Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year Mothers

"Just a few hours of 2008 left, the last time I'll write 2008, it'll never be 2008 again", I thought when I signed my last note at the jail this afternoon. I seem to be a bit more reflective, even morose, on the eve of the new year.

On the first day of the new year I like to hike to the top of Cowles Mountain in the frigid cold -- well, as frigid as it gets in San Diego, maybe in the 40's -- to catch the first rays of the New Year's sun. Tomorrow, though, I have to work. That means briefing at 6:00 AM, so no early morning hiking.

Here is my sunrise photo in lieu of tomorrow's ... taken out my tent first thing on wakening in the Andes a couple years ago.

A short time later, I crawled out of the tent and in the same direction was a mama llama (say yama, not lama) feeding her baby. A beautiful mama llama, one of the best photos I think I've ever caught.

Having dinner with a girlfriend one of those past end of the years that will never come again, I asked about any New Year's resolutions. Not that I think sustained changes happen from a New Year's resolution that wouldn't have come from a simple commitment without an occasion. Anyway, my friend responded she had a resolution to be a better person. I was impressed. I already regarded her as a cut above in the category of better people. No going to lose weight, make more money, stop smoking, exercise more, self-focused resolutions. Simply, to be a better person.

This quote from Mother Teresa has been taped to my computer for a while, waiting to be reinforced with a commitment at New Year's, so I offer it for thought:

"If you are successful, you will win some false friends and some true enemies. Succeed anyway.
What you spend years building, someone could destroy overnight. Build anyway.
The good you do today, people will forget tomorrow. Do good anyway.
Give the world the best you have, and it may never be good enough. Give the world the best you have anyway..."

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Joan's moved.

A major catastrophe has happened over at JournalSpace. Both of their drives have gone down - hopefully to be repaired but the prognosis is not good. The worst part of it is that Joan's Walk This Way blog has gone down with it. Four years of photos and funnies - WAHHHHH! Bloggers everywhere are mourning.

In the meantime, she's taken over Charleston Daily Photo, so go visit her there for your daily Joan fix.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Peace on Earth, Can It Be?

In 1977, the US was in an economic recession, New York City experienced a massive blackout on a hot July night, Ethiopia's president was killed in a shoot out at a council meeting, small pox was eradicated, and David Bowie, then age 30, showed up at Bing Crosby's "house" to sing my favorite Christmas duet.

Bing was on tour in England and filming was set up in London for his annual Christmas show at a studio just down the street from Bowie's house. In exchange for Bing showing Bowie's "Heroes" video on the show, Bowie agreed to sing a duet with Bing. Just hours before the show, though, Bowie declared he hated the song they were supposed to sing, Little Drummer Boy. The show's composers frantically wrote "Peace on Earth" in a little over an hour and worked it into Bing's Drummer Boy. Bing, age 73, died a month later with a heart attack. The song was finally issued as a single in 1982. What a beautiful legacy from the classic Crosby and quirky Bowie.

Peace on Earth, can it be
Years from now, perhaps we'll see
See the day of glory
See the day, when men of good will
Live in peace, live in peace again

Peace on Earth, can it be

Every child must be made aware
Every child must be made to care
Care enough for his fellow man
To give all the love that he can

I pray my wish will come true
For my child and your child too
He'll see the day of glory
See the day when men of good will
Live in peace, live in peace again

Peace on Earth, can it be
Can it be.

As an extra treat, here is the "Heroes" video aired on the show.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Feliz Navidad, Nollaig chridheil agus Bliadhna mhath ù, Kurisumasu Omedeto and Peace on Earth to everyone!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Confection Connections

I can remember in the 1950's my mother would go off to cake class and come home with a doll cake, almost too beautiful to eat. We learned from her how to make roses and pansies and those piped shell borders.

Looking to pass on some of the traditions and an alternative to iPod and YouTube for the grandbabies - well, they're not babies anymore - I found a young woman who was willing to come to the house for a weekend afternoon and we started in home cake decorating classes for Hayley and Jennifer. We've added a third, Kolby, and I can say these chicklets have the best time decorating, drinking Martinellis, and gabbing away.

For November, they used leaves gathered from the yard - washed, of course - and molded fall colored white chocolate leaves, made caramel and chocolate acorns dipped in chocolate sprinkles, and put together a striking fall cupcake wreath.

