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

Pin It!

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


Pin It!

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

 

 


Pin It!

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


Pin It!

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


Pin It!

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

 


Pin It!

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.


Pin It!

Edinburgh Trams

edinburgh-trams-ticket

Dear Cath,

At this moment it is cold and rainy and gray gray gray in Scotland. Not a shocker, I know, but somehow I’m always a bit scandalized at how audaciously un-springlike Edinburgh can be. People were walking around in wellies and thick jackets today. I bet you guys were in skirts (with bare legs! Kilts don’t count) and sleeveless blouses. I can’t imagine Scotland ever encouraging bare legs and bare arms At The Same Time!

And because Matteo is away, and my mug o tea isn’t being chatty, I’m writing you a blog post/letter. Twice in one week! And as promised: TRAMS.

edinburgh-tram-westend

When was it that we first got so excited about public transport? Was it growing up in Maryland and taking the Metro into D.C. — the place that meant free, cavernous museums and dim sum in China Town? Or was it moving to Atlanta and being able to hop on MARTA a few minutes after getting off a flight (or maybe the way it garbled voice announces “Agnes Scott College” when you pull into the Decatur station)?

I feel like I remember the subterranean transport of NYC, Barcelona and Paris more than any of the major land marks. And still one of my favorite memories from Atlanta is going on the Beltline tour so many years ago (remember this post?).

Getting to know a city’s public transport system(s) has got to be one of the best ways to get to know a city. It’s not a dainty, whimpy how d’ya do handshake, it’s a bear hug that sometimes smells of stale air and looks a little dingy in corners and rumpled around the edges. But the bear hug means you are more than passing acquaintances. You’re free to learn the ins and outs of a place, not just skim the touristy surface. You get to see the good, the bad and the interesting.

edinburgh-transport

Edinburgh is such a compact city and has a pretty darned good public bus system. The bus I take to work across town practically drops me door to door and comes by every 8-11 minutes. The buses are usually clean and drivers friendly. After figuring out the bus system when we first moved here, I was surprised that the city wanted to put in trams. But too much public transport is like too much chocolate cake, so I thought huzzah!

Lucky for Matt and I, we moved to Edinburgh just at the tale-end of all the hullabaloo about the tram works that were incredibly disruptive to local businesses/storefronts. And to add insult to injury, the project is massively over budget, two years over due and only goes to about a third of the locations promised. Trams are a touchy subject in these parts, to say the least.

(There’s a clever public transport prankster going around and changing all the official tram logos to be more “honest”).

But even with all that, there was a palpable (palpable, I tell ya) excitement in the air this past Saturday when the trams officially opened to the public. I woke Matt up early so we could go ride them (I dangled the promise of cups of strong coffee to get him out of the house — though I think he’s quite a public transport fanatic himself, just more of an afternoon fanatic than a first-thing-in-the-morning fanatic).

The trams were smooth. They were quiet. They were heavenly!

Edinburgh-trams-first-day

Edinburgh-trams-inside

I’m not sure if I ever held double-decker buses in any sort of romantic light (I must have done, being an anglophile and whatnot) — but I so wish I could swap my bus ride to work every day with a tram ride. As the trams don’t go all the way down to the Shore like they were supposed to, it’s not worth switching up my route. Oh but that it were!

edinburgh-trams

I can’t wait to hear about the Atlanta street car! I have a romantic view of street cars too (not so much Tennessee Williams, but Judy Garland).

I know you are so busy (you’re buying a house, you’re buying a house, YOU’RE BUYING A HOUSE!!!) so don’t worry about writing back. I just will pepper you with mildly tedious photos of my going-ons so you feel like you are in Edinburgh with me. And I will imagine myself packing boxes and nesting with you!

Love you like cities and public transport,

Lar


Pin It!

Calton Hill

calton-hill-1

little-white-dress

white-lace

calton-hill-2

calton-hill-observatory edinburgh-calton-hill

Dear Cath,

It was sunny yesterday! And it was warm enough to not wear a jacket (some of the time). And it was a Saturday so we got to wiggle our toes in the sun instead of wiggling our fingers by the glow of the computer. AND it was the first day of the Edinburgh trams (public transport post to come soon — exciting!). It was almost too much for one day: like eating an entire cake and washing it down with a milk shake with a side of french fries.

Do you know what the icing was to my chocolate cake? A new dress. I’ve never been one for wearing white — at least I can’t usually do it confidently without flenching at all foods on the way from plate to mouth or sit on anything convenient like a bench or stone wall. But a little white dress is so tempting when the blossoms are nodding their head in encouragement and the sun is beaming down at you. A little black dress just doesn’t feel like it does justice to such supportive spring-time offerings. So I bucked up the courage, bought this mini from H&M (sadly, not the Conscious Collection) and even sat on some outdoor stone steps … with impunity.

——-

Have you ever been up Calton Hill? I don’t remember ever going as students. Matt and I rarely go as it’s across town for us, but what a lovely place. Gorgeous views of town after just five minutes of huffing and puffing up a hill (rather than the 30 up Arthur’s Seat). There was an artist up there doing watercolours and tourists taking selfies. And the most exciting thing of all, the Collective. It’s an art collective that is turning all the observatory space into exhibition space that’s free and open to the public.

