Sometimes You Win. Sometimes You Lose.

“Endurance is patience concentrated.”

∼Scottish essayist, satirist, and historian

Hi friends! Today’s post is a departure from my usual focus on Scotland. Instead, I want to write about my trip to Florida with my sister this past week. So with that said…

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. For me and my dear, long-distance sister S, this past week was a bit of a loss.

S and I started going on “adventures” several years ago. They are not really adventures in the truest sense of the word, they’re really just sister get-a-ways. But that’s what we call them. Our adventures have taken us to the coast of South Carolina, the mountains of Tennessee, to destinations in the Great Appalachian Valley, and this past week, to the Gulf Coast of Florida.

For months we had anticipated our beautiful Emerald Coast vacation. The area is a favorite spot for me and Mr. C and I was so excited to share it with my sister who had never been to Florida. I had arranged our flights, our rental car, and for our stay in a cute townhome that Mr. C and I had rented in the past. Everything was all set. We were excited and anxious for our week of sisterly seaside bliss.

Boy, were we about to be let down!

Because instead of enjoying the soothing sounds of surf and seabirds, we ended up being treated to a solid week of a gutting/renovation project of the townhome next door. (To be fair, the property owner did tell me about the construction. However, the foreman had told her that they were finished with the noisy stuff.) They lied. Every single day from 7:45 am until 5:30 pm…WHACK, BANG, WHIR, SAW, HUM, BUZZ, SLAM!! Because the two homes are attached, there were moments our apartment actually shook from the brute force of the men at work. We couldn’t spend time on our decks or even leave our slider open because the cacophony of the construction was so intrusive. I have never in my life been so stressed on a vacation or so ready to depart early – especially when we’re talking about the beach! We notified our landlord, of course, and she sincerely apologized and offered a discount to help ease the pain. But I’m not sure even a full refund would take away the disappointment of having our quiet beach week “ruined” by that never ending racket. I really wanted to be an adult about it because sometimes you-know-what just happens and there’s not a damn thing you can do but try to make the best of it. And I totally get that it’s insignificant in the grand scheme of things. The world has much bigger problems than our vacation woes. But I was angry at the situation nonetheless. I’m still pretty angry.

My bond with S was born out of a rather catastrophic experience. Eight years ago, while visiting me for the first time (and on her first vacation in years), she suffered a terrible fall that landed her flat on her back between my car and the curb. Within half an hour we were in the E.R. and by 8 am the following morning, she was in surgery for a devastating pilon fracture of her tibia. S spent the next few days in the hospital in a hometown not her own and in a state of grogginess from the hard core pain medication. Even today, she cannot remember key details of the experience that I have related to her.

Disappointment, sadness, stress, and fear were just some of the emotions that we both faced in the days after. First, of course, the utter disappointment of interrupted plans and the sadness of seeing her in such agony. I was stressed about how I would care for her in my wheelchair unequipped home and she by her loss of independence. We feared not knowing how quickly she would heal and how she was going to be able to continue to work to pay her bills and how she would care for her two small children. I wasn’t even sure how Mr. C and I were going to get her home. There were more than a few tears shed during that time.

S ended up staying with us for two full weeks before we were able to return her home to her children. It was a long two weeks and by all accounts it was a terrible time. Except that strangely, it wasn’t. Because two sisters who were really more like friendly, long-distance acquaintances, bonded. It sounds cheesy, but that experience gave us a whole new love and appreciation for each other. We started out as sisters and we ended up as friends.

Life is pretty unpredictable, as I know you know. Sometimes you outright get the lemonade and sometimes you just get the lemons. Twice now together, S and I have been given lemons. When I think back over the last eight years with her, though, from the time of her injury until our goodbye hug yesterday morning, the lemons aren’t really the memories that stand out to me. It’s the laughter. The laugh-til-you-cry, almost wet your pants kind. It’s the way we can be stupid and silly with each other – completely ourselves. It’s the times we have shared a prayer together. It’s the way she teases me for my vacation “low points” and for frequently “pulling a Wendy” (yeah, I do funny stuff sometimes). It’s that time I asked her to stop humming because she was getting on my nerves (she’ll never let me live that one down!). It’s a hundred little moments that when added up, make for one big happy memory.

Hm, perhaps we didn’t lose so much this past week after all.

Cheers,

Aberlady Parish Church

Hi friends. What’s new with you?

The countdown to our next Scottish adventure is officially ON! The light at the end of a very long tunnel is finally shining through and the long wait is almost over. I am more excited than I can say. Oh, what wonderful new things I will have to share with you soon!

