Lovely Edinburgh

The Shore Leith

THe shore

Robert Louis Stevenson memorial

Castle farmers Market

St Cuthberts

Edinburgh castle

Matt and I have two months left before we move back to the States after four years in Edinburgh. Because I’m a mushy sentimentalists, I’m already starting to get very nostalgic. Edinburgh is such a beautiful city. These pics above are all places I pass every day on the way to work. Yup, I walk by a Castle (or what essentially looks like Hogwarts), every single day and it’s about a five minute walk from my front door.

But I have to thank Edinburgh for trying to keep my nostalgia slightly in check by giving us a wet and cool start to summer (I still wear my winter coats some days!). I seriously wouldn’t have it any other way though. A place this beautiful has to be tempered by something or it would be too unbearably perfect.

See what I mean about the sentimental nostalgia? Someone pass me a hanky!

Another way to stop the sentimental sniffles? Thinking about being on the same continent with Cath again!


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Today I …

Dear Cath

I know how miserable you feel at this moment. Those antibiotics feel like they are not only killing all the bacteria in your body but you as well. I know how exhausted your body is from fighting first the surgery and then the infection and now the drugs. I know it feels never-ending and that even watching “Poirot” for seven hours straight doesn’t take all of that away.

So I hope a little distraction might help.

This will be the most mundane post to anyone reading this (sorry!). I’m going to take you to Glasgow with me. On a work trip. Nothing fancy. It’s what I did today — this Tuesday in January.

I took a train and then sat in a seminar all day and then took another train home. But I’m going to take you with me because while I was taking photos of myself sitting in a Pret A Manger and on the train, it felt like I spending the day with you. Or at least I imagined I was.

I hate not being home with you right now. And because I can’t be there, I want you to see exactly what I’m doing while you are waiting to put all this pain and the hospital visits and the nausea behind you. I want you to feel like you were with me and not having to think about when you need to take the next round of antibiotics and worrying about your temperature.

So without further ado, today I …

Woke up at 6:30 am and dragged myself out of bed — cold mornings are the worst. By 7:30 am I was out the door and heading down Princes Street to the train station (first by bus and then by legs). The sun was still an hour from cresting some distant horizon, so the sky was a dark blue with a turquoise blush around the edges:

lothian bus

How many daily commutes have a castle in them? I shouldn’t take it for granted, but I do — daily:

edinburghdawn

So we’ve past the Castle mound and now we’re almost to the train station. It’s just before the Balmoral clock tower and just after the spires of the Walter Scott monument (blurry photo poof of intense pace of walking — or partial awakeness — or just bad photog skillz):

princes street

Mmmm train station! I love trains and train stations even on a weekday morning. They have the same buzz of excitement as an airport without the intensity of airport security and, you know, being in the air. Trains are anti-faff. You’re on the platform and then you’re in the train in minutes:

waverly

Oh I almost forgot! My favorite part of train travel — snackies! There’s usually a mini M&S at most larger stations in the UK and it’s fun to get nuts or chocolates or entire picnic lunch avec some mini wiiine! I just got these guys today as it was 8 am and I had already consumed a large bowl of muesli:

m&s

So back to the train. The trip from Edinburgh to Glasgow is nice because you go from city to city but in between are these stretches of rolling hills and picturesque pastures (today they were dusted in confectioner’s snow):

snowy hills

But the train was cold so I stayed bundled (and sleepy looking):

sleepy

About 55 minutes later and we’re in Glasgow, Edinburgh’s larger, less expensive, more relaxed cousin:

glasgow moma

I got to Glasgow ahead of schedule so I thought I would stop into Pret. I wasn’t really hungry as I had already had breakie number one at home, but the porridge looked so good and piping hot:

porridge

And this is where I spent my day, the Teacher building — home to many-a-seminar:

glasgow teacher building

Seven hours after learning about the intricacies of print, I was back out on Glasgow’s shopping street (remember you stood by David Tennant’s Dr Who’s TARDIS there just 14 months ago?):

buchanan street

By the time I hopped back on the train and walked home I was cold and tired. Back in the flat looking …

tired

And then Matt came home and we ate a pile of (gluten-free, quinoa and rye) toast. As you do after Tuesday Train Travels.

I hope you felt like you were there, Cath! Every heart-pounding intense porridge moment!

I so, so wish I could speed up this process for you and make it so much less painful and exhausting. Just know that you can get through this and it will be over soon, even though it doesn’t feel like it. You see in the photo above I still wear the “lucky charm” necklace all the time –nearly daily. That will work its magic soon if nothing else will.