Yesterday was Christmas theme with ornament cupcakes. They learned a trick to frost the cupcake smoothly with a spreader cut from a plastic water bottle.

Gorgeous, aren't they. The tops are dipped in colored sugar. Um-yes, about 1000 calories/cupcake.

We awarded first place to the ornate string of lights, made by the teacher, Teresa, second place to the plaid ornament for design, and third to the string of lights on white background, for its simple elegance.

The best part...eating the result, of course.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


funny pictures of cats with captions
OK, I've not been blogging much lately - except at work (for real!) - because I've been busy painting, quilting, etc., but I just had to post this from one of my favorite sites. Can some nice carpenter come over to my house and build something like this for my 5 cats? We would love you forever...

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Painted Hydrants

The little guy in the Mystery Photo is an astronaut, one of twenty six fire hydrants in the seaside village of Carlsbad, just 15 minutes up the coast. The city allowed the hydrants to be "adopted" and local artists or just plain local folk painted the hydrants. The non-professionally painted hydrants were, umm-m-m...unique.

We downloaded a "tour" map and set out on foot, naturally, with a six year old to find the hydrants. What a hoot! For a six year old, a treasure hunt with her map, just as exciting as an amusement park. And it was free.

We had to study and discuss each hydrant...

and climb around on them, just to get the feel and thrill of it all.

Check here for photos of all 26 hydrants.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

One More Mystery Photo

I couldn't resist one last black and white mystery photo.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Tuxedo Tom

Turkey butt is a turkey! Whoever saw a black and white turkey? This guy lives at Bates Nut Farm in Valley Center, or should I say "rules" Bates Nut Farm. He gives new meaning to all puffed up, struttin' your stuff, full of yourself, King of the Hill. He still thinks he should have been the national bird*.

Here he is puffed up...

Not puffed up...

Puffed up again...

Not puffed up is pretty lame looking, eh?

He went back and forth between puffed up and not puffed up more times than I could count. Sadly, I seemed to be the only one impressed. I didn't see any turkey ladies around.

We visited the farm a couple weeks before Thanksgiving. I doubt he ended up on anyone's table.

*"For the Truth the Turkey is in Comparison a much more respectable Bird, and withal a true original Native of America... He is besides, though a little vain & silly, a Bird of Courage, and would not hesitate to attack a Grenadier of the British Guards who should presume to invade his Farm Yard with a red Coat on."

--Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to his daughter

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Another Mystery Photo

Ask Jennifer, I was fascinated with this one. Must of taken 20 pictures of this one. Thank God for digital.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Face of the Mystery

Not only does Xochi have hair tufts growing from her feet -- they sprout from her ears!

Now, if I could get that wide eyed look of Janet's Kitties.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Mystery Photo

Two weeks ago I suffered that mother of all disasters, complete erasure of the hard disk, the story with which I will not bore the readers. In lieu of writing a philosophical story on the Buddhist Kalachakra ritual of impermanence I had been mulling over, I offer this mindless shot I captured this morning.

In the meantime, back to recreating that cyberworld on which we have come to depend. Mr. Kozsinski, you were so right in some ways.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Sin and Misery

When Kelly and I moved into this condo almost 4 years ago, I let her have the biggest bedroom and told her she could paint it however she wanted. (She was having a tough time with a scumbag boyfriend and missing the old house in Mt. Pleasant.) She took me at my word and painted the room orange, red violet, and several shades of pink. It was a very happy, Kelly kind of room!

She went off to college in August and I decided to move myself into that room, with the plan of painting it a nice sedate olive green. I quickly got the closets done and our belongings switched around. It took a little while longer to move the furniture - hey, try moving a queen sized mattress set by yourself!

Then I tackled the bathroom. Oy vey - what had that child done in there? I had to replace the faucet (she didn't realize you couldn't pour drano on bathroom fixtures and not rinse it off) and stop the toilet's running. The shower looks better now but still needs some more chemicals. At least there is no longer a giant hairball blocking the drain. Painting it was a pain - did I mention I hate painting bathrooms? All that cut in work and so little maneuvering space. And painting around the toilet? Yuck. My OCD kicks into hyperdrive.

