Thursday, January 30, 2014

Scotland: Isle of Bute

Our first Saturday in Scotland we went on an adventure to the Island of Bute. Those of you who have heard me talk of Scotland will no doubt have heard me speak of my dear friend Helen, who passed away after we left Scotland in 2005. Since Helen and I were good friends it was only natural that I should get to know her sister -- although I never met her in person we "met" on the phone at Helen's house and then exchanged Christmas cards, etc. After Helen passed away I started a more regular correspondence with Moyra and in return she would call me on the telephone. This went on for many years so you can imagine my excitement when I learned two years ago that we would be returning to Scotland and my dream of actually meeting Moyra might come true!

The week of our flight I called over to Bute (where Moyra was living) to make arrangements for our visit and found out that this very Saturday would be the best for our visit. 

So, Saturday morning found us driving to the ferry, waiting in line with the masses of people headed over for the Bute Highland Games, and then making the hour or so crossing.

What a gorgeous day it was!!! You just don't get these kinds of days very often and we felt very grateful to have good weather for our trip.

Just look at that sky!!!! It was on the chilly side though.....

We arrived in the port town of Rothesay in time to find Rothesay Castle and eat our pack lunch inside, a bit sheltered from the wind.

The castle is in ruins now, but it dates from the beginning of the 13th century and has a long history of battles with sea-faring peoples.

It is always fun to wander around these places and imagine what life was like and who lived here and what they did!

Plenty of seagulls to feed too.

Prince Charles is known as the "Duke of Rothesay" when he is in Scotland so this is the castle and the town for which he is given that name.

There were chapel ruins, dovecote ruins, banquet hall, tower, well, etc. to explore.

Then we thought we'd walk up the road and check out the Highland games since everyone and his brother was also headed there. With our limited time we decided not to pay the hefty price to enter but it was fun to hear the bagpipes from afar.

Then we got in our car and headed down the island towards Moyra's home. People write about how amazing Scottish island life is and once you step on the islands you realize what they say is true. Everything is so remote and beautiful.

Sheep are everywhere.

And there was the sign with the name I had written so many times on so many letters: Kilchattan Bay

We had a few minutes to explore the seaside before our rendezvous.

The kids loved looking around for interesting things.

They were most interested in the washed up jellyfish.

And here I am at the place I had dreamed of going for so long, with Moyra's house in the background on the left of the center.

Moyra's home was so similar to Helen's -- even the layout to some extent.

At the appointed time Moyra's daughter Patricia came down to the seaside to meet us. We had talked on the phone the previous day and she told me that Moyra had gone into the local hospital for some fluids and we could still come and she would take me in during visiting hours to meet Moyra. Meanwhile she showed me around the garden which included this great big Kiln (if I remember right it was for making lyme).

I loved the garden, every bit about it!

And here is a view to the bay from the garden.

Just look at those gorgeous hydrangeas! The work of Patricia!

 So we sent Michael and the kids off to have their own adventure climbing up to a ruined church through sheep fields and up hills. I got into Patricia's car and she zipped me back up the coast of the island to Rothesay all the way chatting to each other and finally getting to ask all the questions I always wanted to know about Helen and the family. Then we parked and went in to see Moyra.

 Oh it was a dream come true to see Moyra. She knew exactly who I was and though she was weak we smiled and talked a bit and held each other's hands and squeezed each others hands and I marveled that this was really happening. And how I wished I had been able to do the same for Helen when she was in the hospital. We pushed the visiting hour to the limit and then I squeezed her hand and kissed her and said goodbye -- to Moyra and to Helen.

Then Patricia and I zoomed back down the island to the house and went in to find the children and Patricia's sister (also named Helen) waiting for us. Rachel had the pillow she had made for Auntie Helen when she was 5 years old. Moyra had kept it after Helen passed away.

And Laura stood next to the plant stand and the Christmas cactus that had come from Auntie Helen's Airdrie house. Rachel had been Laura's age when we spent all those afternoons at Helen's.

Eventually we said goodbye and went back in to Rothesay in time to see a bit of the parade from the Highland Games and hear all the bagpipe music.

And we found a chip shop right on the pier and ordered our fish suppers.

Once they were in hand we made a mad dash for the ferry before all the Highland Games people filled it up. And then there was the boat ride and the road trip home.

