘e’), and mother, Agnes Brown, were poor tenant farmers. Because of the family’s impoverished situation, young Robert spent his formative years engaged in hard, manual labor on the family farm. This facet of his life would shape his world view and inform his writing throughout the years.

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Burns Night-A Celebration of Scotland’s National Poet

It’s the 25th of January, and in Scotland, that means one thing – Burns Night!

Burns Night Suppers are an annual event whereby folks in Scotland and beyond get together to celebrate and commemorate the life and works of Scotland’s beloved national poet, Robert Burns. The Suppers take place each 25th of January on the anniversary of his birthday.

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Robert Burns: 1759-1796
Photo:  Public Domain

Robert Burns (also known as Robbie, Rabbie, The Ploughman Poet, and the Bard of Ayrshire) is one of Scotland’s favorite sons. You probably know him best as the man who first penned the words to “Auld Lang Syne.” Perhaps you know him by the verse that reads, “O my Luve’s like a red, red rose that’s newly sprung in June.” Or maybe you have a fondness for any one of Rabbie’s other 700+ works. He was a prolific writer and covered such topics as death and war, anguish and greed, religion and politics, love and sex, and many other topics in between.

Although archived and no longer updated, I discovered a BBC page dedicated to Burns that lists 716 poems and songs. It allows you to search for works by title, season, theme, and the year written. Well worth a look if you are interested in Rabbie’s poetry!

What happens at a Burns Night Celebration?

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For Auld Lang Syne

Happy New Year, friends! Wow, I can’t believe 2018 is almost here. Another year. A new beginning. A fresh start. A blank page to write upon.

What will you write on your page this year?

A decorated latte sitting on a table next to a journal and pen.

Every year when the clock strikes midnight, people around the globe jubilantly ring in the new year by singing “Auld Lang Syne.” I wonder, though, how many of us actually know what we are singing about or where the song originated. I’m reminded of the humorous exchange between Billy Crystal’s and Meg Ryan’s character at the end of one of my favorite movies – “When Harry Met Sally.”


Harry: [about Auld Lang Syne] What does this song mean? My whole life, I don’t know what this song means. I mean, ‘Should old acquaintance be forgot’? Does that mean that we should forget old acquaintances, or does it mean if we happened to forget them, we should remember them, which is not possible because we already forgot?

Sally: Well, maybe it just means that we should remember that we forgot them or something. Anyway, it’s about old friends.

-from “When Harry Met Sally”, 1989


Roughly translated ‘for old times’ sake’ or ‘days gone by,’ “Auld Lang Syne” is about preserving old friendships, raising a glass, and looking back with nostalgia over the events of the year. It’s a celebration of the moment and gives us hope for the future. Joy, kinship, and camaraderie – even melancholy and regret – are just some of the feelings I think this song has the power to invoke. Such is the power of music.

Auld Lang Syne sheet music resting on the keys of a piano.
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