So I took off this week to paint the bedroom. I prepped it yesterday, removing and carefully storing switchplates and spackling holes. I planned to start priming last night but made the mistake of stopping by the bead store on my way back from the audiologist yesterday afternoon.

I believe certain things call to each of us. Perhaps the calling is a holdover from a past life. In my case it's probably simpler - I have the eye of a crow. If something sparkles, I'm drawn to it like a magnet. So beads call to me. They don't sit in the bag for long. Sometimes I have 'em out as soon as I'm back in the car. Do I make anything fabulous with them? Usually not. I can be happy just grouping and regrouping them in my bead box, first according to style, then by color or size. We all have our vices, I guess.

Last night I sat down to my desk to mess around with my beads and turned on the radio to listen to some rock and roll. (The two activities just seem to go together for me.) The R&R pickin's were slim so I turned on YouTube and started surfing around. My oh my, I was soon in paradise! (As my friend Cathy has noted, I'm a closet groupie in a reserved-looking outerskin.) I soon had a list of favorites. Here's one of them.

I was twelve when this was shot of Eric Burdon and the Animals performing "The House of the Rising Sun". Is it a hoot or what? Check out how they slowly walk around the set singing and playing their guitars. And how does he hit those low notes? These kids look to me now as if their voices hadn't yet changed, much less that they might have known anything about sin and misery. According to Wikipedia, they're from Newcastle upon Tyne (hey, we were there this summer!) and Eric apparently was fond of breaking eggs over naked girls. So much for innocence.

Anyway, one thing (video) led to another, and I was up past two watching YouTubes. Today I paid the piper and got one coat of primer on. And now I'm off to put the second coat on.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Best Crazy Green Ideas

OK, so being the mechanic that I am, I'm curious about a lot of things and can often be found checking out weird stuff. One example is New Scientist, which isn't really weird - unless you're someone like Rush Limbaugh, I suppose.

Go here to watch a video explaining the X-Prize Foundation's contest for the best crazy green ideas. The prize for the best idea is $25,000. Until next Sunday, you can vote here for one of the three finalists, and believe me - they're some doozies.

But wait - it gets better...if you implement the winning prize, you can win $10 million!!!

(Heads up on the Typealyzer link from Joan.)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The City of New Orleans

I always loved this song. Doesn't it just make you want to call up Amtrak and book a train ride?

P.S. After watching this, I spent the day priming and repainting Kelly's Pepto Bismol pink bathroom. (It's now a nice olive green shade.) I hummed this song to myself the whole time!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Mr. Obama, President-elect, Sir:

Your winning platform included talking with our "enemies" without preconditions. Could we begin with our Cuban neighbors just off our shore? Almost fifty years of economic blockade is enough! If our objective has been to squeeze Castro out of power and bring democracy and human rights to Cuba, it hasn't worked. Perhaps open trade and communication between Cuba the US would have hastened both these objectives. Instead we saw the old "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" as the Cuban government turned to Russia for support.

In 2005, a group of 15 Americans with It's Just the Kids went to Havana -- with a license from the US government -- and built four playgrounds for the Cuban children. We had to work every day in order to ensure we would not have time for sightseeing or travel into the countryside and we could not buy souvenirs other than art to make sure we weren't putting money into the Cuban economy. We saw this large sign erected by Castro on the waterfront Malecon, facing across the straits toward Florida.

Translated, it says "Senor Imperialists, we are absolutely not afraid of you!

Another translation: US policy has not worked.

If this tiny country can defiantly hold out for 50 years, imagine the outcome with Sarah Palin's suggestion that the US sanction Russia if they don't fall in line.

In 2006 as the hostile Bush administration tightened restrictions even further, the US government refused to issue a workable license for us to return to Cuba to build more playgrounds. As Patty would say, go figure! How were a bunch of playground building Americans in Cuba going to threaten US security? The huge amount of good will was not going to cost the government a penny -- Bill Hauf, a Republican, mind you, raised the money for the equipment himself. Not only that, he came back from the 2005 trip and ran for Congress. Not exactly what I'd call a bleeding heart liberal.

Mr. President-elect, consider this small step toward improving American relations with the world. Open up trade. Allow Americans free travel to Cuba as should be their right. We had a good start with the Clinton administration. After 8 years of a regressive administration, could we get back on track? We are waiting to build those playgrounds in Cuba.