Love you more than all the train snackies in the world (times infinity),

Lar

 


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Festive Hibernation

Witchery Lar

Dear Cath

I know you must be feeling nervous for your surgery on Tuesday. It feels unreal to me because I can’t be there with you, and it feels unreal because I was right where you are now just last year. I know the anxiety you must be feeling but also the hope that this will end the endo pain.

I want you to know that you will feel so, so good once this surgery is over and your body has had time to heal. I still can’t believe I’ve been pain free for a year — for the first time in nearly 15 years. And I can’t wait for that to be you too. I feel eternally grateful for Dr. Sinervo and all the endometriosis specialist who dedicate their practices to easing pain for their patients.

In the meantime, skype me and what’s app me whenever you need to. I’ll be back to work on Monday, but I’ll be thinking about you 24/7 — not because I’m worried but because I know this is momentous.

It has been so strange not to be with you on Christmas or New Year’s for the first time in 31 years. It hasn’t really felt like Christmas at all, but you know what Matt and I have learned this past week and a half? Hibernation! We are pros at getting through the darkness (she says cockily because she knows this is the last winter in Scotland!).

So here are the magic ingredients to festive hibernation:

1) Pretend healthy diets exist only in combination with all things not healthy. For instance, green smoothies in the morning will balance out the hot chocolate and truffles later in the evening. The greens aren’t just for easing guilt (guilt doesn’t exist in hibernation mode) but really do make the chocolate taste all that much better because your body hasn’t sugar-crashed earlier in the day. Below is what I ate New Year’s Eve: a chocolate cake with pistachio cream and grillotine cherries yummehhh:

Chocolate gateau

2) Light every room in the house with fairy lights and candles. I’ve just put my Christmas decorations away but I’m keeping the fairy lights up until at least the Equinox.

3) Ensconce yourself in pillows.

4) When you do leave the house, go to places that are overly-sumptuous and have a fire roaring in every room — and pretend it’s your house. Prestonfield House and The Witchery seem to agree with #2 and #3 — oh and #1 — on this list.

Lar candlelight

5) Wear glitter or anything shiny and sparkly. There’s not much light in these northern latitudes but that doesn’t mean you can’t try to reflect every little bit there is at any given moment. Even in a darkened taxi my feetsies are glowing!

glitter-shoes

6) Drink whisky with abandon — also by candle light (Matt prefers to do this looking dapper in a waist coat — I prefer it while I’m wrapped in a blanket with a bit of soda water, looking less dapper and more disheveled).

Matt whisky

7) Share bottles of bubbly libations with friends.

8) Keep the idea of a summer in Thailand in your mind while the sun sets again at 3pm (that’s what it’s doing right this very moment, so “Thailand, Thailand, Thailand”)

And all of that has seriously gotten us through the darkest shank of the year. The one downside to festive hibernating? All your photos come out grainy because candle light and fairy lights might make you feel cosy and glowy, but your camera doesn’t agree.

Love you more than bubbly whisky imbibed by candle light!

Lar


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A Winter Sea

winter sea
Saddell House

Dear Cath

I think Saddell House will always be one of my favorite places in the woooorld. I’m not sure how many people wouldn’t enjoy a large, comfortable home by the sea — even though it’s a blustery, wintry Scottish sea. Somehow the remoteness, the shush-shush of the waves and the sound of the wind through the pines makes it all the more perfect.

And once you’ve had your daily tramp along the pebble beach and your cheeks are rosy from the buffeting wind, you can snuggle up on the down couch by the fire and enjoy your cuppa and a plate of buttery (or coconut oiled) toast. Heaven!
pancakes jam

I know it’s not Saint Antonio, but I think you would just love Saddell, Cath! It makes me feel the way we first did when we fell in love with Scotland the first time as uni students!

I didn’t take as many piccies of the house this year because I had a ton from our first year there if you need a refresher.

Spending a week Thanksgiving-ing was just perfect: delicious food all the time and roaring fires and candle-lit dinners. But the setting is what makes it all that much better. If I could wake up and see the sun rise over the water morning I wouldn’t ever complain about the Scottish rain later in the day.

I hope these piccies make you feel nice and relaxed during your last, very, very hectic week. You are almost done, master’s student!!! I’ll be crossing my fingers and toes for you whilst you do your exams and writing!

