Monday, December 17, 2007

My Cross Stitch Likes

I am participating in a scissor fob cross stitch exchange and, as part of that, I am posting the things I like and those I dislike (which aren't many!)

Designers: I like most of the currently popular designers ~ Little House and Country Cottage Needleworks, Prairie Schooler, Bent Creek, Glendon Place, Lizzie Kate, Heart In Hand, The Workbasket, The Trilogy, Victoria's Sampler, BlackBird Designs, Long Dog Samplers, etc.. I particularly like anything sampler or Quaker related, Victorian and primitive designs, anything autumn, Halloween, snowmen and snowflakes, gingerbread men, and fairies. I don't like most things cartoony.

Fabric: I use mainly 32 or 36 count linen or evenweave fabrics, and particularly love very mottled hand-dyed fabrics with slubs! Of course, with my stash of hand-dyed fabrics, I often discover I have no ivory, antique white or white when I need it.

Fibers: I use mostly overdyed fibers. I particularly like Carrie's Creations, but also like Crescent Colors, Six Stranded Sweets, GAST and Weeks. I haven't done too much with silks yet, but I would like to experiment more with them.

Miscellaneous: I love candy canes and most things peppermint, including the Twisted Peppermint stuff at Bath and Bodyworks. I'm not particularly fond of chocolate. I love coffees and teas of all sorts. I also like Victorian-appearing muted colors of fabrics and ribbons. I collect fun buttons. I also LOVE Yankee candles. I have candles burning all the time at home.

I guess that's me in a nutshell!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Happy Anniversary to Me

Yes, today is our wedding anniversary and I even got a call from my daughter singing to me. I won't say how long we've been married because then I'll appear to be much older than I really am...not a day over... mumble.... Trust me...I married VERY young! I don't anticipate that we'll do anything to celebrate our anniversary since we haven't celebrated it since our first one. I guess it's an achievement to say we're still married after all these years. (There are those days, you know!)

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hogwarts Sock Kit Swap Goodies!

What a great way to be rewarded after a long, cold, boring Monday at work! There is a set of Brittany bamboo needles in size 3 and a set of ebony needles in size 1. Brittany is one of my favorite needles. I've never tried ebony needles...and they are it will be fun to experiment with them. Laurie Ann also gave me a WONDERFUL book "Knitting on the Road" which I promptly leafed through more than once. I think I've already picked out the socks I want to knit with the yarn Laurie Ann included. There were also some great Ravenclaw stitch markers in wonderful deep colors. I really like the bronze coloring. They are very different from the normal silver or gold markers. And, speaking of yarn, I got 3 skeins of Knit Picks Gloss yarn, 2 skeins of Dusk and 1 of Pumpkin. PERFECT Ravenclaw colors, don't you think! The yarn is so soft. I really wanted to immediately cast on, but I supposed I should finish my Christmas gifts first, don't you think?
But, the GREATEST part of the whole package were the MINNESOTA VIKINGS STITCH MARKERS!! YAY!!! (doing a major happy dance!) Aren't they INCREDIBLE!! I could even take those to the games with me and be stylin'! They will match my purple Vikings hoodie and my purple and gold beads and hat and socks! I can sing "Skoal, Vikings" at the top of my lungs and never miss a stitch!
What a fun Monday it turned out to be after all, thanks to Laurie Ann!

Monday, December 10, 2007

Christmas Fun

1. Wrapping paper or gift bags? WRAPPING PAPER
2. Real tree or Artificial? REAL
3. When do you put up the tree? WHEN WE GET TIME...USUALLY FIRST WEEKEND IN DEC
4. When do you take the tree down? AFTER NEW YEARS
7. Do you have a nativity scene? YES, BUT I HAVEN'T PUT IT OUT IN YEARS. JUST NOT ENOUGH ROOM.
8. Hardest person to buy for? CHUCK. ALL HE EVER WANTS IS A BELT.
11. Worst Christmas gift you ever received? I CAN'T REALLY THINK OF A BAD CHRISTMAS GIFT.
12. Favorite Christmas movie? IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE
14. Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? I DON'T THINK SO.
16. Clear lights or colored on the tree? COLORED
19. Can you name all of Santa's reindeers? OF COURSE!
20. Angel on the tree top or a star? TINKER BELL!!
21. Open the presents Christmas Eve or morning? CHRISTMAS EVE
22 . Most annoying thing about this time of year? THE GOOD FEELINGS DON'T CARRY OVER INTO THE YEAR.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Winter -- Bah Humbug!

Have I mentioned recently that I HATE WINTER!! I's only started and I'm already complaining. Saturday it was involuntarily hibernation while we accumulated something like 5-6" of snow. Yes, it's pretty until you have to shovel it! I mean, why can't it snow during the week so I have an excuse to stay home instead of work. No, it has to snow on weekends when I want to be out and about doing Christmas shopping, lunching with friends, etc.
Then it snowed all day yesterday, but not hard enough to justify staying home. The drive home was definitely NOT exciting though. The plows hadn't done much yet and traffic was horrendously slow. And this morning it wasn't much better. I had such a headache by the time I got to work. I realize that the City of Minneapolis is a big place and there are lots of streets to plow, but it's pretty bad when the snow emergency routes resemble narrow country lanes in Scotland, except they are icy. And don't play chicken with a school bus!
I don't remember...have I mentioned I HATE WINTER? (But at least the Vikings are winning!)