Yours truly,
A left-leaning Republican in California.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Edinburgh: Changed Priorities Ahead

So I have gathered unto myself
All the loose ends of Scotland,
And by naming them and accepting them,
Loving them and identifying myself with them,
Attempt to express the whole.
Hugh MacDiarmid, "Scotland" Selected Poems (1992)

Patty and I walked our feet down to stubs the last two days in Edinburgh. Good thing we were conditioned from our walk across England.

We toured the inside of Edinburgh Castle, built on that rock that has been inhabited by some people or another for the last 8000 years. The Abbey ruins and palace at Holyrood. The Museum of Scotland where we checked out the history of the Jacobite rebellion and learned Scotland had once been close to the South Pole. The National Gallery of Art. We went back to Clarinda's, our favorite tea spot.

We took a gazillion pictures of the castle inside,

and out.

Another gazillion of the abbey ruins at Holyrood, inside...

and out.

In the evening we took in another view from our hotel window, this time from a little inn, Melvin House, off the beaten path.

On the last morning before catching our flight back home, I took a walk by myself to say goodbye to the bit of the city that had given us much to think about. It was one of those overcast, off and on drizzly Edinburgh days we had known and grown to love. I walked again through Princes Garden and took one last photo of the castle.

Along Princes Street to take in the skyline of the Old Town.

Walking back in the direction of Melvin House, I was a wee bit lost. Well, I was verra lost until I came across a street sign we had puzzled over the day before.

Looking around, there is no clear meaning of the sign, no construction, no clear traffic changes. Hm-m-m. Might it have some philosophical implications?

Back home, I mulled over the changed priorities thing. I needed to make some change, and finally Patty gave me an idea. Now, every night at 7:00 I put down whatever I'm doing and go to my cozy chair and read. Not just that 10-15 minutes before one falls asleep or those few hours on a flight. I'm on the fifth volume of the Outlander series, and working my way down that stack of books waiting to be finished.

This is the last of our Hadrian's Wall Walk and Edinburgh stories. I finish with the same sadness with which I left Edinburgh. To those who have read these stories, I would say,

Travel, even if just to a nearby burgh.
Look for adventure, even going to the Farmer's Market.
Meet new peoples.
Get out of the car or tour bus and onto your feet.
Learn the history of what you see.
Change a priority.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Looking for a new opportunity to give to others less fortunate than you? At Kiva, you can make a $25 microloan to a struggling entrepreneur in a third world country. When the entrepreneur pays the loan back - which usually happens! - you can decide to take your money back or loan it to another entrepreneur. The Kiva website lets you pick your entrepreneur and pay your $25 online with credit card or PayPal.

I mean really, how cool is that? 3435 peeps signed up to be lenders this week; a total of $979,900 was loaned - just this week! We signed up to loan money to Feride Agayeva, a 48-year old lady in Azerbaijan who runs her own home products store. Her total loan request was $1,000 to be used to buy more products for her store.

I bet you can also find someone on their site to lend $25 to. Come on, it'll do your heart good.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Chocolate chip scone recipe

In her last post, Kathie had a link for scones. Ooh, I love scones with a nice cup of tea, although those rock buns at Clarinda's were really yummy too.

Anyway, a couple of years ago, I got a wild hair and hunted up the following recipe for chocolate chip scones. Even I can't ruin these, and believe me - that's saying something. I baked up a batch for the weekend nurses on PCU and they loved 'em (or else they were just being nice to an old lady, which I wouldn't put past them!).

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

2 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/3 cup chilled unsalted butter
1/3 cup mini chocolate chips (I like the dark chocolate chips)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1 large egg, lightly beaten with 1 tablespoon heavy cream (this last is for brushing on the scones before baking)

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, and salt. Cut the butter into small pieces and blend it into the dry mixture with a pastry blender or 2 knives. The mixture should look like coarse crumbles. Add the chocolate chips and stir in.

In a small measuring cup, combine the whipping cream, beaten egg, and vanilla. Add to the dry mixture. Stir until just combined - do not overmix!

Knead the whole thing gently on a lightly floured surface. Pat the dough into a 7" circle about 1-1/2" thick. Cut the circle into 8 triangles or into rounds with a cookie cutter. Place the scones on the paper-lined cookie sheet and brush their tops with the egg/cream mixture. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they're lightly browned.

