Thursday, October 31, 2013

Life Around the Family

Thought I would post a few random photos and thoughts......

Here is Laura on our little Sunday afternoon walk. She loves these sunglasses and kept them on for church in the evening.

It is so fun to spend time with Laura, although the time feels like bits and pieces gathered here and there throughout the week. She is growing up too fast and is far beyond the half way point to five years old.

I am more alert to mushrooms now after the plethora we saw in the UK. It would be fun to get a mushroom book and learn all the different kinds (I think my mom actually took a class once and at one time did know all the kinds that grew near us in Vermont).

Our house has been busy with friends. This week we enjoyed visiting with friends over from the UK and it was a chance for the kids to tell about our trip and show their pictures as well as for the children to hear firsthand about life during World War II both in Britain and in the US Navy.

 Watching War Time farm will take on new meaning now that the children have a few more faces and experiences to put with the time period. This is learning at its best!

Look at this amazingly gorgeous carved wooden tray I found at Goodwill this week for $4! The carving is exquisite! I can't wait for an opportunity to serve something up on this work of art.

I have been trying to steal bits and pieces of time to go walking in the large nature park that is just 3 miles from our house. As soon as we got back from Scotland I bought a pass so that we could go whenever we wanted. I had hoped to go and see the fall trees at their peak. Instead I ended up there during a gorgeous all-day fog! Wow! It was certainly magical and a rare treat for our area.

It was fun to get quite close to this heron.

And all the reds and oranges were so pretty against the gray background.

I walked around one corner and found this guy hanging out.

Oh such lovely colors!!!

The fog stayed on into the evening when the boys were moving pumpkins down the street.

And now the rain is coming down in torrents! In fact, many of the towns have officially "moved Halloween" to tomorrow night! Isn't that funny how they can do that?! Well, it's about time that I went and cooked my family something to eat.....kale soup. I have a new recipe and it is incredible. I will share the details soon.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Words and Wool

Life is a little uncharacteristic of what it has been for me -- very little knitting, very little reading. We are off to a very good start with our homeschooling this year but its just taking all my time to keep the schooling running, the doctor appointments attended and our heads above water as far as housework and laundry go. Fortunately, I am enjoying these days despite missing my time for handwork and reading. I am thinking, "January is coming!" (That means more time for knitting and reading, right??!!)

I do have this lovely stack of books beside my bed and here and there I am getting a chapter or two read. I stopped by the library today and the clerks commented that they haven't seen enough books coming through for me (and I didn't have stacks to return to them today). I know! I haven't had time to sit down and order books!

Friday is our Christmas planning tea and I think I'll bring my ideas for knitting and crochet for the season. I'm going to try and be limited. I have three things I'd like to make. At this rate, I may have to go for just one or two!!! The important thing is to enjoy whatever it is I'm doing and not think too hard about what I'm not doing!

For more ideas on knitting and reading, check out Ginny's Yarn A Long.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Scotland: St. Andrews

 St. Andrews has always been our favorite town in Scotland. It is unfortunate, or perhaps fortunate, that it is difficult to reach either by public transport -- there is no train station -- or by private transport -- the location is so far away from many of the other heavily populated towns and there is no motorway. Thus St. Andrews always seems so much farther than it probably is.

The town is famous for many things: St. Andrew's University (and the romance of William and Kate), the birthplace of Golf and the St. Andrew's Course, the beach (and Chariots of Fire), and also for key events in Scottish church history, most notably the seedbed of the Scottish Reformation.

All the historical bits aside, St. Andrews is a lovely town to walk through and admire (and it does have numerous and well-stocked charity shops!!).

Here we are at the Martyr Monument that commemorates four Scottish martyrs who were put to death by fire in the sixteenth century here in St. Andrews because of their adherence to the protestant faith.

Here is Laura making good use of her camera.

We decided against a walk on the beach because there was limited time to fit in everything we wanted to see. By the time we arrived at St. Andrews it was already lunchtime and everything in Great Britain closes at 5 p.m., so the race was on!

Must stop place for a photo: Hole #1 at the St. Andrew's Golf Course. We also had the opportunity to meet up with an old colleague of Michael's whom I had never met and Michael hadn't seen in about 15 years or so. This friend "just happened" to be visiting St. Andrews from Texas on the very same day!

On our way to the castle we stopped in front of St. Salvator's College to see the place where Patrick Hamilton was martyred.

And we peeked inside the courtyard of the college -- so lovely!

We stuck our heads in the chapel to show the kids John Knox's pulpit (supposedly).

And we had to get an updated picture of Michael standing in it since the last photo we have is from 15 years ago!

Then we marched down to St. Andrew's castle which is just a ruin.

Oh, but the history that happened here brings the whole place alive! It was from that top large window on the right that Cardinal Beaton watched with evil satisfaction as George Wishart, another martyr, burnt at the stake.

And it was from these waters that the French attacked the besieged castle and took John Knox to be a galley slave. Close your eyes and you can travel back in time 450 years.

Then you can look out across to the St. Andrews Cathedral which was built in 1158.

 It was in this castle that the fledgling protestants petitioned John Knox to become their first pastor (before he was taken as a slave).

Here are the Scottish boys enjoying the view.

