Vacation Day 2: Scotland

Confession:  Over the course of our vacation, I took over 1,500 photos.  Most of those were from a moving car.   We also drove well over 1,500 miles during our trip.  It was exhausting.

The second day of our trip, we headed north from Strathardle Inn, up to the coast, around Inverness, and down Loch Ness to the very little spot on the map of Tomich.

Since we were making the best of the trip and staying at B&Bs, we of course had to enjoy our first breakfast not on an airplane!

L ordered a true Highlands breakfast:  toast, mushrooms, tomatoes, bacon (which tasted delightfully like our country ham), beans, sausage, a poached egg, a “tattie scone”, and the famous black pudding (blood sausage).  Strathardle Inn had the best tattie scone, hands down, of any on the trip — they actually flavored theirs beyond the basic potato/flour combination that the recipe seems to require.  I’m a big fan of seasonings!

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L and I like to swap food so never order the same thing — that way we get to try it all!  So, I ordered a continental breakfast….which was happily nothing like what we’ve come to expect from sad, hotel continental breakfasts here.

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The meats and cheeses were all local, so I was happy.  The cooked ham tasted remarkably like what my Grandmother often has at her house, so I found that amusing.  If Scotland taught me one thing, it’s that I’m right to assume I can live on nothing but meat, cheese, and eggs.  I’m pretty sure that’s about all I ate for every meals.  Vegetables certainly became rare in my diet (potatoes don’t count, I love potatoes) — I certainly didn’t complain!  😀

While we were packing, we were entertained by a few baby bunnies outside of the bedroom window.  Definitely a bonus.

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Then we hit the road and were on our way in the foggy morning.

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Our first stop of the day was at the Highlands Folk Museum.  I love a good museum, so does L.  The whole park was fascinating but my favorite part was the village they had built representing life in the 1700s.  My ancestors immigrated early to America, several before the Revolutionary War, but a few stuck around until the 1800s so may have lived in a similar situation!

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The park also progressed through the centuries and had buildings representing other decades — and the cute highlands cattle I posted a few days ago!  😀

After we visited the old candy store and loaded up our pockets, we headed further north to visit Ballindalloch Castle.  Mom really wanted to see a “fairy tale” type of castle and chose this one.

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The laird and his family still live there but we toured much of the estate and inside.  My favorite part was the tower nursery — keep the crying babies out of sight and mind!

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Mom really loved the walled rose garden.  It was in full bloom and spectacular.

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After the castle, we mosied our way over to Clava Cairns.

The graves are thought to be Bronze age and the trees were planted in the 1870s “in keeping with Victorian romanticism” since they were originally interpreted as druid’s temples.

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Next we passed through Inverness then down to Dores to have dinner on the tip of Loch Ness.  We were time stressed so I didn’t grab a photo of dinner, but I definitely had my fish and chips at The Dores Inn that night!

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Loch Ness is so long and narrow that I really wanted to be able to see the full extent of it, so the restaurant really was the perfect location.

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Sunset isn’t until after 10 p.m. this time of year, so it was getting pretty late, so we boogied over to our accomodations for the night: The Tomich Hotel.

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Shout-out to the guy working that night.  He was the sweetest and most patient person imaginable.  He waited around for the four crazy Americans then asked if we wanted to anything from the bar and happily stayed around and chatted with us afterwards until nearly midnight.

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He also had all of us drinking, so cheers to him.  I had 15 year single malt Dalwhinnie and Mike (Mom’s husband) had 12 year Singleton of Dufftown.  L had an Irish coffee and Mom had Bailey’s in a hot chocolate.  They’re more of the candy drinks crowd. ;P


Vacation Day 1: Scotland, arrival

The first day in Scotland was exhausting.

We had a red-eye flight out of Boston that left at about 6:45 p.m., landed in Amsterdam at 7:45 a.m., had a two hour layover scheduled (the flight out of Boston was delayed so we didn’t have to wait the whole layover), and then a quick hopper over to Edinburgh.  We arrived a little later than our anticipated 10:15 a.m. and it threw things off for the beginning part of the day, especially the car rental.

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We had prebooked a car at Hertz and the place was SLAMMED.  We were there for over two hours just waiting in line to get our car.  It was ridiculous.  The car was equally ridiculous.

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Did they KNOW who they were renting this thing out to — all we asked for was something with GPS and an automatic that could hold 4 adults.  Did they look at L’s driving history first?!  😛  It’s a brand-spanking-new 2017, fully loaded, and we were the first people to have ever driven it…we took the extra insurance.  We put it through its paces after we figured out how to work the thing.  It was like being in a weird space ship where everything should be touch screen but nothing was, so it’s all controlled by a bizarre mouse thing in a center console.  Also, it wasn’t passenger friendly for tall people.  Mom was the shortest on the trip, measuring in at 5’9″.  So it was beautiful and fun to say we drove around in, but nothing that any of us would ever want to drive or ride in again, though it did have some great pick-up-and-go.