I suppose if you want to be healthy about it, you can try substituting 1/3 cup dried red tart cherries, 2 tsp grated lemon peel with 1 tablespoon poppy seeds, or 1/2 cup raisins and 1/2 tsp cinnamon for the chocolate chips. Reduce the cooking time to 15 minutes though. And I can't vouch for these substitutions because I don't believe in being I haven't tried making them.

The next time I make scones I'm going to try this recipe that I stole from some website for fake Devonshire (clotted) cream...

3 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
1 tbsp sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1 cup whipping cream

Combine the first three ingredients in a large bowl. Stir in the whipping cream. With a mixer, beat the mixture until it's stiff.

Looks pretty easy to me. Now that cooler weather is here, I might have to fire up that oven. After all, it is about time for the annual lighting of the stove...

Sunday, October 19, 2008


Late in the afternoon of trekking up and down Edinburgh's Royal Mile, Joan, Patty and I stopped into Clarinda's, a tearoom close by the Canongate Kirk, for "cream tea". Clarinda's is a cozy, wee place with lace tablecloths, antiquey pictures on the wall, and the sort of ladies serving our tea that one could imagine in the back kitchen baking up scones and brewing tea. I supposed Clarinda owned the place, maybe even she was serving us.

I like Joan's picture better. She has a way of getting the whole story in one picture.

Cream tea is not the milk in your tea British drink, but rather tea with scones spread with clotted cream - not butter mind you, and strawberry - not raspberry - jam. By the time we sat down they were out of scones and I settled for a rock bun which was verra tasty.

Back home reading some Edinburgh history, I came across the real Clarinda. She was Agnes MacLehose, a genteel young married woman from Glasgow and daughter of a physician, whose violent husband went off to Jamaica and abandoned her, or perhaps she decided she didn't want to hang with the guy anymore. She went to live in Edinburgh where she met young Robert Burns, an up and coming poet by this time, and they fell in love. Well, let's say they had an amorous affair. He was a handsome guy who strolled beneath her window in his buckskins and riding whip, hoping she would look out and see him. Shortly, though, he was laid up in Edinburgh for six weeks after his coach overturned. (This story would make a good movie.) While recuperating from his leg injury he and Clarinda began to write passionate letters to each other. To disguise their letters, he took the name of Sylvander and she became Clarinda. Cad that he was, Robert returned to his farm and married his girlfriend who, coincidentally, had borne his twins two years earlier; her maid had also had a child by Robert!

Let me not digress from the Robert and Clarinda tale however...over the next four years, both married (he likely still womanizing), they continued letter writing, and she was the Clarinda in his poetry.

"Clarinda, mistres of my soul,
The measur'd time is run!
The wretch beneath the dreary pole
So marks his latest sun.

To what dark cave of frozen night
Shall poor Sylvander hie;
Depriv'd of thee, his life and light,
The sun of all his joy?

We part-but by these precious drops,
That fill thy lovely eyes,
No other light shall guide my steps,
Till thy bright beams arise!

She, the fair sun of all her sex,
Has blest my glorious day;
And shall a glimmering planet fix
My worship to its ray?"

Sigh! No wonder Bob Dylan names Burns as his biggest inspiration.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Edinburgh: Knockin' on Heaven's Door

Toward the end of our first day trekking the Royal Mile, we came across the Canongate Kirk (church) and cemetery with a stunning view, old headstones, and this door on the church's east side. Of course, I had to take a picture of the red door. Check this site for a picture of the front of the wee kirk and the beautiful interior which, unfortunately, we didn't get to see.

If cemeteries could talk, this one would have a lot to say. When I came home, I checked out who is buried there. A cemetery around since 1688 has plenty time to collect some notable bodies. The list reads like a Who's Who of Edinburgh - painters, musicians, writers, scholars, mayors, and lords. Naturally some spicy scandals accompany the notables. Here are just a few of the interred...

George Drummond
, Lord Provost of Edinburgh, laid the foundation of the North Bridge, fought at the battle of Prestonpans. The guy was born in 1687 and would have been 58 at the time of this battle. He was on the side of Johnny Cope, fighting those pesky Highlanders. :)

Adam Smith, that famous economist and free market Reaganite who wrote The Wealth of Nations in 1776. Was he perhaps a plagiarist? His statue was unveiled in front of St. Giles Kirk just days before we came to Edinburgh.