Today we are going to make a quick stop in the small coastal village of Aberlady, Scotland to visit Aberlady Parish Church. Aberlady is located about 17 miles to the northeast of Edinburgh in the council area of East Lothian – a very fine part of the country indeed.

Aberlady Parish Church is part of the Church of Scotland.

In my last blog post, I wrote about Lindisfarne Castle which sits on the religiously significant Holy Island. What a coincidence that today I learned that the community of Aberlady was once on the pilgrim route between the monasteries on Holy Island and the Isle of Iona! In fact, in 1863 a fragment of an ancient Celtic or Anglo-Saxon cross was discovered in a garden area next to the church. The carvings on the cross were found to be similar to artwork in the Lindisfarne Gospels, which now reside in the British Library in London. How magnificent!

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My Plaid Heart In England: Lindisfarne Castle

Hey guys! Happy Wednesday to you. And happy first day of spring!

Today’s trip is going to take us through beautiful southeast Scotland and across the border into neighboring England. We won’t be going too far away from Scotland mind you, only about seventeen miles. We will be leaving the mainland, however. Don’t worry, you won’t need a lifejacket. A long causeway will lead us to our destination.

Intrigued? Grab your things because today we are headed to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne (or simply Holy Island) to see Lindisfarne Castle.

It is very important to check the tide schedule before you visit Holy Island. Twice daily, the North Sea tide comes in, making the causeway to the island inaccessible.

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Recipe: Rob Roy

Hi guys! I hope you have had a great weekend. I have been nursing a crappy ear infection myself. But alas, it’s been a good excuse to catch some extra z’s, lay around the house in my bathrobe, binge some television, and sip a little whisk(e)y. Always look on the sunny side of life, my friends!

In keeping with said whisk(e)y, today we are going to make a Rob Roy. Mr. C and I happen to LOVE a Manhattan cocktail, as we have been on quite the bourbon kick lately (thus the reason I included the ‘e’ in the spelling of whiskey). Our newfound appreciation for bourbon began last fall when we visited Lexington, Kentucky and toured three different distilleries.

Named after the 17th century Scottish outlaw Rob Roy MacGregor, a Rob Roy cocktail is essentially a Manhattan. But instead of bourbon – or if you’re a purist, rye whiskey – it is made with a blended Scotch (whisky without the ‘e’). We initially wanted to make today’s recipe with Dimple Pinch, a smooth, non-peaty blend that is suited perfectly for mixed drinks. Unfortunately, Mr. C couldn’t find any and the liquor store he went to was thin on blends. So instead, he decided to try one we have never had. It’s called Monkey Shoulder. Great name, right? It describes itself as “blended in small batches of three fine Speyside single malts, then married to achieve a smoother, richer taste”.

Robert Roy MacGregor (1671-1734) was a marauder in the Highlands of Scotland.  After falling out with the Duke of Montrose, Roy ran a racket, whereby he earned a living stealing cattle and then extorting money from farmers to ‘protect’ them from thieves.  His name was made even more famous by writer Walter Scott when he published his novel Rob Roy in 1817.

Based on its description, I think Monkey Shoulder sounds promising. Let’s see if the taste is as inventive as that fun name!

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Scott Monument

Hi friends,

I have a case of the glooomies. I can think of no other reason except that it’s the end of February, which here in Virginia feels like the purgatory of months. It may be the shortest month but somehow it feels like the longest! We’re too far removed from the holidays now to bask in the nostalgia and still a few weeks away from the the warmth and beauty of a new season. We’re caught in that yucky in-between time where winter feels unrelenting. Hurry up spring!

Friends, today I want to take a look at an iconic feature of Edinburgh’s skyline. When you visit the city, you notice right away that the landscape is dotted with spires. Perhaps the most recognizable among them is the awesome, gothic tower that looks as if it could have come straight out of J.R.R. Tolkien’s imagination.

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Dalhousie Castle

Hi Friends,

I have missed you! I’ve been on a little blogging break and now I feel refreshed and ready to get back into the groove. I think it’s really important to do that every once in awhile. Do you feel that way too?

Reader, today I would like to take you to Dalhousie, a 13th/15th century castle that sits about eight miles to the southeast of Edinburgh, Scotland, near the town of Bonnyrigg.

Mr. C and I had the pleasure of visiting Dalhousie in the spring of 2014. While we did not spend the night in this beautiful castle hotel/spa, we did dine in The Dungeon Restaurant.  What a marvelous experience!

