Tuesday, October 18, 2016

On the road in the Highlands

Dear Mom,
Mustering our courage, we picked up our rental car for the next legs of our Scotland adventure.
Packing the modest sized car with our luggage was an exercise in spacial relations, but we did it.

Things got better by the end of the trip. Or there were more things in the back seat.
Or both.

Needless to say, the backseat was crowded the entire trip, with one suitcase and my  CPAP machine on the seat between us. My back seat partner and I had a very organized system for taking turns shifting the luggage so we could fasten and unfasten our seat belts. Our leg space was not wasted, either.  Getting out of the car was a slow extraction.

After determining who would be the first driver, we left the car rental and immediately encountered our first roundabout. Going clockwise and unsure of which exit to take, we pretty much immediately hit the first of many curbs on the left side of the road. We praised and encouraged and prayed and thanked and cheered our driver.  I will be forever grateful to my brave friends for all the driving they did. And I will just say right here, right now, that we did NOT lose any mirrors (despite a dire prediction by one son -not mine-) and miraculously  did not get a flat tire.  How we did not get a flat has to be the power of 4 guardian angels. The rims on the left side of the car were very chewed up!

As is the case for all of Scotland, the scenery on the road to Inverness was breathtaking. The hillsides are dotted with sheep.
We stopped at the Highland Folk Museum. I did not realize until we got there that scenes from Outlander were filmed here. (Season One, Episode Five, RENT)

The charming, costumed man and woman stationed in the oldest section happily answered our questions and then, because we were obviously from the US, asked us where in the states we were from. Hearing that we came from Indiana, they immediately wanted to know about TORNADOS! We assured them that we did not live in constant threat and fear of them and in fact had never in all our years actually witnessed one. Myth busted.

Next stop, Cairngorm Mountains. The weather became misty and windy on our way up the mountain. But on the way up the sun broke through the mist and we were blessed with the most spectacular rainbow. Photos do not do it justice.

The complete rainbow seemed to be at eye level. Incredible. After taking countless pictures, we had to break ourselves away from this photo op. Needless to say, we were not the only car pulled off to the side of the road, with passengers scattered roadside seeking the best angles for photos. This moment is one of the highlights of the trip. 
We rode the funicular railway through dense fog to the top of the mountain and had lunch at the cafe there. We were lucky to have the mist blow away, the sun shine and were given breathtaking views.

Enough driving for one day, and not wanting to do any of it after dark, we drove into Inverness and our next home away from home, the Oakvilla Bed and Breakfast.

Next, Culloden, Standing Stones and Nessie!


Tuesday, October 4, 2016


Dear Mom,
Our flight from Newark to Edinburgh was pleasant and went quicker and easier than I 'd anticipated. I actually got some decent sleep on the plane and I will give credit here to the "J" pillow I purchased for the flight. Those round-the-back-of-the-neck pillows are not comfortable for me and after some online searching I stumbled upon and ordered my J Pillow.  I was very happy with it.
Once on the ground we threaded our way through a very efficient Customs process. "My" customs official was charming, pleasant, and patiently listened to me tell him that I'd been anticipating and planning my trip for 5 years, timed to follow taking my youngest off to college. He smiled and said, "Quite Right!" I was enchanted.
I sincerely appreciated that the Edinburgh airport quite thoughtfully has LOOK RIGHT with arrows painted on the street crossings for those of us trained to look LEFT before crossing. I never quite got the hang of which way to look before crossing and ended up looking both ways several times before taking my first steps. In this, my confidence was wobbly. I tried crossing with others, but restrained myself from holding someone's hand.
We spent our first three nights in Scotland in Edinburgh.  I quickly fell in love with Edinburgh and could easily envision going back and spending a full week (or two) there.
After checking into our rooms at the stately Hotel George, in New Town, we took a long, drizzly walk to the only yarn shop we would visit while in Scotland. Kathy's Knits. I'd read that it was the local shop for Lucy Hague, whose Celtic Shawls book is an inspiration. The shop owner was quite pleasant and we saw samples of all the shawls from Lucy's book. Bearing in mind the space available in my suitcase, I purchased just 2 balls of Rennie Yarn, which is made in Scotland- enough for Kyna, the second shawl in the Celtic Shawls book. With Kathy's help, I chose a warm denim-y blue color.
We left the shop to enjoy a late lunch at Nom de Plume. It was here I had my first (but not last) taste of a delicious Strawberry Lime cider. Maybe it is a good thing, but I am disappointed that this particular brand of what we call "hard" cider is not available in the US.
Walking back to our hotel, we tried to find our way into the Queen's Street gardens. All the gates were locked and we had to satisfy ourselves with peaks over the wall and hedges between the trees.