George Chalmers, originally a plumber, founded Chalmers Hospital. Maybe there's hope for our Joe the Plumber.

John Frederick Lampe, one of my favorite guys here, was Handel's bassoon player in opera houses in the early 1700's.

Young Robert Fergusson, poet. Often sickly, he died at the age of 24 years in a public insane asylum. Likely he had manic depressive disorder complicated by spending too much time in those Scottish pubs. He fell down stairs in a drunken state and died a few weeks later. Robert Burns visited his grave site a year later and on reaching the grave uncovered his head, knelt down and embraced the earth. He put up a monument to the young Fergusson, inscribed as follows:

"No sculptur'd Marble here, nor pompous lay,
No storied Urn nor animated Bust;
This simple stone directs pale Scotia's way
To pour her sorrows o'er the Poet's dust."

Joan caught a picture of the poet's statue outside the kirk, a wee short lad he must have been.

David Rizzo, Mary, Queen of Scots' personal secretary. He was murdered by Mary's husband, Lord Darnley, and a bunch of noble thugs in front of pregnant Mary, stabbed 56 times. (We saw the spot in Holyrood where this happened.) Within a few hours he was buried in the back yard of the Holyrood Palace just down the street from the kirk. His body was moved at least a couple times before finally ending up in the Canongate Kirk.

And, lastly (for this story, that is), dear Clarinda, sweetheart of Robert Burns is buried here. But hers is a story for another day...

Wouldn't you like to be here in the Canongate cemetery on All Hallow's Eve? Maybe chat a bit, swap some stories?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Room with a View

"But Edinburgh is a mad god’s dream
Fitful and dark
Unseizable in Leith
And wildered by the Forth.
But irresistibly at last
Cleaving to sombre heights
of passionate imagining
Til stonily,
From soaring battlements
Earth eyes Eternity."
(Hugh MacDiarmid, The Complete Poems, 1978)

Back to Edinburgh now that Patty has finished her account of our foot travels across England...actually this story came from our first day in Edinburgh before we started on our trek.

Joan, Patty, and I flew all night from Charleston to New York to Edinburgh, arriving early morning, and naturally our room was not ready. We elected to stay at a hotel on the Royal Mile to be able to walk out the door into the footsteps of all those illustrious Scots -- Robert Burns, Adam Smith, Bonnie Prince Charlie -- well, his illustriousness is questionable -- Mary, Queen of Scots and, aye, Jamie Fraser.

"We'd like a room with a view", I told the desk clerk.

Reassured we could have a room later in the afternoon, we left our bags in Hisako and Tetsu's room and set out on foot down to Holyrood, up to the Castle, looking for Grassmarket, back up to look for Greyfriar's Kirk, stopping for afternoon tea at Clarinda's (more on Clarinda later), and finally dragging ourselves back to the hotel about 4:00.

Our room was ready. Determined, I asked the clerk again, "Does it have a view?"

And what a view... looking south to the heights of Arthur's Seat,

To the north, looking over the Mary Poppins roofs to Calton Hill with Nelson's Monument and the unfinished National Monument -- the money ran out in 1829 -- meant to honor Scottish soldiers killed in the Napoleonic Wars.

And our view of Patty's backside, hanging out the window. She couldn't get enough of that Edinburgh view.

Rear view photo by Joan

Sunday, October 05, 2008

They Would Be Giants

I have a few more stories of Edinburgh to catch up on, but a story came out of this weekend's visit to Missoula, Montana, to see my wee bairns.

Saturday was a cool, fresh day, with a touch of rain, reminding me of the wonderful walking weather in England. My daughter, Jennifer, lassie Isabella and I made our usual trip to the Missoula Farmer's Market, truly a "feast" for the eyes as well as later for the bellies.

Beautiful red onions...

White onions...

Cauliflowers and cabbages the size of basketballs...

And a "now thar's a beet" beet...

I had noted a large number of Hmong (pronounced Mong) farmers on the last trip to the market in June -- they had delicious truffles picked from the forest. This time I asked Jennie on the way back to the car about the Hmong in Missoula -- seemed to be an unusual place to relocate.