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Baby Sophie

Isn't she gorgeous! Another beautiful granddaughter to love, cherish and spoil.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Let Me Introduce... newest granddaughter, Sophia Hope (Sophie) who was born on November 23, 2007, at 10:34 a.m. Here's her first photo with her big sister Ellie.
She's a keeper!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Scotland Day 5

By now you know the routine...full Scottish breakfast at 8:00 and then off in the Bubble on a new adventure. Our first stop of the day was at Suendo's Stone in the town of Forres. I was quite impressed with Forres itself. As we entered the town, I saw that there was a new very modern "business park" which was extremely unusual in the Highlands. It was apparent that there had been a lot of growth in Forres as we drove through what could only be called a modern suburb with new housing developments and wide streets. It was nice to see that there was an attempt to make the new housing fit into the style of the Scottish Highlands.

And, in the middle of this modern suburb stands Suendo's (Sven's) Stone, a Pictish carved standing stone that was probably created in the 9th century. It's an amazing stone standing over 20 feet tall and encased in a glass structure to protect it from the elements. On one side is a large Celtic cross and on the other are over 100 figures depicting a battle. There are scenes of fighting, decapitation and piles of dead. On the narrow sides are typical interwoven vines. I decided it was time to leave when Aimee thought she should find a way to pick the lock and get inside the glass!

Our next stop was the nearby Dallas Dhu Distillery. This distillery was built around 1898. It was closed from 1929 to 1936 and again during WWII. In the early 1980s the Glasgow company that owned Dallas Dhu decided to close some of their smaller and older distilleries, among them Dallas Dhu. At the same time, Historical Scotland was looking for a distillery to preserve for tourism purposes. Dallas Dhu fit the bill and it opened as a visitor attraction in 1988. There is a self-guided tour with an audio "wand" that gives you a running commentary. It was fun to wander at our own pace. After touring Glenfiddich, we already had an idea on how a distillery works, but at Dallas Dhu we were able to see things we couldn't see in a working distillery, such as the inside of a still and where the peat fires burn under the stills. It was an interesting place (and we did get our dram of Roderick Dhu at the end!) One thing that was missing from Dallas Dhu was the wonderful fragrance of roasting barley, but surprisingly we could still smell the whisky in the mash room.

It was then back in the Bubble and on to Cawdor Castle, which is more properly called a fortified house. It is family owned and the family continues to reside in it. It was actually a very cozy castle and gave off a nice warm welcoming feeling. One of the interesting rooms in the castle is called the Thorn Tree Room. It was originally the ground floor guardroom and protected the drawbridge. There was a secret dungeon concealed in the wall. From items found in the dungeon, it was determined that even women and children had been held in there. In the middle of the guardroom stands a tree!! The legend is that the Thane of Cawdor lived about a mile away and he decided to build a new, strong tower house. He had a dream that told him to load a donkey with a coffer of gold on his back and let it roam for a day; wherever it lay down to rest in the evening would be where the tower house should be built and it would prosper forever. Legend has it that the donkey lay down under the thorn tree in this room. The tree has been carbon dated to approximately 1372. However, it is a holly tree, not a thorn tree.

This is the drawbridge you cross to enter Cawdor Castle. You can see the mechanism that lifted the drawbridge.

Cawdor also has a breathtaking walled garden with oodles and oodles of gorgeous roses...and some VERY tall thistles!
After leaving Cawdor we made our way to Moniak Castle which dates to 1580. This is Fraser country and the Frasers still live there. (If any of you have read the "Outlander" books, this is the area where Jamie Fraser lived.) The castle itself is not open to the public. We were headed there not for the castle, but for the MEAD!! It's a very, very tiny operation and we arrived about the same time as a tour bus full of mainly German tourists. We paid the fee for a tour, watched a video on the history and operation of the winery, and then toured it. It is so small that we walked single file through the storeroom to get to a tiny room where a man was putting corks in bottles one at a time, and a woman was applying labels...all by hand! We were there late in the day so we couldn't get into the kitchen to watch the cooking of the preserves. Back in the gift shop we were able to sample all 9 of the wines they make from wildflowers, fruits and tree (white birch) sap as well as several of the marmalades and preserves. Needless to say, we both walked out of there with a bottle of the best mead ever made!

We had then finished all our planned stops for the day but had time to spare so we decided to stop at Culloden Battlefield, which I suppose could be compared to our Gettysburg Battlefield. The battle fought was basically a civil war between the English and Scots that took place on April 16, 1754. It was very humbling to stand in the middle of the battlefield, walk the lines where each army stood, and consider the harshness of the location and the horrendous battle that took the lives of so many. When we were there, the wind was blowing so hard we could lean backwards and the wind would keep us upright; it was incredibly cold, much as it could have been the fateful day of the battle. There are trenches and mounds where the individual clans were laid to rest. The battlefield is covered with heather, but legend says no heather will ever grow on the graves.

