Saturday, November 22, 2014

Scotland: Loch Ness

We drove up to Fort William on a Monday and on the Tuesday headed north to Loch Ness, Fort Augustus, Urquhart Castle, and the Loch Ness Lodge Hotel.

Fortunately, we began the day with a good Scottish cooked breakfast at the B&B.


Our first stop was Fort Augustus, at the base of the Loch. From here a series of locks leads boats to the south.


While waiting for our boat ride on the Loch we sat in the town centre and ate our pack lunch.


It consisted of cheese, meats, rolls, and crisps (potato chips).


There was also a little time for looking about the little town.

Then we boarded our launch and headed for the Loch.

 Lots of fun for Laura!


When we reached the Loch suddenly there was an amazingly bright rainbow just to our left!


Quick! A family photo!


And just for some perspective, here we are on a family boat ride on Loch Ness eleven years previous!
Andrew seems to have the same expression!

Looking back to Fort Augustus from where we were you could see what the weather had suddenly become!


And looking north towards the direction of Inverness you can see at least four different "layers" of the hills coming down to the water's edge. These "layers" never cease to amaze me as they are so beautiful in person and seem quite characteristic of Scottish landscape.


Look at the color of the water! So black and dark. It is the peat in the deep, deep waters that make the color this way, not to mention the sky!


We did have one Nessie sighting after all!


And the weather got a bit cooler.


But before long we were chugging back into Fort Augustus.


And I couldn't resist stopping to buy some local strawberries. Apparently, this grower is one of those supplying Marks and Spencers.


They did not disappoint. Some of the best berries I've had!

And another sprig of heather tucked into a vehicle. :)

Mostly the family disliked having to pose for pictures. But they didn't mind funny shots as much.


 Back in the car at Fort Augustus we headed north to Urquhart Castle.


The weather couldn't have been better!


The castle ruins date from the 13th-16th centuries but even before that there were ruins on this site.


Here James is trying out the sleeping accommodations.


The castle was like a giant playground and the kids were free to roam wherever they liked.


Everywhere you looked it was beautiful!


And the imagination begins to play with what life must have been like here centuries ago.


Daddy and Laura peek out of a window.


Here is a view from up above:


The two buddies:


Another place to get cozy:


The views were just perfect for photos:


 Eventually we had to say goodbye to the castle.


We headed up the road to the little village of Drumnadrochit -- how is that for a name! It kind of rolls of the tip of your tongue.


I wanted to visit the Loch Ness Lodge Hotel once more. We had come on a wintery day right after Christmas eleven years previous and enjoyed one of the most delightful hours of afternoon tea I can remember.


Fortunately the hotel was still there and they were open for beverages.


I stole a few shots of the dining room -- notice they use a lot of plaid.


The children all chose ginger beer or other soft drinks.


But it was tea for me!


 Just outside the dining room is a little library -- one wall covered in wooden bookcases and books, another with a fireplace and another with a big bay window. Plaid fabric is used everywhere. This is where I wanted to return. I made it!



Here is a picture of Michael eleven years previously, taking his afternoon tea.


 And here we are -- the four who made it back for a second visit!


The day was nearly over by the time we began the journey back to Fort William for the night.


But the beauty was not over -- so many lovely places to see.


And always sheep too!


Goodbye to Fort William for now......

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Tea Trolley

I've discovered a new favorite drink at Starbucks -- "Peach Tranquility" tea! And, a trick I learned from a friend -- I order the grande and ask for them to make it with only one teabag and that gives me one to take home! 


I tried a batch of this Chai Tea substituting rooibos for the black tea. It's good, but I think I want to add more cinnamon and cloves. I wasn't exact in my measurements and just kind of dumped things in!! :) Thanks to Elizabeth for pointing me to the recipe!


Sharing a bit of my Teavana tea with a friend. I'm getting to the bottom of my Fall Break stash!


Another friend had a birthday and to celebrate I made a gluten free chocolate cake (King Arthur's mix) and filled it with cherry preserves, Nutella, and topped it with chocolate whipped cream!


Last week I met up with my dear friends from Lithuania! But, instead of Lithuanian food we had Lebanese! It was SO good! One friend is married to a man from Lebanon so their family gets to enjoy many cultures!


I use this glass tea holder everyday mostly all day. It is so handy for keeping tea warm on these cold days. I'm so afraid I will break it one day. :(


Sunday I tried making a gluten free persimmon cake. The persimmon was not as strong as I wanted it to be. But it was nice with cranberries on top (and cream for the others).


Can you believe we have had our first significant snowfall?! This is crazy! But it is beautiful!


And it calls for fires in fireplaces! When I arrived for our neighbor tea this was welcoming us in the fireplace!


And this welcomed me at my sister's home when I arrived for a quick shawl pattern photoshoot!


Deliciousness!


I discovered a new tea while food shopping yesterday -- Celestial Seasonings Cranberry Vanilla Wonderland. It's really good! I'm not a huge fan of the added Stevia as it tastes different than sugar but I think it is good enough to tolerate that.


Other than sipping tea, and my other responsibilities, I have been planning for our family Thanksgiving with Michael's side of the family! Everyone is converging here for a whole weekend and we can't wait to see them!!!! I've been hard at work on the menu and thought I'd share my ideas here......

Thanksgiving Menu 2014

Appetizers:
Our Favorite Cheeseballs with Crackers
Sweet Potato Chips (Aldi) with Hummus (Trader Joe's or Costco)
Fresh Veggies with Dip (plain sour cream with Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute and salt)
Baked Olives
Spiced Nuts -- must find alternative to butter in recipe
Apples with Caramel Dip (Aldi)
Hot Mulled Cider -- I found mulling spices at Costco

Dinner:
Turkey -- spatchcocked so each one cooks in 2 hours!!! (I've tried it! It works!!)
Gravy -- guess what?! Trader Joe's sells decent gravy in cartons!
Mashed Potatoes -- another miracle -- Trader Joe's also sells amazing frozen mashed potatoes!
Rolls -- Costco
Stuffing -- don't tell, it's going to be Stove Top this year!
Cranberry and Orange Relish
Blackberry Raspberry Jello Salad -- recipe is similar to this one
Green Beans with Lemon Sauce
Sweet Potatoes in the crockpot
Spinach Salad with candied pecans, sliced persimmons, and dried cranberries and this dressing
Steamed Corn
Quinoa Sweet Potato Pilaf

Dessert (most of these are going to be adaptations of simple recipes I have around)
Pumpkin Pie and No-Sugar Pumpkin Pie
Apple Pie
Vegan and Gluten Free Pumpkin Pie
Vegan and Gluten Free Blueberry Pie
Vegan, Gluten Free, and Sugar Free Apple Pie
Pecan Pie
Chocolate Pie? (I still need a good recipe for this!!)

And now I better run and get some more cooking under way!