 The next morning as we were getting ready for church the phone rang. I knew before I answered who it was and what the news was. Moyra had passed away in the night surrounded by her two daughters. To this day this still brings me to tears. Do you see what a gift this was to me? After all those years I actually got to meet Moyra in person and in a way say goodbye to Helen. And all of this happened with just 12 hours to spare. Twelve hours and this dream would never have come true. It could not have been more clear to me that God had arranged every detail and given me this. I will hold this memory dear for the rest of my life and it will always remind me that God holds the timings of these things in His hands to do with them as He pleases.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Words and Wool

I finished the brown border around my crochet flowers.  Now I am working on weaving in all the loose ends which seems to take almost as long as crocheting around them in the first place! I did lay out all the pieces to make sure I had enough. I will have to rearrange them before I do the sewing together.

I also finished several batches of flowers and delivered them to their recipients. I liked this order of 6 large roses in the lovely, bold colors.

As for what I'm reading right now:

Bittersweet: Thoughts on Change, Grace, and Learning the Hard Way by Shauna Neiquist is the book Shauna wrote before Bread and Wine. It is a similar format and contains her ramblings on life, specifically the pain and heartache of miscarriage. I love Shauna's writing style and I think she has a lot of practical encouragement no matter what your life situation. Bread and Wine will probably remain my favorite of her books but this one is great too.

Behind the Scenes at Downton Abbey by Emma Rowley. How did I not even know this book existed until I happened to spy it on the shelf at the library today! This is not how I usually discover these types of books!!! Oh well. At least I found it and now I can't wait to read it. The photos look lovely!

Longbourn by Jo Baker tells the servants side of Pride and Prejudice. I don't normally like take-offs of classic books but so far this book is not disappointing, perhaps because it tells a story so much of its own with the events of Pride and Prejudice just happening in the background. And since I've always been curious about life in different time periods, this one is fascinating in its portrayal of real life in the Bennet household. I guess I wouldn't want to be living in that time period after all....

For more ideas on books and knitting/wool, visit Ginny's Yarn A Long.

Please note: this post contains affiliate links.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Mondays are for Grace

"Sometimes the happiest ending isn't the one you keep longing for,
but something you absolutely cannot see from where you are."

-- Shauna Neiquist

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Tea Trolley: Scotland Teas #1

It's about time that I get back to posting about our Scotland trip. Part of me finds it overwhelming to know where to begin. How do I choose the next part of the trip to share and how do I begin to communicate the depth of emotion that accompanied each day of our trip. Probably best just to get started and share something, even if its not everything!

And what better way to jump back in than to begin with some more tea...... Here's a look at some of my tea pictures from week one.

Tea on arrival. I think Michael and I both wondered what kind of teapot we'd find on the other side of the pond, what sort of mugs, electric kettle, etc. Tea would be such an essential part of our vacation that the equipment is rather important.

I was surprised at the shape of the teapot we found, but it worked fine and the more you use something the fonder you grow of it (unless it isn't working well!). But there was no tea cozy, which is a serious matter. Whipping one up out of nowhere crossed my mind, but there was no time for knitting or stitching. In the end, we made do with some tea towels and there was always the possibility of preheating the teapot with hot water.

I think I mentioned that our hostess, Irene, greeted us with homemade shortbread cookies. Oh they were good!!! And she even made sure there were teabags in the cupboard and milk in the fridge! Another friend specifically sent decaf tea to the airport for me so that I would be sure to have an option ASAP! These things do matter!

One of the best gifts of the sabbatical was having 1 1/2 years to dream and plan for the trip. And one of the most fun preparations of all was sitting down at the computer to order our groceries from here in America a few days before we left. I scrolled through the "aisles" and ordered whatever my heart desired (within reason). And I went a little heavy on the tea.....

Not only did the house come with the hearty grey mugs pictured in the first picture, but there was a mug tree filled with dainty blue and white china mugs. Just lovely! And of course it was time to enjoy as many digestives as we could (also pictured below is the gluten free version).

On a different post I will tell about our return to Airdrie but here is a picture of the window in one of the downtown bakeries. I've always been in love with this window. I think the first day we were in Airdrie 12 years ago we bought a sausage roll from this bakery to remind us we were back in Scotland.

