Monday, October 31, 2011

Encyclopedia of Moi: S

Scotland – I have wanted to go here since I was about 15 years old, and this fall it finally happened.  It was everything I hoped for and more.  

Shortbread – One of my favorite cookies.  Crispy tender and buttery.  Is it a coincidence that it’s from Scotland?

Sean Connery -  The Great Scot.  Need I say more?  

Silver – I’d much rather have a piece of silver jewelry than gold.  It looks better on me and I find it more pleasing to my eye.  This is a good thing since I can afford to buy more of it!  LOL

Sasha – Our “puppy niece” Rat Terrier who belongs to Best Friend.  We were there when Best Friend picked her out from a litter of puppies belonging to an Amish farmer we bought flowers from.  This puppy princess may have been born in a barn… but she is living like royalty now!  

Shaved Ice- One of my favorite summer treats.  The perfect frosty crunch.  Can’t wait to introduce Little Bird and Little Hoss to it next summer!

Sundar -  Our youngest Compassion sponsor child.  He is from India.  In his letters to us, we are his “beloved Uncle and Aunty”.  

Sushi -  a favorite meal.  I enjoy both cooked and raw, tho I really haven’t gotten into the exotic rolls and nigiri.  My favorite local restaurant is Fujiyama and I like sitting up at the bar so I can watch them make the different rolls.  In fact, that is where Himself and I are eating tonight!

Secretariat – 1973 was an exciting year in horse racing as this super star dominated the race tracks.  Dad and I watched almost every race.  Who could forget that 31 length victory in the Belmont?  

Scallops – YUM!  A special treat.  I like mine simply prepared… quickly seared in butter. 

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Colonsay: Home to the Clan MacPhee

So why did we chose a remote island with a population of a bit more than 100 people to be the first stop (and one of our longest stops) of our trip?  There are a couple of reasons.
Second of which is that it is a peaceful small community where we could start our Scottish adventure at a gentle pace.  There are just a bit over 100 residents who live scattered over the island, which is only 8 miles long and 3 miles wide (at its widest point).  Folks here are often bi/tri/quad vocational as they making their livings in such a remote location.  This makes each person very interwoven into the community, and each person is very important to the whole.    Which is good… since everyone knows what everyone else is doing!

The small croft (farm) homes are lovely in their simplicity. 

And the landscape is dramatic and beautiful.

Then all you have to do is turn around and there is an equally dramatic and beautiful sea.

The B&B I chose was The Corncrake Cottage (a corncrake is a shore bird)  .  The room was very comfortable.  (We generally booked the twin room because beds in the UK are smaller than those in the US.  And after a long day on the road, one really isn’t in the mood to be fighting for sleeping space!)

We ate at a table that looked out at the above ocean view.  Sometimes there were seals in the bay who watched us watching them.  Our breakfasts were filling and quite delicious. 

Les, the owner of the Corncrake Cottage, is a working crofter and one morning we watched from our room’s window as he and his border collie brought in some of his sheep.  How cool is that!?  The whole family made us feel welcome.  BTW, they also offered to fix supper since there is no close by options for a meal.  It was some of the best cooking we had in the whole of Scotland… and we ate at some very well-known restaurants (more on those later). 

Just up the road was a beautiful rocky beach where we spent each afternoon.  Since it was the off season, we had it to ourselves every time. 

The stones were just incredible.  They ranged from golf ball size all the way up to medicine ball size boulders.  (Yes, a few made it back to TN with us!)

The beach was what is called a “raised beach”.  What that basically is, is a beach with the bedrock ‘raising’ out towards the water.  These stones are part of that raising.  They make awesome tidal pools and I had a great time exploring them.  I think I was staring at little shrimps in this one. 

When the tide was low… it was really, really low!  It went out about 300 feet and left these seaweed covered stones.  This was another fun area to explore, as there were many tiny tidal pools around each rock.  I told Himself the rocks looked like soldiers in their ‘ghillie suits’! 

One thing I think is fabulous about this little community is its sense of fun.  Once a month the small cafĂ©/shop “The Pantry”   hosts a ‘theme night’ international dinner and many of the residents are in attendance.  And the Saturday we were there was that night!  We enjoyed an Indian dinner every bit as good as we’ve ever had.  GG and M… you did a fantastic job!!  You ruined Himself with that wonderful rice pudding!  (a side note… The Pantry offers the BEST homemade bread.  I ordered up a loaf that we picked up when we got off the ferry.  It was still warm (!) and soooo good.) 
The night was made even more fun when I discovered a fellow blogger was in attendance.  It was rather funny as we figured who each other was!  Check out her blog at    

There is actually quite a bit to explore on Colonsay if you are interested in ancient history.  These ‘standing stones’ where just up the road from our B&B.  They date back to the Bronze Age (2500 – 600 BC). 

As you can see… they are not small!!

Almost across the road are the ruins of an old chapel, full of beautiful Celtic crosses. 