Here's Aimee among the heather at Culloden Battlefield.

Since it was still light, we decided to stop at Clava Cairns stone circles. When we got there we saw that the gates were locked, which seemed strange for an unmanned Historic Scotland site. Since it was raining lightly, we thought we'd stop the next day when we would again be traveling in that direction. It was almost 7:00 anyway and we hadn't eaten since that full Scottish breakfast so we were starving. On the way back to the Old Church, we stopped at a roadside fish and chips restaurant that we'd seen earlier. I swear it is the ONLY place in the Highlands that is open past 5:30! It was actually open until 10:00. It reminded me of a diner that catered to truckers and motorists. Of course, I had fish and chips; Aimee had pizza with corn topping and a side of chips. Then it was back to the Old Church for a hot shower and a good night sleep.

Friday, November 16, 2007

My Second Pair of Socks

I have finished my second pair of socks. These were so much fun to knit! I love, love, love LOTS of color and this yarn definitely gave me lots of color. Now...the major decision is what's next!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Demonstration of Support

Yesterday the Minnesota State Bar Association held a demonstration of support of the attorneys in Pakistan on the steps of the Minnesota Supreme Court building. I went with my boss, another attorney and a law student. As I stood there freezing because of the gusty winds and occasional snowflake, I realized that my discomfort was very insignificant compared to the discomfort of the attorneys and judges and people of Pakistan. There were several moving speeches given by members of the Minnesota, Hennepin County and Ramsey County Bar Associations. One person read an email from an attorney in Pakistan which almost brought tears to my eyes. Another speaker had just returned from the region and told us of conditions in Pakistan. It may seem a world away from us and it's easy to believe that the conditions there could not happen here. But is that really true? Aren't we seeing our constitution being deconstructed for the benefit or power addiction of a few? Once the rule of law is suppressed, the people have no voice.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Pink Sky in the Morning....

After I finished breakfast this morning, I walked out of the kitchen and into the living room. I stopped short when I saw that the entire room was bathed in a soft pink light. I looked out the window and saw that the driveway was also bathed in pink light. It was like standing inside a big pink Bazooka bubble gum bubble! I grabbed my camera and went out on the front step (in my pink nightgown) to see if I could capture any of the beautiful pink/purple sky.

By the time I snapped the picture and came back into the house, the pink light was gone. It was only there for a very fleeting moment but I managed to experience it and capture a little bit of it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

What Kind of Sweet Are You?

You Are a Gingerbread House

A little spicy and a little sweet, anyone would like to be lost in the woods with you.

Can Anyone Say MVP!

We went to the Minnesota Vikings-St. Diego Chargers game yesterday at the "thunderdome". I fully anticipated that the Vikings would lose, but I proudly donned my purple hoodie and purple and gold beads anyway. What an unexpected treat it was to see Adrian Peterson destroy NFL records and hand the Chargers their hats! He is truly a phenom and so exciting to watch as he leaves the defense in the dust. The "thunderdome" was rocking with chants of MVP!

Now...if we only had a quarterback.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Scotland - Day 4

After another "full Scottish breakfast", we were off in The Bubble to visit Elgin Cathedral in the nearby town of Elgin. What a truly marvelous structure! We arrived early since we weren't sure where parking was available. Since we couldn't get into the Cathedral yet, we walked into the Biblical Garden of an adjacent college (can't remember the name of the college) where we found some very strange fiberglass statutes, such as this one of Samson. We figured he was the original "jock"....big body, little brain.

We then walked around the perimeter of the Cathedral property. As we approached from the main street, we walked through Panns Port, the main gateway into the Chanonry, or the area surrounding the Cathedral, which dates from the early 1200s. There were originally 4 gates in the wall but only Panns Port survives.

As we entered Elgin Cathedral the girl working there recommended that we start at the far end rather than at the Towers since there would be a large group of children arriving for a field trip. It was truly an awe inspiring experience to stand in the center of a structure built over 600 years ago. It was first built in the early 13th century and enlarged and repaired following a fire in 1390. I loved standing in the Presbytery and imaging how beautiful it must have been with the sun shining through the stained glass windows onto the high altar while the monks/priests chanted. Along the sides of the Presbytery were the choir lofts. There was a large nave with imposing columns holding up the several-story high roof, where many statutes looked down on the worshippers. There were also walkways up near the roof. We climbed to the top of the towers nears the entrance where we could see forever! I had wanted to get some photos of the wonderful headstones in the cemetery, but the kids were doing rubbings.

After spending much of the morning at Elgin Cathedral, we made the LONG drive back to Castle Fraser since this was on Aimee's "must see" list. Fortunately, it was open this time! One thing that constantly amazed us was just how very lush, green, thick and soft the lawns are in Scotland. It is like walking on an ultraplush carpet. I think Castle Fraser was my least favorite site. It is also still lived in and it is a self-guided tour. I didn't think much of the historic castle still existed, except the Great Hall which has been restored to how it would have looked in the 1500s. Castle Fraser is reputed to be a very haunted castle but Aimee didn't feel there was anything to the stories, at least not the major stories of hauntings. We did see a couple old samplers on the walls and some beautiful old quilts but besides that we were disappointed that we had made the trip twice to Castle Fraser.

