Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Flowers of the Borders

There were undulating stands of wild yellow gorse everywhere. Note the mounds of it on the hills in the distance. Up close, it is rather prickly. We also saw many sheep grazing in the meadows and lots of cuddly lambs but it never seemed to be convenient to get their photos.

Daffodils were bountiful, even in the car parks. There were also beds of tulips, primroses, and pansies.

View looking beyond to the Galloway Hills (I think). It was beginning to rain so I'm glad I took the photos before we spent time in the Ice Cream Factory/Amusement Park.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Our Trip to The Borders

Here we are strolling down the streets of Castle Douglas in the misty rain.

Time for a snack in a little cafe.

Fruit scone, clotted cream, and jam. My favorite!

On the road out of Southerness we stopped alongside this cottage with owls painted above the windows. Outside the fence was a small table laden with homemade jams, breads, cakes. It all seemed like something out of a fairy tale, including the wee woman who came out to peddle her wares. If only she had had some hand-painted wool to sell.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Wonderful Wallaby Goes to Scotland

Years ago I made Carol Anderson's Wonderful Wallaby Sweaters MANY times. My boys ran around the neighborhood, climbed trees, and played in the sandbox in their wallabies. It has been a while since I've made one and just picking up the pattern booklet brought back wonderful memories of when the boys were small. The Wonderful Wallaby is a classic and I was pleased to knit one for my friend's grandson in Scotland. Thank you, Carol!

The bear's name is Woolly. Woolly has a bear too.

I knit a size 3 but lengthened the body and sleeves for this 3 and a half year old cutie!

Have You Heard of Susan Boyle?

Getting back into real life has taken several days. I arrived home very late Monday evening after a journey of nearly 24 hours. I was good to myself on Tuesday and maybe even on into the week. On Thursday I finally changed my watch back to Illinois time. Keeping it on Scotland time was my last link to a wonderful time with my good friend.

The Saturday night before Easter found us sitting on the settees, drinking a glass of wine, and watching Britain's Got Talent. We watched the drama unfold as Susan Boyle, a 47 year old Scottish woman from a small village in central Scotland, came onstage to take the first brave step toward her career as a professional singer. To be fair to those in the crowd who were skeptical, such shows are full of people who have totally over-estimated their abilities. When Susan opened her mouth to sing the opening notes of "I Had a Dream" from Les Miserables, the crowd burst into applause and rose to their feet. I was so stunned I stopped knitting and tears sprang to my eyes! What was also surprising was to come home a few days later to find that her fame had already spread across the world. In just a few days the video had millions of hits and Susan Boyle already has fan clubs with thousands of people. Some of the news videos are edited so click here if you have not seen the complete Susan Boyle audition.
It is amazing is that this person, who was totally obscure from the world less than a week ago, has in just a few days, risen to a level of fame that many celebrities take years to attain. Her candor, sweet smile, sense of humor, and complete lack of pretense give her personality that makes her talent even more special. I hope she is not totally "made over" by the experts and that someone is able to protect her best interests. She deserves all the happiness this world has to offer!

The photos are of the Easter Sunrise Service on the beach in Troon, Scotland. It was a bit chilly but there was no rain. The skies cleared later in the morning and we had a perfectly beautiful Easter Sunday.

Later in the day we went out for tea and scone to a nursery that had a lovely tearoom. A fountain was completely irresistable to a lovely wee boy!
There was an egg painting session and then egg rolling before our Easter dinner in the evening. A perfectly memorable "last day" in Scotland!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

He is Risen! He is Risen Indeed!

We set our alarm for 5:30 a.m. this gray morning. We are thankful it is not raining although it looks as if rain is not unlikely. Remembering that it is always cooler at the seaside, we dressed in layers. I wore two pair of wool socks and M had pajama bottoms on under her trousers; two shirts each, sweaters, coats, and I with my knitted wool shawl and gloves. Folk were gathering on the beach as we arrived. Many were walking in from their homes in town. The sunrise service is organized by several congregations. This year the Episcopalian minister led the service and two musicians with guitars led the singing. The gulls flew and called overhead. A mum came with two wee boys in their kilts. A couple standing next to us had their one-eyed dog on a lead. There was a good crowd of about 50 people. On a small table in the sand stood a cross, a loaf of bread, and a chalice. The service consisted of praise, music, prayer, and communion. I guess they realize that attention spans on the beach are too short for a message. As I looked around at the diverse crowd of people I could not help but think of my friends and family at home, still asleep in their beds, as we watch the sun rise here in Scotland.

