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.