On the way back to the Old Church, we stopped at Tolquhon (Toll-Hoon) Castle, another of the Historic Scotland ruins which was out in the middle of a peaceful rural area, far from civilization. There was a small gift shop and the woman working there probably lived in the house next door, the only house around! Her wee son was there with her. Tolquhon is really more of a comfortable 16th century mansion than a castle. It's particularly noteworthy for the highly ornamented gatehouse and the unique 3-hole gunholes. It was designed more to impress visitors than deter attackers.

The first room we entered in the castle was the circular guardroom to the left in one of the entry. Aimee had a startled reaction as we entered and she said that there was the ghost of a guard in there and they had started each other. After that he kept following us around yelling to Aimee that we weren't supposed to be there. A couple things I enjoyed about this castle were the 12 slots for beehives in the outer wall of the courtyard and the dovecot in the corner. As we were leaving to find the beehives, Aimee appeared to stumble on the walkway. She asked if I saw her and I said that I thought she'd tripped on something. She said that he hadn't tripped; she was pushed! The not-so-friendly guardsman had pushed her and insisted that we leave.

We had a long drive back to the Old Church and we still had to find someplace to eat. It had been a long time since breakfast, but finding someplace that serves food after 5:30 in the Highlands is almost impossible. We thought we'd seen a couple places in Huntly but when we stopped they were all closed. So, in the end, we went back to Elgin and ate at Burger King!! No, we didn't eat the mystery meat that is beef in the UK; we had chicken. Plus, there had just been another outbreak of hoof and mouth in England. We thought we'd stick with something safer. They did have delicious ice cream though!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Christmas Preview

This is what happens when cousins get together in our family!

This video was made by my nephew and stars two of my kids, Aimee (in the glasses) and Erik, plus three of their cousins, Ian, Tiffany and Kjersten. And it's pretty darn accurate as to what life is like when they get together. I can tell I'm going to have to stock up on Depends!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I'm In Love!

MMMMMMMMMM! Has anyone tried the Hershey's Candy Corn Kisses? I am in love!! I saw these at Target and thought I'd give them a try. I have a candy bowl on the counter at work and like to fill it with seasonal treats. The minute I opened the bag I knew I was in trouble!! Even the aroma is driving me sweet and inviting. I can see another expensive trip to Target in the very near future!

Saturday, October 20, 2007


You are The Moon

Hope, expectation, Bright promises.

The Moon is a card of magic and mystery - when prominent you know that nothing is as it seems, particularly when it concerns relationships. All logic is thrown out the window.

The Moon is all about visions and illusions, madness, genius and poetry. This is a card that has to do with sleep, and so with both dreams and nightmares. It is a scary card in that it warns that there might be hidden enemies, tricks and falsehoods. But it should also be remembered that this is a card of great creativity, of powerful magic, primal feelings and intuition. You may be going through a time of emotional and mental trial; if you have any past mental problems, you must be vigilant in taking your medication but avoid drugs or alcohol, as abuse of either will cause them irreparable damage. This time however, can also result in great creativity, psychic powers, visions and insight. You can and should trust your intuition.

What Tarot Card are You?
Take the Test to Find Out.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Quidditch Round 3

1. What was the name of the book Dumbledore left for Hermione in his will?
a. The Tales of Beedle the Bard

2. Whose sign was on Xenophilius Lovegood's chest?
d. Grindewald

3. Was October 30, 1980 the night that Lilly and James Potter died?
b. No

4. What's another name for the Elder Wand?
a. Deathstick

5. Whose Potterwatch code name was 'Rodent'?
d. Fred

6. What was so special about the peacocks at the Malfoy Manor?
d. They were all white (must have been Blair Castle in Scotland which is famous for their white peacocks!)

7. Who does Harry say was "probably the bravest man I knew?"
a. Snape

8. What thing was Lockhart giving Hagrid advice about getting out of a well?
b. Kelpies

9. What was the occupation of Colin Creevey's father?
d. Milkman

10. Which Professor of Hogwarts was a dueling champion when he was young?
a. Flitwick

Picture Scavenger Hunt:

Made by Ansley

Friday, October 12, 2007


Tuesday found us up early once again. Breakfast at the Old Church was served at 8:00 a.m. and was served family style which meant everyone sat at the same table in the old choir loft of the church. We were sharing the table with an older couple and their adult mentally handicapped son and a younger German couple and their 3-year-old son. There are definitely pros and cons to sitting together at breakfast. It gave us the opportunity to meet and get to know the other guests and to get some ideas of places to visit. But, on the other hand, Aimee and I were not privately able to discuss our plans for the day and, because everyone was German, we often felt like the odd men out when everyone else was chatting and laughing. Our "full Scottish breakfast" differed at the Old Church in that we started out with porridge (or oatmeal as we Yanks call it). We opted for the Old Church porridge which was made with milk and honey and actually quite good. We also had the choice of black pudding or white pudding. Since we'd already passed on the black pudding, Aimee decided to give the white pudding a try. It's basically toasted oatmeal, onion, spices and lard in a sausage form. Interesting but not something I'll be serving often.