L signed himself up to be the driver.  He figured if the rest of us drank whiskey the whole trip, we’d all be happier.  There’s probably some truth to that.  The poor guy had to learn to drive on the left in the middle of the city.  Thankfully, Edinburgh was a very patient city and when he was freaking out, the residents gently pointed to the other side of the road — they knew we were idiot tourists.

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L had wanted to go see The Real Mary King’s Close but they were being the jerkiest of jerk-wads that we encountered while in Scotland, so we decided to skip that tour and wandered around the Royal Mile a bit instead.

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St. Giles’ Cathedral

Eventually we made our way up the hill and visited Edinburgh Castle.

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The Castle was preparing for their Military Tattoo and I really enjoyed watching the grounds crew strapped into repelling gear so they could mow the sides of that hill.  Good times for all…except them, they looked utterly miserable lugging lawn equipment up and down.

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Edinburgh from atop the battlements

After touring the Castle, we all decided we were pretty pooped and wanted to head over to our B&B for the night.

We stayed at The Strathardle Inn in Kirkmichael, Perthshire.

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I don’t know if it’s because we were so tired or what, but even at the end of the trip, we all still unanimously agreed that those were the BEST, most comfortable beds in Scotland or Ireland. 😛


Seriously, they were.  Everybody else went to freshen up before dinner.  I crashed and took a power nap.  We ate dinner at the Inn as well.  It was also dreamy.  I think it was my favorite — the others argue for other meals, which just shows we ate well everywhere we went, but I’ve settled on this one.  Even sleep deprived, I know good food.

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Sweet potato puree with spicy red cabbage, kale, and pork belly with a cider sauce.

The restaurant itself is in the special Michelin pub guide and I could see why.  I do NOT like fatty foods.  I was sucking down the pork belly like no tomorrow — it was *that* tasty and well prepared.  L was shocked and then begging for bites like a baby bird.  I knew I had to eat something special there.  I could get fish and chips anywhere!

Mom ordered something a bit more traditionally Scottish: Cullen Skink.

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…and Mom discovered that she likes Guinness.

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She’s not a beer drinker, so we were all a bit surprised.  I’m not a beer drinker, neither is L.  I know I don’t like Guinness, so didn’t try it.  L was in the spirit of trying things so he did; he hated it so much he drank my weird coke with a lemon in it just to get the taste out and he also hates soda.  He’s weird. 😛

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I’m home!  It feels good to be home.


When is The Onion ever wrong?!

L asked before the trip if I was as stressed the last time I went abroad.  Not at all.  I was super excited!  I didn’t have to worry about anybody else then.

I spent this entire trip as a big bundle of nerves.  Part of that could have been trying to navigate while L was driving on the left side of the road — I only screamed in horror once — but most of it was trying to juggle all of the responsibility of trying to keep everybody else happy and the tension low.

On the bright side, I’m home and I can take a nap…which I plan to do after I finish unpacking.  Naps fix just about everything.  😀

Somehow my “personal item” backpack is bigger than my suitcase.


I’m not sure how that happened, but it worked well throughout the trip and I had plenty of room to bring things home from the trip.  Not that I brought home a lot; a couple of things for me and I picked up a few things for Grandmother along the way.

I ended up getting her a small pin with her maiden name coat of arms as the kitschy tourist thing I always bring her back from my travels, some blueberry and willow soap from Scottish Fine Soaps Co. that smells absolutely divine, and a budvase from Galway Irish Crystal.

I ended up with a tea towel with highland cattle (aka “hairy cow”) on it…because cows.

Seriously, how adorable are these cows?!   …and the first official photo from the vacation photos!  I’ll post a batch of them at some point later.

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I also got my family highlands clan pin because it seemed fun and the always important yarn.

The first yarn I picked up on the Isle of Skye, Scotland at a cute little yarn and knit shop.  The yarn itself is Isle of Skye and Dorset sourced and isn’t dyed but achieves the beautiful gray color from having an 85/15 mix of the two different wools.  I picked up two skeins to have enough to properly play with.  I absolutely love this shade of gray and that it was achieved without dye.



The second yarn I ended up with was from Graig-na-managh, Ireland (though I snagged it in Dublin since we didn’t go that far south) from a bit more of a commercial source, albeit one with roots so old that it’s incomprehensible to somebody like me.

I ended up choosing this yarn because it came with the pattern and buttons to make a set of flip-top mittens, which I love and know I’ll wear.  It also saved me the effort of trying to figure out how much yarn I would need and what I would use it for on the spot.  Does that make me horribly lazy?  The color is “Purple Heather” so that seems appropriate for the vacation.


…and to welcome me home, Joule immediately stole the yarn and buttons as I took the picture.  I even managed to catch one of her in the act of taking it.


Thankfully she dropped it about halfway across the room and didn’t unwind any of it, which is her normal modus operandi with yarn.