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“O Were My Love Yon Lilac Fair”: A Poem by Robert Burns (and one of my personal favorites)

“O Were My Love Yon Lilac Fair”, by Scottish poet Robert Burns

O were my love yon Lilac fair,
Wi’ purple blossoms to the Spring,
And I, a bird to shelter there,
When wearied on my little wing!
How I wad mourn when it was torn
By Autumn wild, and Winter rude!
But I wad sing on wanton wing,
When youthfu’ May its bloom renew’d.

O gin my love were yon red rose,
That grows upon the castle wa’;
And I myself a drap o’ dew,
Into her bonie breast to fa’!
O there, beyond expression blest,
I’d feast on beauty a’ the night;
Seal’d on her silk-saft faulds to rest,
Till fley’d awa by Phoebus’ light!

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends!

XOXO


Burns Night Recipe: Cock-A-Leekie Soup


Hey friends!

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 as it is called, 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 definitely one of my bucket list dreams.

*You may click on the links embedded above if you are interested in reading my previous posts about Robert Burns.*

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’s a funny sounding name, but really it’s just chicken soup with leeks. 🙂 The addition of allspice really takes the taste up a notch. Enjoy it on Burns Night or on any other occasion. It’s utterly delicious!

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St. Margaret’s Chapel

Hello friends,

Do you ever feel like the gears in your brain get stuck? Seriously, I have been trying to put words to paper for four solid days and I haven’t been able to get past ‘hello’! Maybe it has something to do with the elephant sitting on my left sinus cavity. Anyway, if today’s post stinks, you will know why! 😀

“And all I could say was, “hello”. –An Affair to Remember, 1957

Today we’re going to take a quick look at the oldest surviving building in Edinburgh. This is St. Margaret’s Chapel, located at Edinburgh Castle.

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Pilrig House

Hello, my friends. A very happy new year to you. I hope your 2019 has gotten off to a jolly good 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 that I feel that way about every place in Scotland! Haha, you know me too well, dear reader. And ’tis true, I suppose. But this place really does put a skip in my plaid heart.

Isn’t is lovely? This is Pilrig House, a historic Scottish townhouse located in Edinburgh, next to the burgh of Leith. It is theorized 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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Recipe: Sticky Toffee Pudding

Hello again, Friends.  Guess what…it’s recipe day!  Since I haven’t done any holiday baking thus far (cause my thighs are big enough already), today I’m going to do just that.  I’ll be trying my hand at Sticky Toffee Pudding, a recipe by my blogging friend and fellow lover of Scotland, Cristine Eastin.

To we Americans, Sticky Toffee Pudding is not a pudding as we know it.  It is actually a date cake topped with a delicious toffee sauce.

Cristine is a sweet and talented author who has published two works of fiction as well as a book of Scottish recipes – A Wee Scottish Cookbook (all available on Amazon).  It was in her cookbook that I found the recipe for Sticky Toffee Pudding.  As Cristine points out, this dessert is a relatively new concoction.  And although its origination may have been in England, the Scots have embraced it as a holiday tradition as well.

Click on any of the links above and you’ll be redirected to Cristine’s beautiful blog.  I hope you’ll check it out!

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When Christmas Was Banned In Scotland

Hello my friends!  I hope you are having an extraordinary day.

For today’s post, I would like to share with you about a time in Scotland’s history when Christmas was banned.  Yes, it really was!  And to mix things up a bit, I thought I’d have a little fun and try my hand at writing it as a poem.  Perhaps it will sound a bit familiar to you.  🙂  Enjoy.

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‘Twas the night before Christmas

and all through the land,

not a creature was stirring,

for Christmas was banned.

 

“Why?” you might ask,

when in Scotland of old,

the Yule was indeed

important we’re told.

 

You see, Yule – from the ‘Yuletide’-

was a festival of fun,

a time to laud the solstice

and the return of the sun.

 

Greenery was hung

as a symbol of life,

and the yule log burned warm,

merry, and bright.

 

In the year 1560, though,

something new happened.

The Reformation began –

spirits were dampened.

 

What used to be fun

was now frowned upon.

No more celebrations.

Beloved Yuletide was done.

 

From there it got worse,

more sadness and gloom.

And in 1640,

the Church lowered the boom.

 

Too pagan! Too Catholic!

Not biblical they said.

Go to work, eat your supper,

just be quiet instead.

 

Yuletide was banned,

the festivities finished.

If caught in celebration,

one would certainly be punished!

 

With no games, no gifts,

no more feasts to be had,

the people of Scotland

must have felt sad.

 

Thankfully, though,

cooler heads would prevail.

Nearly fifty years later

the act was repealed.