After breakfast we hopped in The Bubble and were off to our first stop..Glenfiddich Distillery. YES!! Whisky first thing in the morning!! The Whisky Trail is definitely worth the trip. The air is filled with the fragrance of roasting barley as we drove through beautiful countryside and past distilleries of all size, both big and small. I was anticipating a huge operation since the name Glenfiddich is know world wide, but it is actually quite small. We joined a tour led by a kilt-clad guide. I was trying to figure out where she was from by her accent (or lack thereof) until she told us she was from Kenya ~ a Kenyan in a kilt! The tour started with a film about the history of Glenfiddich, which in Gaelic means Valley of the Stag, hence their logo. It is one of the few distilleries still in the hands of the family of William Grant, the founder. He and his 9 children built the distillery by hand in 1886 and the first whisky was bottled on Christmas Day 1887. The buildings built by William Grant and his children are still in use. The tour took us through all steps of the distillation process. I asked why there were 2 different styles of stills and was told that William Grant started out with 2 used stills, each in a different shape. As the family added more stills, they maintained the shapes of the original stills. When we walked in the still room, we just had to inhale deeply. smelled SO GOOD! I was amazed at how many bottles of whisky (only single malt whisky from Scotland can be spelled w-h-i-s-k-y) are bottled each day. The barrels they use are obtained used from either Spain or the US...Spanish sherry barrels and US whiskey barrels...because they are already seasoned. The barrels are stored in the original warehouse with earthen floors, stone walls, low ceilings and wonderful fragrance. That's the "angels' share"...the amount that evaporates from each barrel. There were barrels in there that were 60 years old! A couple things I learned is that the pure water that is collected through the distillation process is returned to the stream that is used and the remnants of the barley is made into cattle feed. Nothing is wasted! Also the distillery bought something like 10,000 acres of land around the burn (stream) where they get their water to guarantee that they are the only distillery using the water and that the water always comes from a single source. They also can insure that the water remains unpolluted. It was then off to the malt barn where we were treated to a dram. Of course, I had to buy a bottle to bring home. Can you possible go to Scotland and not bring home whisky? I say not!!

After consuming our dram, we went across the road from the distillery to Balvenie Castle. This was the first of our Historic Scotland stops. When Aimee was going to school in Scotland she joined Historic Scotland and has maintained her membership. When she renewed this year, she upgraded and included me in the membership. Being members of Historic Scotland allows us to get into all Historic Scotland sights free and gives us a discount on anything we purchase. Aimee called Balvenie Castle the start of the "Where Mary,Queen of Scots, stayed" tour, but I think that really started at Blair Castle. I actually think this was the start of "how many royal pissers can we find"! Yes, even castles over 500 years old had indoor bathrooms...and a few of them still maintain the odors! Balvenie is a typical ruin, but we explored it thoroughly. It was incredible to see that some of the walls were 10 feet thick. Stairs in these castles are always a challenge. As you can see in this photo, all stairwells are spiral. They are made of stone and each step is triangular in shape. They are generally very narrow and, because of their age, very worn and uneven. There is also no uniformity to the height. The stairwells are extremely narrow so you don't want to meet anyone on them. We finally figured out the way to climb them is to put your outside foot normally on the wider part of the step and turn your other foot sideways on the narrower part. Even so, you definitely need to hold on!

After exploring Balvenie, it was off to Huntly Castle. The little town of Huntly is so cute and picturesque. As we entered the town and headed toward the castle we had to pass through was had obviously been the main marketplace in the past. It was surrounded by tall old buildings and I felt like I'd definitely stepped back in time. To get to the Castle we drove under an arch and down a narrow tree lined lane, past an elementary school. The Castle is located next to a modern golf about the past abutting the present! As history goes, the Earl of Huntly was Mary, Queen of Scots, cousin and she was supposed to stay at his castle. However, she was advised that the Earl was planning to murder her so she stayed at Balvenie instead. Huntly Castle is quite well preserved. The stonework is gorgeous, particularly the frontispiece. It is emblazoned with the arms of the Marquis and Marchioness of Huntly along with the Marquis' coat of arms and those of James VI of Scotland and Queen Anna of Denmark. A lot of the walls in the castle still have the original plaster so you can see what the walls would have looked like. There is even graffiti on a wall in the cellar. Historians believe it was put there in the 1500s by servants.

The pisser at Huntly is probably one of the best preserved in all of Scotland. Aimee just had to try it out for size! Outside the wall of the castle is the remains of a medieval road that was put in somewhere around 1200. It's amazing!

We then headed off to drive the 50 miles to Fraser Castle. This was one of Aimee's "must see" stops. There have been stories of how haunted Fraser Castle is and she wanted to find out for herself. Unfortunately, when we got there we discovered that it isn't open on Mondays or Tuesdays. So we turned around and headed back to Huntly to see if we could find someplace to eat. We quickly discovered that everything in the Highlands closes at 5:30!! I mean everything!! We ended up eating in a hotel restaurant in Elgin since it was the only place we could find open. On the way to Elgin we tried to find a stone circle that was marked on the atlas. We saw signs for it but, alas, could not find the stone circle at all. We did make a stop at a standing stone called "Maiden Stone". The story goes that the stone was a woman who sold her soul to the devil. Aimee decided that if that's a woman, she was extremely tall! There are some cool carvings on the stone, including a mirror and comb.