Love and sweet potato pancakes,
Lar

 thanksgiving
saddell sunrise
saddell bay
arran
 moss
winter beach

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A 16th Century Feast in a 16th Century House

Fireside banquet

Dear Cath

We love history and we love food. Put those two things together and you have this feast! It was put on by The Fireside Collective (making delicious pop-up suppers around Edinburgh) in one of the historic buildings off the Royal Mile — practically spitting distance to Edinburgh Castle.

The idea was to 1) eat delicious food 2) raise money from said meal for the Scottish Historic Buildings Trust (they are raising funds to refurbish Riddles Court — the beautiful building where we ate) 3) pretend that we were 16th century lairds and ladies.

The first banquet to ever take place in Riddles Court was back in 1595 with King James IV, his wife Anne of Denmark and her brother, the guest of honor, the Duke of Holstein. Apparently they spent the equivalent of £150,000 — on that one meal (thank gawd for modern and slightly more egalitarian societies, eh?)!

Our own Riddles Court banquet wasn’t nearly so spendy, but I wager that the Fireside’s take on King James’ 16th century menu was way better (and much less let-them-eat-cake — seriously, how did the peasants not constantly parade around with pitchforks in threat of revolt?! £150,000 for a meal — totally criminal.).

16th century banquet

Our menu was so delicious and way more budget-friendly than good ole James':

Mulled Mead Shots

Three Birds Pies with Bramble Sauce

Slow cooked pig’s head and shoulder with rustic root vegetables and garlic buttered greens

Frangipani Pears wrapped in delicate pastry served with salted caramel sauce

Cheese, nuts and dried seasonal fruits with a glass of port

As you can see, delicious, but not at all my usual vegan-friendly, gluten-less diet. I figured I’d splurge and pretend I was a 16th century lady, frilly collar, paneled corset (how did they fit food in their smushed organs?), brocade dress and all. #worthit

pomander ball

three birds pie

roasted veg and pig

pear caramelcheese plate

I think eating in a house museum, beautifully decorated, surrounded by lovely people and music — it doesn’t get better than that! Unless! Unless … your twinie were there. You and Troy would have loved, loved, loved it.

Edinburgh may be dark and rainy, but this is really the most magical city of stone and grey. Where else can you have a meal in such a beautiful and historic place? We’re trying very much to soak up the magic and not just moan about how dark and dreich the winter is (the sunlamps, exercise and vitamin D are working — they’re working! Delicious experiences like this one don’t hurt either.).

Wouldn’t it be cool if Atlanta could do something similar? Like what if you could have Martin Luther King, Jr.’s favourite meal IN HIS HOUSE! Wouldn’t that just blow your socks off?! You’d get to feel closer to an incredible visionary — and eat some really good food. Or what about going to The Wren’s Nest and sharing a plate of chicken (not rabbit) with the ghost of Joel Chandler Harris? History and food belong together, I’ve decided.

Speaking of feasts, I hope you had the most wonderfulest Thanksgiving ever! I so hope we’ll be together for it next year.

Love you like King James loved fancy food,

Lar


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Sometimes Edinburgh feels like Italy

lunch al fresco

Dear Cath

You know how I was just bemoaning the fact that Edinburgh can be so miserably oppressive in the winter? Well, the last few weeks have been amazing. I mean, it rains a lot and we have gray days, but it’s not been cruel, ruthlessly windy and cold. And it’s the end of October!

In fact today is windy and rainy, but it’s warm-ish. And it feels wooonderful. And last weekend we actually sat outside in the sun for lunch. Our first summer in Scotland we couldn’t do that once. In summer.

Matt and I have been even more wary of this approaching winter because we won’t have our usual reprieve in Atlanta for Christmas. I don’t like thinking about not being together, but my fingers and toes are crossed that this will be the first and last time we spend the holidays apart. And in the meantime I’m sorry you’ll have to hear me give you constant Scottish weather reports.

Winter closing in isn’t all bad though. I love the drama of the light at this time of the year. As the sun makes it’s slow descent, the angle of the light is so intense. Yesterday I went strolling through Princes Street Gardens and up Castle rock just as the sun was setting behind the castle. Soon that will be happening at around 2:30 or 3pm, but for now it’s still at a reasonable 5:30pm and looks beautiful.

tree train edinburgh fall light

I hope you are having a wonderful weekend and are getting a touch of autumn in Atlanta. Can’t wait to chat later today!

xoxoxox,

Lar

 

 


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I Love You, Scotland (Update)

aye scotland

Dear Cath

As wee, impressionable ladies in our teenage years you would have been hard-pressed to convince us that we would love this blustery, hilly land of sheep and castles. The closest our teenage love got for the green isles was for Michael Flatly (shouldn’t admit that out loud, huh?) and he’s from that other very green and very damp place.