And stones so old and worn that they were crumbling back to earth.  
Resident Kevin offers tours of the island 

On Sunday we attended service at the Baptist church.  We walked the mile distance in the company of Kevin and his lab Lola.  
We met visiting minister Douglas and his wife Jeannette.  There are two churches on Colonsay and they alternate where services will be held.  One Sunday at the Baptist church…

… and the next Sunday at the Church of Scotland parish. 
But all that is the SECOND reason we came to Colonsay.  The FIRST reason we came is that Colonsay is the ancestral home of the clan MacFie (or MacPhee, MacPhie, MacFee…).  And my Dad’s mother was of the clan MacFie. 
In a conversation Himself had with the gentleman he rented a bike from, we discovered there was one MacPhee still living on the island.  We were encouraged to go visit him as “MacPhee” enjoyed meeting clan members.

And so we made a call upon “MacPhee” and found ourselves welcomed in with a wonderful hospitality.  We spent several hours visiting and left with a new friend.
So why did we come to Colonsay.
I wanted to see where this part of my Scottish heritage had come from.  Is it a coincidence that I have always loved rugged landscapes, rocky beaches and moody seas?  Maybe.
… Or maybe not…

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Planes, Van, and Ferry: Getting to Colonsay

The worst part about travel is the often the flight there.  I love flying… it’s the airlines I loathe. 

Knowing this, I took a lot of time to research and book our plane tickets to Scotland.  I checked aircraft body types, seat pitch, desirable and undesirable seat locations and so on.  Decided to go with Delta as they fly an Airbus.  What made me pick that is the seat configuration is a 2-4-2.  So we could have 2 seats all to ourselves.  Yes! 

Then I found on the Delta site that they have an economy ‘upgrade’ called “Comfort Economy”.  For $80 more you can get a seat with 4” more leg room and more recline.  I signed us up for that too.

Made our ticket purchase 6 weeks in advance and thought that issue was taken care of.

Fast forward to 22 Sept…

We arrived at the airport feeling pretty good, until…

… we realized the delay of our inbound plane was going to result in it being canceled altogether.  When the announcement was made from the boarding gate with instructions for rebooking, most of the other passengers charged the gate desk making a mile long queue.  I grabbed my travel notebook and headed up to the courtesy phone at the beginning of the concourse.  There were open phones when I arrived and in moments I was on with reservations rebooking.

Had I NOT been being met at the airport AND having to make a ferry that required a 2 hour drive to get there, I would have been a bit more laid back.  But the ticket agent kept laying out options that just were not going to work.  I finally said, “Listen, it’s Delta’s fault… start checking with your code share partners to get me something that works.” 

Amazing how quick after that I had a flight.  I lost my upgrade seating and the new flights were on KLM (one of my ‘no fly’ airlines) but at least I had something that would get us there.

Next issue was to contact Dave (our tour guide for part of the trip) to let him know we were coming in 4 hours later and on a different flight.  With no access to email and having to grab our stuff and run to catch our new flight, I sent a fast SOS to my Mom and to Best Friend (phone connection kept dropping so I wanted to make sure the info got out) with Dave’s email address and the needed information.

And we prayed our bags would really make it to Scotland with us!  (If you are ever in the situation, when you get to your new gate have the desk clerk put in a search for your bags and have them rerouted.  Gets the job done quicker than if you just let it ‘go thru the system’.)

Unfortunately, our seats were terrible (which is why they are available to begin with).  Both Himself and my knees touched the seat in front of us… which were occupied by two jokers who slammed the seats into full recline the moment we hit cruising altitude (and got hissy when they were bumped).  And the joker behind me kept stretching his feet all the way thru under his seat and into my foot area, kicking the back of my calves. 

I was never so happy to get off a plane than I was that one.

Yep… KLM… “Keep Life Miserable”.

However once we arrived in Scotland, everything was wonderful.  We breezed thru Immigration with a cheerful agent welcoming us to Scotland.

And waiting just beyond ‘the door’ was our guide Dave Cameron… looking FINE is his fabulous kilt.  After so many months of planning and emails back and forth, I felt I almost knew Dave and his wife Maureen, so it was great to finally meet him.  I’ll be writing more about Dave in later posts.  He’s a jewel. 

Our first stop in Scotland was to be the island of Colonsay.  The ferry terminal to reach it is a drive of little over 2 hours (heading straight up) from Glasgow.  When Dave said he could take us up, I leaped on the opportunity.
Our bags were collected and headed out to his van, where we quickly loaded and set off for Oban.  Dave asked if we wanted the direct route or the scenic route.  We picked the scenic route.  I’d rather see beautiful countryside than sit in a ferry terminal for several hours! 
And what scenery there was to see!  Even tho the weather was rainy, it is the rain that brings the waterfalls and Highlands mists.
   And moody Glen Coe was full of both. 

Every curve in the road brought an entirely new view. 

Once we had passed thru there, the views did not stop.

There were castles,

and castle ruins.

There were quiet lochs,

and fast moving rivers.

We made a stop at a restaurant that specialized in fresh seafood; much of it from the sea loch it was next to.  I can’t remember what Himself had but my meal was fresh (like that morning they had been in the loch) oysters on the half shell and mussels in a white wine sauce.  Ummmmm…

Our trip with Dave ended at the Oban ferry terminal, as we boarded the “Lord of the Isles” to make the 2 hour sail to the island of Colonsay.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Scotland Walkabout

I have a little secret… Himself and I returned Saturday from a 30 day trip to Scotland!  I’ll be blogging about it, of course… tho I will spread them out over time. 