It was a long day and we were definitely glad to pull up to the Old Church that night!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Knitters Coffeeswap

1. Whole bean or ground? Either is fine with me. I buy both. I like to grind my own beans, but sometimes I just don't like to take the time to do so...those lazy moments, you know.

2. Fully-loaded or decaf? Again, either is fine. I start my day with fully-loaded and end my day with decaf.

3. Regular or flavored? I like both, but for my daily consumption it's regular. It's fun to try out different flavored coffees. I'm currently enjoying caramel apple coffee. A friend keeps me supplied with Apricot Coffee from a little coffee shop in a small town in MN.

4. How do you drink your coffee? Anyway I can get it! Sometimes I prefer black, sometimes with cream ~ both plain and flavored.

5. Favorite coffee ever? My favorite is the Christmas Blend from Starbucks. I buy several pounds of it during the holiday season so I can have it as long as possible. For enjoyment, I absolutely love Pumkin Spice Lattes (along with their pumpkin scones) from Starbucks.

6. Are you fussy about your coffee or will any old bean do? No, I'm not fussy about my coffee, except I don't really like "grocery store" coffee, i.e., Folgers, Maxwell House, etc. But, in the end, it's all coffee and I am addicted.

7. Favorite treats to have with your coffee? I particularly love scones with my coffee. I also like biscotti, particularly the gingerbread biscotti that Starbucks sells at Christmas time. And, plain old sugar cookies and shortbread will always do!

8. Anything else about your coffee preferences? I am happy with almost anything coffee related.

9. Yarn/fiber you love? I recently discovered Marble by James C. Brett which is fun. I knit a sweater and beret for my new granddaughter using it. I also love yarns with oodles of colors, particularly fun sock yarn.

10. Yarn/fiber you hate? I don't like eyelash-type fibers or other novelty yarns.

11. What's on your needles? I'm currently knitting my first pair of socks and loving every minute of it. I can assure it, it won't be my last.

12. Favorite colors? Definitely blues and purples of all hues, although I love fall combinations as well.

13. Allergies? I am allergic to cats, dustmites and blooming fruit trees.

14. Anything you really love, really don't like, or just need to get off your chest? life is good! I do really love the Harmony needles by KnitPicks. They are a joy to work with. I'm definitely a person who believes in paying it forward. I love to spoil others and believe, in the end, what goes around comes around. It gives me joy to see someone smile. I believe in the healing nature of hugs.

Monday, October 08, 2007

My First Sock!

I started knitting my first pair of socks! Little did I know when I chose the funky fiber that it would knit into such a cool pattern. I went into the shop and said I wanted to knit socks and asked to be pointed in the right direction. I knew I didn't want stripes so I picked colors I liked...and look what is developing! I'm SO excited and very surprised. I thought I'd just get random colors. There are mistakes in the sock so don't look too closely,but I consider this pair my learners socks. I can only get better, right?

We had a heavy rain and lightening storm during the night on Friday. When I woke up Saturday morning the sky was such a strange color of yellow. I looked out the door at the house across the street and I could see the rising sun hitting the very top of the trees a block over while the trees closer were still in the shadows. The air smelled so good and the colors were so intense. I then walked outdoors and found a beautiful trio of leaves on the ground. I do love fall! I love all the colors and the crispness in the air. I love caramel apples and pumpkin spice latte from Starbucks. I do NOT look forward to winter, however. I wish it could just stay fall until spring arrives.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Scotland Day Two

Day Two found us enjoying our first of many "full Scottish breakfasts". Our days always started early with breakfast being served between 8:00 and 9:00 a.m. A full Scottish breakfast usually consists of juice, cereal, yogurt and fruit (usually canned) to start if you want. The main breakfast is your choice of eggs, fried tomatoes, fried mushrooms, baked beans, sausage, bacon, toast (either white or brown, i.e., white or wheat) and black pudding. I usually skipped the mushrooms and baked beans...and I'm not about to eat something where the first ingredient is pork blood (black pudding)! Actually, in the US it's commonly called blood sausage. My mother absolutely loved it, but it's not something I even want to imagine eating! The bacon in the UK is incredibly delicious! It's almost like thinly sliced ham. It's the meaty part of the bacon we have in the US without the fat. After breakfast we thanked our hostess and hopped back in The Bubble for our drive into the Highlands. And what an awesome drive it was. The scenery is breathtaking. We drove through thick forests and open areas where the hills were covered with heather. It wasn't long before I was officially in love with the Scottish Highlands!