On our first full day, after an incredible breakfast in the hotel, we headed in sunshine (!) for the Royal Mile distracted on our way by many, many many delicious kilts!

 I took loads of kilt photos, but sadly I had a memory card failure and lost all the photos I took those first 4 days with my "real" camera. I've tried not to beat myself up, lose sleep, and "if only" myself about it. That was the worst that happened on the trip and nothing to complain or be sorry over. My traveling companions and I are sharing our photos, and I did take some with my phone, so all is not lost.

After touring Gladstones Land- a 17th century tenement house, which gave us insight into what life was like living on the Royal mile in the 1600's, we continued the uphill climb to Edinburgh Castle. We arrived at the castle in perfect time to witness (and set our watches to) the 1 o'clock cannon.

In the photo just above, the building just behind me is St Margaret's chapel. We were privileged to see a wedding party arrive! And just behind and below the chapel is this tender place.

We lunched at The Elephant House, where JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter.
I liked this sign in The Elephant House!
We ended our first day on the Royal Mile with a tour of The Real St Mary's Close- another historical peek at the hardships and life for those living on the Royal Mile as the city and tenements were built up, around and over existing structures. Gardy Loo!

I came close- sort of- to finding Jamie Fraser on the Royal Mile. Probably good he wasn't the real thing. I would have made a blubbering fool of myself. 

We finished the Royal Mile with a tour of Holyrood Palace and Gardens. 

Holyrood Palace is still in use by the Queen. Had she been in residence we would not be able to tour the palace. On display were many of the dresses worn by Queen Elizabeth from a young girl to present day. Included in the display is a velvet tartan gown worn by Queen Victoria. The petite stature of both queens impressed me.  A highlight of our visit to Holyrood was the garden tour. These photos may be the ones I am most disappointed to lose.  Gorgeous borders.  I cannot imagine how glorious they must be at their peak, because what we saw was beautiful- even in mid September.
Holyrood sits at the foot of Arthur's Seat, an extinct volcano, and a popular hiking destination.

After much walking, two of us were desperate for some nourishment, and tea at Jenner's department store hit the mark. We sat at a window overlooking the Prince's Street Gardens on another sunny afternoon.

Next up- Inverness and driving on the Left!


Friday, September 30, 2016

I know what I did last summer

Dear Mom,
My summer is easily divided into chapters. Chapters I and II were the post op recovery and building Sweet Haven - a room of my own- chapters which I have documented on this blog.

Chapter III: A relaxing long weekend in Northern Michigan celebrating our Young Lady's 19th birthday.

Chapter IV: Early August had us prepping and organizing a Milestone Event. Moving our Young Lady our baby! off to The University of Southern Indiana, where she is studying Art and Illustration.
She is doing really well.

Our nest is empty-ish.
Olive tells me she misses her sister in the only way she can. I keep finding Olive on the Young Lady's bed. This squeezes my heart a little.

Chapter V:  About five years ago some friends and I hatched a plan. No empty nest issues for us. When the last 2 of us took our youngest off to college we were going to Scotland. And we did.

We departed on September 8. 
And arrived to the land of Kilts and Castles, Mist and Moors on Sept 9. 

It was a grand adventure. Everything I'd imagined and more. I'll share more in the days to come.


Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Room of My Own

Dear Mom,
I still have pictures to hang, but otherwise I am all moved in to my new studio space. "Studio" sounds so much more grownup than "craft room".  Although it might be more accurate to call it my Play Room. Or Time Out. My heart wants to call this room Sweet Haven. With invaluable help from our Young Lady, I chose a very pale lavender for the walls.

Elle and Penelope Swift stand side by side in this corner. My warping board hangs from the closet door, and behind that door is a well organized (for now) assortment of sewing and weaving supplies, back issues of Vogue Knitting magazine and lots and lots of yarn.
Judy Jetson, my sturdy Singer Slantomatic sewing machine is happy in her new home and ready for action.
My knitting nest is now surrounded by baskets of yarn and the music stand I use to hold knitting charts and my iPad when I want to watch something as I knit. My desk and computer are on the wall to the right of the chair.
This sturdy, old bookshelf once held my college text books. Daddy built it.  When the kids were little I painted over the bright yellow and added some child-friendly paint pen drawings. I could paint it again, but I like the memories in addition to the knitting books it holds. The long shelf above the bookcase is perfect for the cones of weaving threads and skeins of hand spun yarn.