We flew into Glasgow where our guide for a later part of the trip picked us up at the airport.  Dave drove us via the scenic route to the city of Oban and dropped us off where we caught the ferry to the island of Colonsay.  We spent several days on this small island chilling out from the frenetic pace of the ‘getting to Scotland’. 

After 4 days we took the ferry back to Oban, where Dave picked us up for a 15 day private guided tour thru some of the western islands and the Highlands. 

We spent 2 days in Edinburgh and did a drive into ‘The Borders’ with Dave.

The final week was spent in a seaside cottage in the Lowlands of Galloway, where we had a rental car so we could explore the area. 

It was an incredible trip that I am looking forward to sharing here.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Encyclopedia of Moi: R

Roosters (and Hens):  I have a small collection of chicken items.  Some are from my grandmother’s dish set and some are from my Mom’s.  I have some that made me laugh and others I thought were pretty.  And they are another thing I like to pick up when I travel.  The picture shows my “travel chicks”.   

Raku:  I like pottery and raku is my favorite type.  To make raku, the piece is removed from the kiln at its peak heat and quickly stuffed in container of straw or sawdust.  The carbon combines with the glaze (and the cracks that happen because of this treatment) and produces something absolutely beautiful and unique… or a broken pot…   The fun thing about raku is you don’t know what it will look like until you clean it off.

"Rose" Turkish Delight:  Another favorite candy.  I can blame this sweets addiction on my Iranian friend Nazzi.  Rose water is used a lot in Persian cooking and she would have these treats in her home.  Have you ever wondered what a rose tastes like?  Try a rose Turkish Delight.  (BTW, a Turkish Delight is a jelly candy covered with powdered sugar).  

Ribeye:  A top choice for a steak.  Rare… thank you very much.

Rhino:  Did you know that a rhino’s hide feels like suede covered concrete?  But behind the ear is as soft as a baby’s cheek.  I didn’t until I met Morani in Kenya.  This tame rhino has been greeting visitors for a long time.  That is Himself standing behind him.   Rhinos are one of my favorite animals.  Used to sit and watch them for a long time at the zoo.   

Rocks:  I am a card-carrying rock hound!  Everywhere we go I bring back rocks I’ve picked up.  I use them in decorating my yard.  I have them set about the house.  And a have some really nice pieces that I’m going to set up a display when I finish my hobby room.

Rust:  Rust is a great patina.  I’m using it more and more in my decorating.  It gives the feeling that something has been around a long time, a sense of place.  

Russia:  I grew up being taught in school to mistrust and even fear the “evil USSR”.  But I felt there had to be something beyond the government.  The art – literature, painting, folk art – was just too beautiful to believe that everyone ‘behind the Soviet curtain” was bad.  Then the curtain fell.  And Himself and I sponsored 2 families thru a grassroots program under the US State Dept.  And eventually I became the President of this national organization and made a trip to our sister city “Chelyabinsk”.  And came home with many new friends.

Rift Valley:  In school as we studied tectonic plates and all that, I’d daydream about what it would be like to see “the Great Rift Valley” of Africa.  In 2006 I sat on the edge of that valley in Kenya.  We had just visited a series of geysers in Bogorio Park and now we sat on the opposite valley wall.  Incredible.   

Round up:  I would love to take a vacation at a working ranch.  Not a ‘dude ranch’ where cattle are herded back and forth between the same pastures each week, but a real ranch that takes in guests.  That would be fun.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Make It a Double!

No trip to St Louis is complete with a visit to Crown Candy Kitchen ( ).  It is THE place to go for a real soda fountain experience.  The shop is tiny and usually packed.  The lines form just inside the door.  Step left if you want to order candy or something to go.  Step right if you want a booth.  

(Sorry about the cruddy photos.  The light was harsh and I was being jostled.)

The candy display.

The soda fountain counter.  Just look at all those wonderful treats you can choose from!    I didn’t need to look at that tho.  I knew exactly what I wanted…

… a double chocolate cherry milkshake!  (It’s enough for two people… or one hot and tired shopper).

Once we finished, I wandered over to the candy counter where I picked up a few treats to go.  

Can’t wait to go back!!!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Turtle Time

I need to buy a bumper sticker for Little Red that says “Warning!  I stop to rescue turtles!”  

In ONE day Himself and I made 3 rescues. 

Himself found this tiny fellow almost baked to death on the road.  He brought him home to see if cooling down would save him.  Obviously it did.  He got downright frisky.

Isn’t he cute!?

This guy isn’t so cute.  He wasn’t so frisky either…

The coloring on this box turtle is just so beautiful.  He wasn’t very social and this is about the most we saw of him.  

We took them back in the woods where there is a nice spring fed pond to release them.  Cutie and Grouchy were relesased a bit of distance from each other in the pond while Bashful was set free at the edge.  

It is a good place for a turtle to live… much better than being smashed to a greasy spot in the road!