 

Three centuries more

was the notion suppressed,

though little by little

Christians welcomed the fest.

 

Old traditions and customs

that once had been barred,

were now part of Christmas,

reclaimed and restored.

 

Today Yuletide carols

are sung by a choir,

and Christmas trees sparkle

by the light of a star.

 

This Christmas as you

and your family delight,

I wish a happy Christmas to all

and to all a good night.

 

*Christmas became a public holiday in Scotland in 1958.

 

Enjoy your week, everyone and I’ll see you again soon!

Cheers,

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My Plaid Heart In the West Indies: Castillo de San Felipe del Morro

Greetings!  How is everyone?  My goodness, can you all believe there are only 14 days until Christmas?  How the days do fly by.

Friends, today I would like to share something a little different with you.  The day after Thanksgiving, Mr. C and I along with his parents, took a Holland America cruise to the Eastern Caribbean.  It was a new experience for me on two counts.  First, because I had never been on a cruise.  Second, because I had never traveled farther south than Houston, Texas or the Florida Panhandle.

Our journey began in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida where we embarked on our seven-day sea adventure. We sailed first to Turks & Caicos, then to San Juan, Puerto Rico, to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, and finally, to the Bahamas where we spent a day on the cruise line’s gorgeous private island, Half Moon Cay.  Then it was back to port in Florida, another great vacation in the books.

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Docked for the day at Half Moon Cay, Bahamas.

One of the greatest highlights from our trip was our stop in Old San Juan, Puerto Rico.  I had done a little research beforehand and knew that if I only had time to see one thing while I was there that it would be the 16th century fort, Castillo de San Felipe del Morro (or simply, El Morro).  After all, you guys know I’d never let a good castle go to waste!

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Bass Rock

Hello, my friends.  How are you guys today?  I’ve missed you.  I have been away on holiday with Mr. C and his parents, off the grid and making memories.  But I’m back now, ready to catch up on all the things you’ve been up to and eager to share some of the best moments from our trip.  For today, though, I’d like to show you a tiny island located in the outer part of Scotland’s Firth of Forth, where the river meets the North Sea.  This island is called Bass Rock and it is a beast of a thing!

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Rising to a height of more than 300 feet, the rocky island is a steep-sided volcanic plug that dates to the Carboniferous Age – arising a whopping 300+ million years ago.  At a distance, the surface of the rock can appear white, almost as if covered in a dusting of snow.  This is because of the presence of the world’s largest colony of Northern gannets.  In fact, in the peak of their nesting season, it is estimated that more than 150,000 of these sea birds call Bass Rock home!

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Lovely Lauriston (the sequel)

Hi Friends!  A warm welcome to you today.

Earlier this year, I took you guys on a photo tour of the spectacularly beautiful grounds at Lauriston Castle.  Well I would like to revisit Lauriston with you today.  Only this time, I invite you to join me as we explore the beautiful Edwardian interior, decorated and designed by the castle’s final owners, Mr. William Robert Reid, his wife Mrs. Margaret Johnstone Reid, and Mrs. Reid’s brother, Mr. William Barton.

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Mr. C and I visited Lauriston Castle for the second time in March 2017.  It is one of our favorites, so no trip to Edinburgh will now ever be complete without paying a visit to this lovely place.  We were thrilled to be able to take a guided tour of several of the castle’s main rooms.  Our docent was excellent and was a wealth of knowledge of the castle’s history, from the first construction in the sixteenth century until the passing of Mrs. Reid in 1926.  I think that if I lived in Edinburgh, I would want that job!

To recap a little of Lauriston’s history…

Lauriston’s tower house was built by Sir Archibald Napier sometime around 1593 and the pretty Jacobean-style extension was added in 1827.  Over the centuries, the castle passed through numerous hands until it came into the possession of its final owners – William and Margaret Reid. The Reids acquired the property in 1902 and lived there until Mrs. Reid’s death in 1926.  Because the couple had no children, they left the castle to the city of Edinburgh under the condition that it be preserved unchanged.  And so the promise was kept.  The remarkable Edwardian interior, filled to the brim with their fine furniture and artwork, is now a museum maintained by the city.  For a nominal fee, you can take a guided tour of this home (uh, castle) which remains exactly as it was at the time of the Reids.  The manicured grounds, which boast a view of the sea and a stunning Japanese garden are a real bargain – free!  Lauriston truly is a gem in Edinburgh. -from my previous post, “Lovely Lauriston“.

Well, are you ready to step inside and see what a 425-year-old castle clothed in 100-year-old decor looks like?  Great.  Follow me, friends.

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