Our first stop of the day was Blair Castle. The blackwork instructor I took a class from at the MN Needlework Guild retreat highly recommended it so Aimee and I put it on our agenda. I'm so glad we did. It has become my 2nd favorite castle in Scotland. The day was sky, warm and not a cloud in sight. Because Blair Castle is still lived in, we weren't able to take photos inside but, believe me, it's beautiful. I love all the extremely high ceilings and elaborate woodwork. The highlight was the collection of antique stitched samplers along the hallways. They are so beautiful and so well preserved. I even gave Aimee a brief history of Scottish samplers and what made the unique. I wish I could have photographed the other needlework at the castle. I'm not even going to attempt to describe it, other than to say I've never seen such exquisite needlework in my life. I recommend anyone interested do an internet search for Lady Evelyn's needlework at Blair Castle.

The grounds at Blair Castle were amazing. Like Scone Palace they have a Pinetum called Diana's Grove (after the Roman Goddess of hunting, fertility and the moon) with giant Douglas Firs. It was originally laid out in 1737 and has been added to over the years. We were surprised to find California's Giant Redwoods growing there. We also had our first visit to a proper walled garden -- Hercules Garden. I can only dream of ever having a garden as lush as this! I think you can see how thick and lush the grass is, almost like a carpet. The little building in the photo is for swans. There are rows of fruit trees as well as beautifully tended gardens. We learned that in the late 1800s the pond within the garden would freeze and there would be curling matches on it. Beyond the bridge in the backgroud is a "warming house" called McGregor's Folly.

After leaving Blair Castle we stopped in a small town to fill The Bubble and ended up making an unplanned stop. It's an old military barracks called Ruthven Barracks. It's really just a shell so there isn't much left to see (although Aimee and I do love figuring out what each room was and, in the process, discovering how the barracks probably operated. It was used in the 1700 to keep the Highlanders in line. It is on top of a very steep plateau (that path you see is what you walk up to get to it) and the view from up there is amazing! You can literally see for miles in all directions.

Our next stop was Ballindalloch Castle. Again, this castle is lived in. Amazingly, it has been lived in by the same family (Macpherson-Grant) since it was built, which was in the 1500s. The current Laird (Lord) is a woman..the first female Laird in history. When her father died, passing the home to her, she petitioned the government to keep her father's name rather than taking her husband's name. Her son has taken the Macpherson-Grant name in order to carry on the tradition. There are handwritten signs and stories written by her throughout the Castle.
I don't know how many of you know that Aimee is clairvoyant....she "sees" ghosts. While we were on a staircase looking at an old mirror, Aimee turned to me and said that a "ghostie" had just walked past us down the stairs. She said it was an older female wearing pink. She couldn't tell what era she was from, but she felt that the woman had definitely lived in the castle at some point, loved the castle and considered it home. We were extremely surprised when a few rooms later we were reading about the room and it said that the ghost of a woman is often seen by spiritualists and mediums. I also got goosebumps myself when I read that! I told Aimee that she had to mention it to the woman at the entrance when we left. Aimee doesn't often like to share the fact that she can "see" ghosts with people, but I encouraged her to do it. When she did mention it, the woman was extremely excited and asked quite a few questions. They seem to like to hear the impressions of people who have experiences in the house and she said she would be sure to let the family know.
By that time it was getting to be quite late so we had to skip our stop at Glenlivet Distillery because it was already closed. We continued our trip to Urquhart, the little town about 6 miles from the northern coast of Scotland, where we checked into The Old Church, our "home" for 4 days. What a beautiful old building in a breathtaking area! I would stay there again in a heartbeat. After checking in we went to a town on the North Sea called Lossiemouth for pizza. By that time we were starved!! After eating we walked along the sea wall...with Aimee far too close to the edge for my comfort...and watched people surfing! Yes...surfing in the icy cold North Sea! The drive back to The Old Church was interesting -- in the pitch black on a road not big enough for 2 cars, lined with forest. We definitely slept the sleep of the dead that night!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Quiddith Trivia 2

1. In Deathly Hallows what does Harry step on when exiting his room to wash his cut?

2. Which two members of the Order of Phoenix came to escort the Dursleys to a safe place?

3. In order to throw off the Death Eaters,several of Harry's friends take Polyjuice Potion to resemble him and each Harry goes with a different member of the Order of the Phoenix to a different location. Where do Ron (disguised as Harry) and Tonks go?

4. At Bill and Fleur's wedding, Harry must disguise himself by taking Polyjuice Potion and takes on the appearance of a redheaded Muggle boy from Ottery St. Catchpol. He was introduced to wedding guests as Cousin...

5. Kingley sends a message via Patronus to warn the Weasleys and wedding guests of the coming Death Eaters. What form does his Patronus take?

6. In the Half-Blood Prince what drink does Romilda Vane try to give Harry?

7. What is the name of the person that heads the Holyhead Harpies?

8. What tatoo is Harry reported to have on his chest?

9. What color robes do the staff at Weasley's shop wear?

10. Where do Nicolas Flamel and his wife Perenelle live?

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Transsiberian Orchestra

YAY! I just heard an ad on the radio that tickets go on sale Saturday for Transsiberian Orchestra. I am definitely going to be in line! My husband gave me tickets last year and I was absolutely blown away by the performance. I was going to take Erik, but he had had knee surgery 3 days before the performance and he obviously couldn't go. I'll have to take him this year. I CANNOT WAIT UNTIL DECEMBER!! I hear they have a new CD as well. You know what I'll be out buying this weekend. I HEART TRANSSIBERIAN ORCHESTRA!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Stitching Update

Here are just a couple of my works in progress. The first is "Boo" by The Trilogy. I just love these kits! I would like to finish this one as a block but, since I've never done one, I have no idea how they are made. So...if anyone has some good instructions, please email me!