 The ruins of the Cathedral are just enormous and so many, many graves.

Michael and some of the kids climbed to the top of the bell tower and got a really great view.

The rest of us walked around and imagined who all these people might have been.

One always feels very mortal while walking around a graveyard.

By the time we finished the touring there was only about 40 minutes left before all the shops would close! ahhhhh!!!!! So, we raced off to the town centre to try and hit as many charity shops as we could.

The little side streets are so sweet and the houses all adorable.

We got to just about every charity shop but that meant that all the cafes were closed -- no chance for a cup of tea! What to do? We traipsed around and around, in that low-blood-sugar stupor that means you can't make decisions. Where to stop? Desperate for something good and memorable.

Finally we had to settle on a regular restaurant but it turned out to be a great choice.

The kids had their introduction to ginger beer (basically a much more potent ginger ale) which became a favorite for the rest of the trip.

And look! Each of our teapots came with its own hand knitted tea cozy!!! How cute is that!? And what kind of cool restaurant does amazing things like that?!

And there were scones with cream and jam too. Absolutely perfect!

And then I crazily suggested we take the scenic Fife Coastal Route home, which meant the journey took nearly 2 1/2 hours instead of 1 1/2 and it was on tiny, twisting roads that we weren't used to yet. Oh well. Mommy saw some pretty scenery and the rest of the family learned more patience.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mondays are for Grace

"Blessed are the flexible,
For they will not be bent out of shape."

-- Author Unknown

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Tea Trolley

Soon after we arrived home we celebrated the baptism of baby Arthur with a big family lunch. The menu was a brunch with ham, salad, fruit salad, quiche and scones.

Mom helped with flower arrangements.

And I made one huge, long table out of three different tables.

 What is better than a giant table of family, friends, and good food! Only heaven and the promised feast there!

There was even a birthday to celebrate!

And for dessert there was cake and mint chocolate brownies and pots and pots of tea.

And here is a Wall family portrait. Aren't they beautiful?!

And the trolley is continuing in active service these past few weeks as we get back into our social life. Next week I have a proper Scottish lunch to share with you.....

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Scotland: Stirling Adventure

like a huge brooch, 
clasps Highlands 
and Lowlands together."
-- Alexander Smith

It was fitting that our first great adventure would be the castle and town of Stirling. It was just a hop, skip, and a jump over the hills from our house and I couldn't wait to visit this beloved place again.

Doing Scotland with a vehicle was a new experience for us and it meant finding legal places to park everywhere we went! Freshly back in Scotland, even this random row of parked cars and the buildings behind them looked quaint and darling.

And there were plenty of the chimneys that always make me smile:

The castle is at the top of the hill so it is a long, steep hike up to the top. Laura was lucky.

We passed a few gardens with a bloom or two struggling for existence at the end of a "hot" summer.

And then we made it to the top and the amazing and magical castle that is Stirling. (Here you see part of the Royal Apartments that James V built -- father of Mary Queen of Scots.):
There has been much restoration work done since we have toured Stirling Castle and it was so fun to walk around the royal apartments and see all the fabulous wall and ceiling work that has been done.

My imagination always runs wild in places like this and I'm always trying to picture what real life was like inside such rooms.

The most exciting thing for Michael and me was seeing 7 of the 8 Stirling tapestries completed and hanging on the walls!!! We were at Stirling last when they had just begun the first one (below). Now they are almost all completed! (The originals are now at the Metropolitan in NYC.)

I never knew how bright and outstanding tapestries were because we usually see them in the faded shadows of what they once were. No wonder tapestries were such a sign of wealth and power.

Here are some little royals enjoying the seats of honor in the Great Hall.

And lunch was our first experience of just being able to go in and purchase a meal for the family at the cafe there on sight. What a treat! Everyone ordered something delicious and not having to think about bringing a meal with us made it very relaxing for me.

The architecture of the castle is just beautiful!

And of course we had to visit the underground kitchens and imagine life in this busy and (maybe nasty) place!

I wanted to walk back to the tapestry workshop and see the work in progress on the final tapestry. What an amazing place to work and look at all the different colors of wool! What beautiful art!

And then we visited the Chapel Royal, built by James VI and one of the very first places of worship in Scotland specifically built for the presbyterian form of worship.

The castle is a conglomeration of various dates and builders, most of the buildings dating from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Of course the boys were fascinated with the canons!

Stirling Castle was also the very first castle that Michael and I visited when we came to Scotland the first time on a study tour. We weren't dating then, but someone did happen to catch a picture of the two of us together at the castle and so it was the first documentation of our future relationship. So here's another one for the record.

Statue of Robert the Bruce with the William Wallace monument way in the background.

Once we'd had our fill of castle for the day we made our way back down the winding streets and passed a Bagpipe maker, which I had to document for my friend Jess who is learning to play the bagpipes!

What I really need is for one of my Scottish-born boys to decide they want to learn.....

And we walked by Darnley's House...

And back into the town. While there we had to visit the local charity shops and especially the Oxfam book charity shop where I started my collection of books to bring home.

All in all it was a fantastic way to start our trip out and the kids thoroughly enjoyed it. No doubt the castle will always remain a special place for each one of us now.