We were never particularly keen on celtic things or ancestry — our ancestors are from pretty much everywhere else in the world but Scotland. Our naive heads were turned by the idea Paris, London and Madrid. And then we grew up a bit and actually got to travel to those lofty cosmopolitan hubs and we liked them very much indeed, but we didn’t truly fall in love with a place until we met Scotland.

And what an arbitrary meeting too! We knew we were Anglophiles and decided to give Edinburgh a try for studying abroad — almost on a whim. I know there must have been hard days during those two semesters in Edinburgh, but I don’t remember one moment. I remember the train journeys to far-flung castles and warming our hands around mugs of tea. Majestic stone cities and crisp, fresh air. And I remember how completely and utterly heart-broken we were to leave and go back to the States.

It’s been so hard to be here without you, Cath, but I’m glad that the place I’ve spent the longest living apart from you has been this country we both love so very, very much.

As a non-EU member and non-Commonwealther, I don’t get a say in the way things go Thursday, but I really do believe that Scotland will thrive no matter what. It’s a beautiful country full of talented people and I feel so lucky we got to meet and fall in love with her.

Love you like Scotland,

Lar

yes scotland

 

Update 20 September:

Dear All,

Waking up to a No vote yesterday morning was sad and disappointing, but that’s not to say I wouldn’t have been worried about a Yes vote and all the unknowns that would have come with it.

In Edinburgh the mood has been subdued, but it was a decisive No in our neck-of-the-woods. Things pretty much are carrying on as usual. Glasgow and Dundee were decided Yeses and I imagine there must be even greater disappointment, sadness and more than a few sore heads this weekend.

I hope that moving forward Scotland gets the powers it wants (and was pledged) while remaining part of the Union and that Westminster gives more credence to those fighting for a more equal and socialist approach to governing.

I also hope that our neighbors in England, Wales and Northern Ireland don’t feel hurt by Scotland’s desire for independence. I really strongly feel it was never a desire to be separate from such wonderful people and cultures, but a frustration at feeling unrepresented and ignored by the powers that be.

Hope you all are having a wonderful (reconciliation) weekend!

Love,

Lar


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Back to Edinburgh

George-IV-bridge

Dear Cath,

I left Atlanta a measly week ago! How does it feel so much longer? Leaving you and grappling with jet lag has been mitigated by Katherine and Maria’s Labor Day (not Labour Day — we don’t celebrate it here) mini visit. We’ve been very touristy: tramping up and down the Royal Mile, watching fireworks, eating haggis, going for afternoon tea and climbing Arthur’s Seat. Today we plan to hit the Palace and National Museum before they both head back to D.C. tomorrow.

Arthursseat Tower-restaurant-tea

Once they are gone I’ll have to face the fact that I’m back across an ocean from you. It’s a bad time to be moving into the dreaded dark months of winter here — it already feels like autumn: the leaves are changing colour and the air is crisp. Geek alert: I’m still making my way through the Game of Thrones books and each time someone says “winter is coming” I feel like throwing my Kindle across the room and throwing a hissy fit. I know winter is coming and it will be long and it will be dark and my sister is 5,000+ miles away.

Enough with the grumps though. It’s a new week and a palace awaits.

Love you like George Martin loves the word winter,

Lar

P.S. Memories…

cath-and-lar


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Saturday Morning Round-up

twin-westies

Dear Cath

I think that shot above is you and me in our most Scottish form: wee Westie twinsies with matching tartan collars!

Sorry I’ve been MIA for weeks. I blame it on Edinburgh. We (Edinburgh and myself) basically hibernate in the winter and then come summer and Festival time the City explodes (I don’t explode but I do get over stimulated — fireworks, sun, food, people! Gah!). There’s food stalls and musicians and tourists galore. I’ll have to tell you more about Alex and Dexin’s visit to Edinburgh in the next postie, but I just wanted to give you a general catch-up here before Matt and I leave to go back to the states … IN A WEEK!!!