And this is an update on the Christmas stocking I'm making for Ellie. For anyone not familiar with the story, I originally stitched this stocking for her a couple years ago but when I went to put it together for her, I couldn't find the stitched piece. I have the silk for the back, the lining and the trim....just no stitched piece. I've searched and searched and searched to no avail. So, I decided to just stitch it again for her. I just love the window on this piece. When I finish it I am going to have to start stitching one for Ellie's new sister who is due December 1.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

When I Last Left You...

...we had picked up The Bubble and were on our way out of Glasgow. In spite of the fact that I had studied the atlas and knew generally where we were headed, my navigation skills failed when we got to Perth. I was having problems reading signs and locating where we were on the map and, consequently, I directed us in the wrong direction. But..I quickly recovered and found an alternate route to where we wanted to go. In the process we stumbled upon the Wal-Mart (which goes by a different name) that Aimee remembered being in Perth. So we figured the detour was meant to be...vbg. We stopped at Wal-Mart because I wanted to buy a curling iron (or tongs as they are called in Scotland). I have such baby fine hair and I need all the chemicals and help I can get to give the impression that there is a HINT of body in my hair. I could have brought my own curling iron but I would have needed a converter, so I decided it was just as easy to buy a cheap iron in Scotland. Now, where would you look for a curling iron? My initial thought was health and beauty aids. By the hair products? Hmmmm....there it is! By the clothes irons!! And I had the choice of ...oh, three! We also picked up some snacks and Aimee found Coke Orange....yes, it looked like an orange Coke bottle. She decided she needed to try it and said it was horrible -- like Hi C or any other orange soda mixed with Coke. We got back on the road and saw signs for Scone Palace (pronouced SKOON). It wasn't on our list of places to visit but we decided since we had time we would stop. I'm SO glad we did. We pulled up and parked in the car park (or parking lot as affectionately known in the US) and went to get tickets. While Aimee was waiting in line for the tickets I was taking in the beautiful location and the "Highland Coos". They are such magnificent animals. There were also peacocks wandering around, including white peacocks which I undestand Scone is known for.
We then walked up the long drive to the Palace itself. A little bit of history...1500 years ago it was the capital of the Pictish kingdom and the center of the ancient Celtic church. It has been the seat of parliaments and the crowning place of kings. It has housed the Stone of Destiny upon which all British kings/queens sit when crowned. The Stone was last used at the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Scone Palance was immortalized in Shakepeare's Macbeth. It is still the home of the Earls of Mansfield. The interior is incredible and the imagination runs wild thinking about what it must have been like to live in such a place.

After visiting the Palace, we decided to walk the grounds. They are so beautifully maintained with gardens and extremely lush lawns where peacocks wandered freely. We saw Moot Hill which was the Ancient Crowning Place of the Kings of Scots. It is immediately in front of the Palace near a Gothic Chapel, which is still used for special occasions. We wandered through an ancient cemetery and Aimee, of course, had to climb on the walls of the cemetery. We then set out to explore the Wild Garden and Pinetum. Absolutely incredible!! There were beautiful gardens set in clearing of trees. Aimee decided it was where she was going to hold her wedding reception! Of course, she had to attempt to climb one of the huge trees. I can't take her anywhere! (In the past I've had to peel her off one of the smokestacks on the Queen Mary.) She tried to get onto the huge branch but it was too high (or she was too short!) She took a run at it and attempted to jump but only managed to knock herself to the ground when her chest hit the branch.

The trees planted in the Pinetum where breathtaking. It originated with the planting of coniferous trees in 1848 and further trees have been added over the years. I have never in my life seen trees as tall as these. Aimee is a mere speck among the trees and you can't even begin to see the tops. I also do not have the words to decribe what it felt like to be in the Pinetum. The floor was covered with pine needles and it was soft to walk on and absolutely silent. The peacefulness of the spot was overwhelming. It truly made me feel small in the presence of God. Being in such a place was very moving to me.

After leaving the Pinetum we took on the Murray Star Maze. I'd always wanted to get lost in a maze and this one was tough! We kept wandering and wandering and could hear the fountain in the middle, but couldn't find our way to it. We finally made our want out of it and went up on the bridge over the maze at the entrance and figured out the proper route....all along the far edge of the maze. Finally we made it to the center!

After spending several hours at Skone Palance and wandering the grounds, we again hopped in The Bubble and continued our trip to Pitlochry. We stayed in a very cute bed and breakfast where our hostess was very accommodating and friendly. After checking in we walked into the town center where I had my first dinner of fish and chips...YUMMMMMMM!! Then it was back to the BnB for a shower and a good night sleep.