M's friend Linda and her friend from South Africa met us at the service. We came back to the house for hot tea and bacon rolls. Bacon rolls are a kind of bun, made into a sandwich with thick Scottish bacon, usually eaten with brown sauce. We may have a little rest before the rest of the family come over for dinner today.

Happy Easter to everyone! He is Risen!

Later this day...

M and I went back to bed for a long nap until 12:15 p.m. We showered and have enjoyed time with the family. Our Easter dinner will be this evening after we have an Easter egg roll in the park. It is sunny and pleasant today! A beautiful Easter in Scotland!

I am getting a bit sad about leaving but also excited about going home. It is always that way.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A Visit to Culross

Thursday we packed our bags again and headed northwards to Culross. On the way we stopped at McCallum Bagpipes in Kilmarnock. I have McCallum pipes and was here before with Heather a few years ago and I wanted to see what was new in their showroom. I picked up a moisture control reed protector, a piper's "third hand" (device to help with tuning), and a new practice chanter. I might sell one of my old chanters that I don't really like. We scooted along to meet M's friend and business partner, Linda, for lunch. Linda is a delightful person and the time together went all too quickly.

We had a few unplanned detours on the way to Culross and finally found ourselves descending from the top of a hill to the old village that lies on the Firth of Forth. Culross (pronounced coo-ross) is among the most beautiful of all villages in Scotland. I've taken loads of photos to share when I return. Many of the buildings are 17th century or older and have been beautifully preserved. In fact, the entire village is on the National Register. The buildings border the edge of the narrow cobblestone streets, often without any sidewalks so pedestrians must be alert. Robin loaned us the use of their beautiful home, Eley House, on the street called Lower Causeway. We were to pick up the keys from Robin's friends, Judy and Martin, proprietors of St. Mungo's B& B just down the road. We did not find Judy on our first attempt so we had a cup of tea and shared a scone at a tea room and walked along the sea. The air was so fresh and clean. The day was overcast but we were very fortunate that rain did not hamper any of our activities. I was totally captivated by the charm of this village. Everywhere you look there is something of interest. Anyway, how could one not love a place that is in "The Kingdom of Fife"? Truly romantic, isn't it?

After finding Judy and getting the keys to Eley House, we settled in and then headed out to dinner at the Red Lion, a very short walk down the road. Both of us ordered a delicious chicken caesar salad and our own little bottle of wine. We walked back and watched a bit of American Idol on the telly and then dropped into bed.

We couldn't believe it when we awoke at 10:30 a.m.! (The bedroom was dark and so comfortable.) We beetled out for a bite of breakfast at the tearoom but were a bit too late for the real breakfast menu. We both ordered a cappucino and muffin. The muffin was a hearty one, filled with carrot, raisins, and nuts. That held us until evening (barely).

After our breakfast we walked up the hill to the Abbey (1217) ruins. An amazing garden was open for the day. I can't wait to see the photos on my computer! We dropped a few pounds in the donation box.

With a sad farewell to Culross we headed for Glasgow to check in on M's parents. Both are around 94 years of age and although a bit more frail since I last saw them 3 and a half years ago, still very alert and living independently in their tidy home. The kettle was set for tea and we ate a biscuit (cookie) or two with our tea before leaving around 3 p.m.

Our next stop was West Kilbride to find a wool shop that I had discovered through Ravelry. West Kilbride is a lovely village along the coast, between Largs and Ardrossan. I hope we can explore it a bit more someday. We actually arrived after the 4 p.m. closing time. M dropped me off and drove away to find a parking place. I was disappointed to find the little shop was closed. As I gazed at the array of hand painted yarns in the window (drooling), Lilith spied me from across the street. I had told her that I was coming sometime this week and she recognized my hand-knitted shawl as she was leaving to go home for the day. We knitters know our own kind! I wanted to buy one of everything in the shop but I settled on 3 skeins of laceweight, a skein of sock yarn, and one of a special color designed by Ysolde Teague. I am so excited to work with these beautiful yarns. Check out oldmaidenaunt on Ravelry! (She is not old)

We had about an hour after arriving home and leaving again for Kilmarnock. M's friends were meeting for dinner at The Coffee Club in Kilmarnock. These 5 ladies get together regularly and have the greatest time together. M and "Forever Linda" have been friends since they went to school at age 5. M, Forever Linda, and Joyce have been friends since the age of 10. It's just fantastic that they have kept these friendships up for so many years. Most of the times I've come for a visit I've had the opportunity to join them so I was very happy that they arranged it again for this trip. We had some good laughs and I learned more about them and their families.