"It must have been because of the weather", Jennie said.

"I don't think so", I responded. Missoula has two seasons -- winter and July -- and people from tropical jungle wouldn't be particularly drawn to the weather. Must be something else, I said to myself.

Soon after arriving home today, I sat down at the Internet to check out my suspicions, and found the connection to, what else, Missoula's famous Smoke Jumpers, those guys who jump out of airplanes into a forest fire. Now, if I were going to locate a place in the country where you could find guys willing to do this kind of thing, it would be Montana.

About 200 Hmong live in Missoula, most making a living by farming as they did in Laos. The guy responsible was Jerry Daniels, a Missoula smokejumper who went on to spend nearly ten years in combat with the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese and the CIA's connection to the leader of the Hmong tribal army in Laos. A larger than life kind of guy.

An amazing story behind giant beets, cabbages and cauliflowers.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Doors of Hadrian's Wall

Cha d’dhùin doras nach d’fhosgail doras.
No door ever closed, but another opened.

Before we entirely leave Hadrian's Wall, I must show my trail doors. Had I not been so preoccupied with the other eye candy on the trail -- and I'm not referring to the "sexy voice" guy in the pub -- my camera would have been filled with more doors. I wrote an earlier blog on the Doors of Bhutan. Joan has a gallery just for Doors.

What is it that draws some photographers to doors?

Farm building doors along the way were not your usual bland entrances. These farm doors were Mykonos colored and, curious... do you suppose Sarah Palin got hold of that second floor door to nowhere?

More farm doors...

The door to this fortified house entered into the second floor -- the better to defend your house from those nasty "reivers" come raiding across the border from Scotland in the 15th and 16th centuries. English law required the border houses have three foot thick walls for defense. How would you like that in your homeowner's association agreement?

Beautifully simple and classic church doors...

Classic doors in the little villages we walked through...

Joan spotted this loving door at the Low Rigg dairy farm that put us up for a night.

And, last but not least, a door to one of the many of the pubs we frequented along the way ... my kind of door.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

End of the Trail

Tuesday, July 15th – 14 miles to Bowness on Solway. Our last day of hiking!

My feet, knees, and hips felt achy today – was I getting sick? Kathie and I slowed down after lunch (just past Burgh on Sands where there’s a statue of Edward I).

Supposedly, he died in a battle against Robert the Bruce in 1307. Kathie thinks he died of dysentery. Ick. He must not have washed his hands after taking off his trail-muddied boots.

Earlier in the day, cows (actually, I think they were young bulls) chased us all out of their pasture. Then after lunch, several young bulls blocked our way on the path and gave us the evil eye. We just kept our heads down and hustled by to the road. What’s with these guys?

We passed a fortified house, chatted with a lady about flowers and shopping in Jenners (Edinburgh) and stopped in the Highland Laddie pub for sodas before the final stretch.

Then we followed a nice road along the tidal flats, where there were lots of birds and sheep. You can see Scotland across the River Eden!

This guy was haafnet fishing. (From the Dictionary of Ichthyology: "Haaf net = a Scottish salmon net in the form of a large bag on a frame (5 m by 1 m). It is held by hand in tidal areas until a salmon is felt entering and then lifted to catch the fish. Haaf is from the Norwegian for open sea.") The next day we learned that you can actually walk across the flats here to Scotland when the tide's out. You just have to watch out for the quicksand. Yikes!

We ended victoriously in Bowness on Solway in a little lean-to shelter.

Veni, vidi, vici!

Anybody know what this means? Hail, Maia? I thought these guys were Roman!?!!!

We stayed in another lovely B&B, a nice place called The Old Rectory. This was our bathroom. Luxury!

After dinner at the King’s Arms Pub,

...we checked out St. Michael’s cemetery.

Kathie went back out for her traditional sunset photo and met up with a hedgehog.

It’s a good thing she didn't meet up with something bigger and more ferocious. She woulda been on her own because I was sacked out when she finally got back.

Of course, Kathie had to take her traditional end-of-the-trail boots photo.

The next morning, we caught a ride back to Carlisle with the father of the King’s Arms owner. As we passed the scenery we'd walked by the afternoon before, I cried silently to myself. I'd say I was just being overly emotional because I was tired, except I've been missing England and Scotland ever since we got back. WAH!!!