Art for all, gorgeous views, a wee snack bar that sells home made goodies: Calton Hill is my new favourite daytime Edinburgh haunt.

Oh also, apologies for the rough scribbles on the photos. I’m trying out the drawing tablet Chris got me for Christmas. It’s way harder than Garance Doré makes it look.

This week will be a long one because Matt’s away for a conference. Want to skype during the week?! I’ll probably blog more too so I can distract myself from missing him (while he eats his way through all of the chocolate in Belgium-nomnomnom). More importantly, as a dedicated public administrator of urban spaces, I feel it’s my duty to give you a more detailed account of Edinburgh’s trams.

Love you like lace loves white,

Lar

 


Pin It!

Exploring Lindisfarne Castle

Lar-lindasfarne

Dear Cath,

Are you ready? This is gonna be a long ‘ne — lots of piccies. Get your scrolly finger limber and settle in with a cuppa. Oh wait, you probably don’t want hot steamy tea in Atlanta at this point, do you? Iced soy latte then?

We are house museum people through and through, aren’t we? Remember one of our very first AsianCajun posts? House museums make me giddy. I think it’s all the historical voyeurism. What did they eat, draw, listen to, see? Lindisfarne Castle, run by the National Trust, totally scratched all the nosy itches. You would love it! But since you weren’t there, I’ll take you! Step-by-step through this post:

Lindasfarne-Castle-view

Firstly, it’s located on Lindisfarne (aka Holy Island) just off the north eastern coast of England — spitting distance to Scotland. It’s a lovely walk from the village of Lindisfarne to the castle rock (see below). It sits in the midst of a green, sheep-dotted field on the shore:

HolyIsland-castle

The castle was originally built by Henry VIII to keep out invading Scots (maybe to be used again come September?) but was never used for more than housing bored military men.

Lindasfarne-edwin-lutyens

Skip ahead a few centuries and Edward Hudson, editor of Country Life magazine, decides he wants to make the castle his summer home. Who doesn’t love a bit of cold stone and rain for a summer holiday? Regardless of his questionable climatic tastes, he was by all accounts a lovely, shy man who would entertain the likes of J.M. Barrie, Lytton Strachey, Anna Markova and cellist Madame Suggia here.

Country-life-magazine

To make his castle more hospitable, Hudson hired famed English architect Edwin Lutyens (pronounced “loo-chins”): an arts and crafts man through and through. So this castle is arts and crafts coziness meets Elizabethan stone. A good combo if you’re into dark rooms, roaring fires and comfy sofas.

Lutyens’ signature is his herringbone brick, which you see a lot about the castle passageways:

Edwin-Lutyens-herringbone

Want to see the kitchen? Here’s Matt inspecting some veg:

Matt-veggies

Lindasfarne-castle-kitchen

I love when house museums are set up to look like their owners just left. In this case, they made a mad dash for the sun as they were having their tea and reading the newspaper:

newspaper

And someone was just about to give the dishes a good scrub-a-dub:

oldsoap

They were expecting guests for dinner too:

Lindasfarne-castle-dining-room

I love this Yves Klein blue in the dining room:

Lindasfarne-blue

Someone spent their morning sketching:

Lindasfarne-watercolours

Writing letters:

letters

Powdering their collars (?):

stiff-collars

This is known as the ship room because of the wooden ship suspended from the ceiling. A good place to kick your feet up and read Country Life magazine:

Lindasfarne-ship-room

Another good reading spot: the windowseats looking out toward the ocean (don’t they look like the Mary’s windows at Applecross in Persuasion?):

windowseats

You could also go upstairs to the music room and listen to Madame Suggia play her cello or at least have nose around her sheet music:

Madame-suggia

Or maybe a room tidy? Seems you’ve left your Edwardian chemises hanging all over your Renaissance canopy, tsk, tsk:

edwardian-chemise

A few things didn’t exist when Mr. Hudson was around, like this anthropomorphized tapestry chair:

anthropormorpized-chair

Another delight? Famed gardener Gertrude Jekyll planted a small garden where the garrison used to keep their veg patch:

Lindasfarne-gertrude-jekyll

Lindasfarne-garden

She also landscaped the harder-to-reach bits around the castle mound by shooting pellets of seeds into the cliff-side: gives Garden and Gun magazine a whole new point of inspiration. Nicely done, Gertie:

Lindasfarne-flowers

Here’s one last look of the castle (and the sheepies!) from Gertrude’s garden:

Lindasfarne-castle-2

And one last view to the sea from the castle:

Lindasfarne

How’d you like the tour? Could you smell the salty air and the rain moving in across the grass?

I hope you are having a wonderful time in Detroit, Cath! I know that you are probably not going to house museums (Detroit must have some beautiful, crumbly old places) while you’re conferencing, but I do hope you are having some fun.

Love you like Lutyens loved brick!

Lar

 


Pin It!