She broke into my crafting room while we were gone (even though I had barricaded it) and I found her sleeping behind a sewing machine yesterday when we came home, with the fabrics I had ironed and laid out now nested into a cat-fur covered bed.  I’m glad to know that she watches over things for me while I’m gone. 😛

Now, did somebody mention something about a nap?



That was cool…

To throwback to my inner 1990s child:  NOT!

This morning I had the distinct pleasure of having a small arc-flash scaring the bejeebus out of me.

At some point last night the ceiling fan was making a weird buzzing noise and it was enough to bother L, King of Sleep, so he got up to fix it.  It just needed a slight adjustment — we have two heavier LED bulbs in it and it just needs a bit of balance every once in a while until the other two bulbs get replaced.  While he was messing with the fan, he noticed one of the bulbs was lose and “fixed” it too (the fan lights were off and he was working with the light from the bed lamps).

Cue this morning of me turning on the ceiling fan light.

I had an awesome explosion and got to take a glass shower.


That’s all that’s left of the bulb, other than the minuscule shards of glass that rained down all over the bedroom, myself, and the sleeping dogs (equally scared and refusing to come back upstairs).  You can see the filament is fine, other than breaking in the drop, but there was definitely a short internally.

Electricity and I don’t mix.  I can do most home repairs but electrical work gives me the heebie jeebies.  We have an industrial jack-knife for our house before our fuse box and I love being able to kill the power to the entire house and know everything I’m poking at is dead as a doornail.  We’re having the panel upgraded soon though, already under contract for after the trip, so I’m really sad we’re going to have to lose the switch since it’s definitely not code and wouldn’t be able to handle the new load.  😦  Guess that leaves electrical forever in L’s domain and I’ll stick to the plumbing that makes him nervous (I figure the worst I can do is flood the house, not toast myself).

I’ve finally gotten around to reading The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore.  I haven’t finished it yet, but so far have enjoyed it quite a lot.  I won’t spoil anything, but how does it relate to this morning?  The first chapter contains a rather vivid description of an electrocution of a linesman when electric power and lightbulbs were still a novelty…and, of course, my drama brain immediately went there as I was diving out of the way of sparks and flying glass.

Rather than quote the book, here’s a link to a .pdf of the New York Times article about the incident it was referencing back in October of 1889.  News articles were just as fascinating as novels back then — I wish they were like that now. 🙂


Panic Mode: Initiate

I have a doctor appointment on Wednesday and I’m not prepared for it.

Mom and her husband arrive on Thursday.

We LEAVE on Friday for our adventure overseas.


I’m so not prepared.  I want to be prepared — my suitcase is packed — but I’m not prepared at all.

So what have I been doing instead?

Anything and everything.

Knitpicks is phasing out their diadem yarn and I’ve been pining over for it years but could never justify the 17.99 price tag.  It’s 10.79 now, so I bit and bought some in DK weight since I prefer working with it to Fingering weight.  Now or never! I don’t know what I’m going to do with it yet, but I got enough to do a small shawl or something (thinking maybe Carol’s Clever Little Shawl?).

I got it in black (of course) since it’s for me.  Here’s the photo I stole from their site:


Doesn’t it just look so shiny and pet-worthy?  I just want to shove my hands in it already and roll around in it.  It’s baby alpaca and silk.  How can that not be absolutely luxurious?

L also picked out fabrics for a baby quilt he asked me to make for his niece, due in October..  I’m using a super quick and simple pattern called Tiny Trails.  It only takes five FQs and a bit of yardage for borders and backing.  Due to the size, you can birth the quilt but I decided to do it QAYG since L wanted a gray “silk” binding (aka polyester blanket binding) put on it since that’s what both he and his sister had the same material on their baby blankets.

Here’s where L was playing with the layout on my design wall earlier tonight:


I miscut the pink flower blocks so have to go back to the quilt shop for another FQ — don’t cut something at 3″ when it should be 3.5″!  There’s no saving that if you don’t want extra seams!!!

His sister is apparently decorating the nursery with gray and that’s about all he had to go on.  The gray in the center is a silver printed alphabet and the other gray print has little rabbits on it — L is super partial to rabbits since his childhood toy was “Brown Bunny” so this quilt definitely has a bit of him in it.  The backing will be the same stitched hearts material that’s in the quilt.

I also got the “Intertwined Border” portion of my Skill Builder sewn and written.  Well, mostly sewn.  Sewn as much as I’m going to before I leave.  I’ve not been in the mood to bother with it overly much, but it’s sewn enough that I could do a tutorial and that’s all that matters.


…and with that, it’s back to the biggest source of procrastination in this house:  Don’t Starve Together.

Because there’s nothing better than wasting time playing a pointless survival game when there’s a ton of stuff you should actually be doing. 😛

Worse, L and I just added mods so that we can both play additional characters.  I’m currently Hitsugaya from Bleach and he’s Guts from Berserk.  We need to learn to be productive.  Currently 201 hours in game.  Ugh.