I have a lovely, bird's eye view of my flower garden; a table for watercolor painting sits under the window. There is just enough room for Donna Reed (my loom) in the center of the room, and Olive has cozy spots to curl up and nap. Sweet Haven.


Monday, July 4, 2016

God Bless America!

My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last best hope of earth. 
~Abraham Lincoln

Thursday, June 30, 2016


Dear Mom,

When the neighbors started lighting fireworks the other night, I looked up from my knitting and realized that Independence Day was upon us. I made a note to call the vet for some drugs for Olive and then sat back in wonder at how it could be almost July already. I'd lost a month to recovery.
Happily, I am feeling quite myself again and realized on Tuesday, June 21, that I was back.

I do some of my best thinking while pulling weeds.
~ Martha Smith      

 I'd spent the day outside, tending to my sadly neglected herb garden. I had dirt under my fingernails. Time flew by and I felt no twinges or fatigue. My secret fears that I'd lost myself for good were put to rest. On the heels of that came the crashing realization and acceptance of all that I'd been through since learning of the aneurysm. I'd been in Deal With It mode and it wasn't until yesterday that it all hit me. All along I knew I was lucky and thankful, but I didn't let myself be truly scared. But now that it is over I indulged myself in a very few tears of Thanksgiving....

A single grateful thought toward heaven is the most perfect prayer.
~Gotthold Ephraim Lessing

Recovery wasn't the only thing that happened here in June. The Young Man, who graduated from IU in May, moved into his own apartment and started his Job with a local CPA firm.

Our Young Lady graduated from high school and is ready for her next chapter studying Art and Illustration, armed with several Art Scholarships. She is headed for University of Southern Indiana. (I've already scoped out the fabric and yarn shops near Evansville.)

Change brings opportunity.
                                                                                                            ~Nido Qubein

And now that the Young Man has Moved Out, I am on my way to claiming that room as my own! Soon it will be home to my loom, spinning wheel, and sewing machine, a table for watercolors and my rocking chair. I imagine the dining and family rooms will feel much bigger (and less cluttered) when I have everything organized in what I am thinking of as My Studio.  I had the Young Lady help me choose paint colors and there are sample patches on the walls.  I've chosen a very light lavender.

I couldn't resist this wee pig I spotted at a local garden shop. Rather than hide him in the garden, he will be a door stop in my room. Isn't he cute?

I'll be back with more "studio" pictures as the room progresses. LOTS of good stuff happening here!

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Post Op Observations

Dear Mom,

A few high (or low) points after surgery....

~I never ever ever ever want to sit or sleep in a recliner again. Ever.
However, I am very thankful for My Hero's recliners, otherwise I have no idea what I would have done. I came home from the hospital, having spent one night there, unable to move myself from upright to supine without serious pain and a lot of help.
~Yoga pants. Thank you yoga pants for stretching over my surgically inflated belly and not digging in to any one of the seven incisions.
~Muumuu. This was probably a low point. I thought I should probably just give in and wear muumuus. You said NO.
~Jello. Note to self: include Jello with every home meal delivery in the future.
~Now that I am feeling better, I wish I had a hidden camera in the kitchen that first evening when I feared I might be sick and asked the Young Man and My Hero for a bucket. Much Scooby Doo-ing and cabinets crashing open, heated discussion over what was an appropriate receptacle, etc. In my weariness and frustration I decided that vomiting was too much work. FYI- they ended up presenting me with my Pie Carrier in case of eruption.
~This was not the knitting vacation I thought it would be. Most days I've been napping or just sitting. I am extremely thankful for the beautiful weather we've had. My screened porch is my favorite place to be and that is where most of my waking (and some napping) recuperation has occurred. I've watched the daisies and peonies bloom, the cedar waxwings visit the serviceberry trees, listened to the stomach growl noise the green herons make (but have not seen them yet) and watched mother birds feed their babies. I've finished a couple of books. As the days march on, and I feel more and more like myself with each, I've been able to knit. Some days just carrying my knitting to the porch wore me out, others all I can manage is a row before napping. I was silly to think I would be spinning and weaving, too.
~Olive. My comfort and companion. Never far from my side.
~You, for taking care of me when My Hero was overwhelmed. For bringing me jello, and lemonade and ibuprofen when we ran low. For weeding my garden and vacuuming and helping me change the sheets. All of those things which speak of love and care. All Shall Be Well.