On the afternoon of our Airdrie visit we stopped to do some grocery shopping and have a cup of tea and snack. I loved the little plates of tea that were on offer at the grocery store. In fact, I had to bring home a few little personal pots just like that so I could recreate my own afternoon tea plates. What good value too -- afternoon tea for about $3.75 USD.

More options for tea at the grocery store:

I opted for the decaf tea and the gluten free macaroon which was a little too sweet for my liking. And even though it was UHT milk, somehow that was okay because the taste it created brought back memories.

And here we are at the supermarket. I thought of the times I'd come with Rachel when she was Laura's age and younger. A little mother-daughter outing that was in my budget!

 I was always on the lookout for tea paraphernalia in the charity (thrift) shops. I couldn't believe how the prices had sky rocketed! So many of the things were out of my budget. (Ten years ago I amassed a life-time collection of teacups for what I could only buy about two nice sets for these days.)

Here is a shelf in St. Andrews. I would have liked that brown teapot and I should probably have snagged that metal pot too. Oh well. It was too early in the trip to know that everything would be expensive.

A window in St. Andrews advertising scones. I wish you could understand the size of these things. I especially wanted to try one in the bottom shelf. (We didn't get any from this shop, unfortunately.)

The everyday mugs at our holiday home came in two sizes -- parents and children (probably tea and espresso). Tea is part of our family culture and I'm glad nearly all the children are so eager to participate.

When we first arrived the weather was strangely warmer than it should have been. There was even the chance to enjoy several uses of the patio and table. Perfect loveliness!

But lovely weather is long gone, both here and there! We still have snow on the ground, low temperatures, high winds, and promises of more snow! What a winter! At least there is tea.....

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Words and Wool

Here is a picture of my Sunday afternoon reading stack. However, I got so engrossed in A Million Little Ways that I didn't get to many of the others!

Progress continues on my crochet afghan. I can't wait to see it on my bed! I have about 10 more circles to crochet around and then I'll have to put in all the ends (ugh!), block the squares and then sew them all together and crochet a border. Still plenty of work ahead......

Mostly I've been sewing flowers for my next order. They remind me of Valentine's Day and as usual, make me so happy! 

Between Christmas and New Year's I completely overhauled my craft area in my clothes closet. I took down every bit of fabric from the shelves, sorted through, threw out, donated, and refolded. This picture only shows a portion of what I did, but it shows my favorite part -- you can tell that my passion in recent years has turned toward wool, tweed, and tartans. Oh I love this stuff!

As for books, I finished several this week including two that are now on my "must buy" list.

Beatrix Potter's Gardening Life: The Plants and Places That Inspired the Classic Children's Tales by Marta McDowell is a piece of art in itself! I love the size, the information, the sketches and paintings of Beatrix's and the photos of her garden then and now. There is biographical info on Beatrix and the gardens she encountered in her early life and then the book launches into a seasonal review of her garden at Hill Top. How I wished I had this book before our visit to Hill Top last fall. Oh well, next time, right? ;)

Million Little Ways, A: Uncover the Art You Were Made to Live by Emily Freeman. It is hard to describe briefly how good this book is and how much it touched so many cords in my soul. Her premise is that each of us is uniquely created to bring glory to God through the passions and talents he gives to us. Her definition of art is broad -- she defines art as the way we live. She calls all of us artists. She asks us to look deep into our hearts and really consider what things we do that really make us feel alive, what stops us from making the art we long to create, and what to do when you are in a period of waiting for art to happen. I took pages and pages of notes and will definitely be reading this book again and hopefully adding it to my own shelf.

The Perfect Meal: In Search of the Lost Tastes of France by John Baxter was a fun read about food in France. Surprisingly, this book was relatively clean and I enjoyed it even more because of that! Baxter goes in search of different recipes and meals that are quintessential French. A fun book for a foodie!

Wild Things: The Art of Nurturing Boys by Stephen James and David Thomas is SUCH a great book on raising boys! Wow!!! I would call this a manual. I also took pages and pages of notes on this book and it probably would be a good idea for me to own this one. Not only do they talk about boys in general but they address the specific strengths and weaknesses of each age group and how to deal with them. There are lots of extra helps in the back too. I highly recommend this book if you have boys! So far, it is the best "boy book" I've read.

And now, for more ideas on books and knitting, visit Ginny's Yarn A Long.

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