We are taking it easy today, just relaxing and going into the shops for a few things. The sun is shining and we are planning on walking to the beach and back.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Holiday to the Borders

Our surprise journey was a "trip of memories", visiting some of the places we visited when I first came to visit M and her family in 1999. Our trip took us through the winding roads of the Galloway hills. Sheep and new lambs dotted nearly every hillside. Lambing season is still ongoing at this time so there were many little ones frolicking in the fields and nursing with the mama ewes. Daffodils bloom in masses along the roads, in carparks, alongside white-washed cottages, dry-stone walls, and even in fields. It is no wonder Wordsworth wrote of "hosts of golden daffodils". They are truly breath-taking when seen in such profusion.

We ate our lunch in Southerness, near the John Paul Jones Cottage. In 1999 M and I ate dinner here while the children played games in the nearby video arcade. I ordered a delicious fried haddock which was way too big but also delicious. You can count on wonderful fish in Scotland. Our destination for the evening was the Cairndale Hotel in Dumfries. We stopped at a garage to ask directions and I think I understood about 1/10 of the words spoken by the man who graciously pointed out the way. It is a good thing they were not depending on me to get us there!

One of my favorite towns to drive through is New Abbey where Sweetheart Abbey ruins are found. I wish I had taken a photo of a sign pointing to a town called "Beeswing". Is that not a charming name for a village?

M had the foresight to make a pot of lentil soup before we left home. We picked up loaves of ready-to-bake bread at the local Spar shop (nice convenience store) to eat with our hearty soup. A pot of tea and tray of biscuits rounded out our meal.

Tomorrow we leave for Culross, a village that is on the National Trust Register. Our friend Robin, has graciously loaned us the use of her lovely home while she and her family are on holiday on Orkney. We have two full days ahead of us. The next post will be on Friday.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Here I am--in Scotland!

A few months ago it didn't look as if I would be going to Scotland to visit my dear friend, M. It has been three and a half years since we have seen one another and we were long overdue for a visit. There is so much to catch up on when you go for years without seeing one another. My sweet husband is responsible for encouraging me, actually insisting, to book the ticket. M's first grandson was born when Bob and I were here with the pipe band in August 2004. We were able to see him in the hospital when he was just a day old. Now he is an adorable, and I REALLY mean adorable, extremely bright toddler with lovely blue eyes and a delightful personality. I love him to pieces! We bonded yesterday when he pretended to be a mewing kitten and I chased after him as he ran from sofa to love seat. What a sweetie.

I flew here on Aer Lingus, to Dublin and then on a short connecting flight to Glasgow. There used to be a very convenient AA direct flight from Chicago to Glasgow. Aside from the fact that the flight was not direct, I have to say it was one of the most pleasant airline experiences I've had in the last decade. Clean, comfortable seats, individual tv screens, decent food, ample soft blankets and pillows, and a very friendly flight staff. I will definitely try to fly Aer Lingus again.

Experts on jet lag and travel say that on the first day after a long flight you should stay awake all day and adapt to the new schedule. With just two hours of sleep on the flight, that method was not going to be a wise course. I took a short nap late yesterday afternoon, showered, and then felt fine until falling into a coma around 11 or 11:30. I slept for 12 hours (!) and am now right as rain, or as M said when I woke up, "That's you, sorted now." We had tea and a strawberry smoothie here at the house as we chatted in the lounge. Tea always tastes best in Scotland! (It is the water.) M treated us to a lovely brunch in a restaurant overlooking the harbor in Troon. We both had a bit of pan fried salmon, salad, roasted new potatoes, all presented beautifully in a lunch sized portion. Dessert was included: lemon tart for me and Scottish tablet ice cream with chocolate sauce for M. Cappucino was the perfect ending to our meal. Perfect!

Tonight I'm going to P's (M's daughter) to teach her to knit. I'm looking forward to our special time together. Tomorrow M, her two daughters, grandson, and I are off on a getaway venture. The destination is a surprise to me. How fun! All I know is that I am supposed to bring my "bathing costume". Thank goodness M told me that in advance. I tried the bathing costume on before I left and it didn't fall apart...yet.

Lentil soup is bubbling on the stove. My knitting is in the lounge. Weather is cool and daffodils, banks of them, and tulips, are blooming along the roadways and in the gardens. M's back garden has a stone wall that borders a farm field. We see cows (not the Highland variety) and sometimes sheep, grazing out back. A cup of Scottish blend tea with milk has just been placed on the desk by the keyboard. Tea and a good friend. I am a very fortunate person!

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