First up: Thank youuuu for the lovely tee for our bday– I loves it so!

tea-toast-tee

With all the tempting food markets popping up because of the Festival, I’ve gone way off the diet. Exhibit A: Banh mi. Exhibit B: dumplings (bread, cheese, spinach, butter sauce, yum) from Austria:

banh-mi aplines

Sara and I visited the Scottish Parliament a few weeks ago. I know the building is controversial but the architecture totally grows on you. I prefer this to where Congress hobnob:

scottish-parliament

We were at Parliament to see the Great Tapestry of Scotland. It was amazing and incredibly long, covering centuries of Scottish History from this guy (Edward perhaps? Nervous nilly, that one — or maybe he just needed the loo):

Scotland-tapesty

To your favourite Tunnock’s Teacakes:

tunnocks-teacakes

See, this is Matt and I not hibernating. It’s sunny. It’s Festival time. Let’s be paper dolls:

matt-and-lar-festival

And a teaser for the next post with Alex and Dexin … they brought me this beautiful Tyrolean hat from Munich!

(Sheesh I hate taking selfies):

german-hat

I’m worried this last week here might get quite busy and then we won’t be in Atlanta for another two weeks yet — so I’ll try to get another post out so it still feels like you are hearing from me.

I miss you ooodles, but I can’t believe I will see you in 15 days. 15 DAYS!!!!

Love you like Westies love tartan,

Lar

 


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Cheese, Grommit, cheese!

cheese

Dear Cath,

I received a lovely hamper from Harrod’s last week* — a cheese gift set hamper! Really, this should be your hamper because you are cheese and I am chocolate, but I will do my best to share it with you via the blogisphere.

The hamper is everything you need for fancy cheese eating (or cheddar-only cheese eating ;)): olive oil crackers, two different types of olives, an onion relish, a cheese scoop (I didn’t even know such a thing existed!) and three serious-business (technical fromage terminology) cheese knives:

harrods-cheese-gift-set

The past couple of years I’ve mostly cut dairy out of my diet, but I thought getting this hamper was a perfect excuse to be momentarily adventurous with my cheese eating. A fromagey treat that would make me less scared of wooly looking cheese rounds that smell of feet.

Matteo and I headed to our local cheese monger (do you remember I.J. Mellis on Victoria St?) so that we could choose some cheeses that would show proper respect to the Harrods’ hamper.

i-j-mellis-cheese

It’s a lovely cool, bitty shop stacked full of cheese wheels. If I were a mouse, this is what heaven would look like:

edinburgh-cheese

From a previous stop to the cheese monger (I love that people still monger here!), we know we aren’t up to the task for enjoying kick-in-the-teeth pungent cheese. We looked for smoked cheeses or cheddars and kept it all Scottish. I wish I were brave enough to say we tried this Dorstone, but it’s the stuff of (cheese) nightmares in my book:

dorstone-cheese   

harrods-cheese

Instead we ended up with four wedges of fairly safe but incredibly tasty cheeses: a Scottish brie, Auld Reekie (yes, named for Edinburgh and indeed reekie), Orkney Grimbister that was a bit like Wensleydale (cheese, Grommit, cheese!) and my favourite, a smokey mature yellow cheese called Old Lochnagar.

Matt and I packed up our hamper and fancy cheese and headed to the Meadows for a wee picnic with friends:

picnic-meadoes

I felt rather unsophisticated as I didn’t know which knife to use for what and I ended up using the cheese scoop for our onion relish, but in the end it was all delicious.

cheese-knives

Might I recommend the Ornkey Grimbister and red onion relish on top of a dense olive oil cracker? Deeelicious!

cheese-pickle

We also had these olives to go with our cheese chomping. They are the closest thing that I’ve tasted since those beautiful olives we had in Italy last year (my, that does sound pretentious doesn’t it? I feel the cheese knives would approve).

harrods-olives

Because we won’t be eating much cheese here in the future (back to no dairy again once I finish that Old Lochnagar wedge sitting in the fridge), the cheese knives are coming home with me in August to be christened by you and Troy in your new house!

I’ve also googled cheese knives and can now instruct you that the cheese cleaver will be best for your mature cheddar predilections. So be ready in August with a mound of cheese. I can’t wait to eat some olives and cheddar with you on YOUR deck in YOUR house! Please, please, please take lots of pics — yes even ones full of moving boxes. I feel heart broken not being there with you — and not all the fancy cheese in the world can make up for that!

Love you like onion relish loves Wenslydale,

Lar

*p.s. Dear readers, this is not a sponsored post, but I was gifted the lovely hamper basket by a PR firm that works with Harrods. If you do like these hamper posts, I received a girly non-cheese hamper last year which you can read about here.


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