Back to Edinburgh


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,


P.S. Memories…


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Saturday Morning Round-up


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!


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:


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):


To your favourite Tunnock’s Teacakes:


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


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):


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,



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Cheese, Grommit, 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:


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.


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


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:



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:


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.


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


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).


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,


*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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Edinburgh Trams


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.


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 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!



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!


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,


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Calton Hill





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,



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Exploring Lindisfarne Castle


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:


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:


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.


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.


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:


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



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:


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


They were expecting guests for dinner too:


I love this Yves Klein blue in the dining room:


Someone spent their morning sketching:


Writing letters:


Powdering their 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:


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


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:


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


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


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



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:


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


And one last view to the sea from the castle:


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!



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Beachy waves and a glimpse of spring in Edinburgh

Dear Cath,

I know we’ve both been so busy this last little while. Too much happening. At this moment you are getting a potential house inspected and then off to Detroit, and then Oregon! Egads, lady, how do you do it?

Whenever things are more busy I feel like I have to share more pics with you because I haven’t gotten a chance to tell you all the things. Inconsequential things like, my hair actually behaving some days. I’m trying to air dry it more often and sometimes it comes out like this (just added a teeny dollop of avocado oil to the tips):


And spring has sprung in Edinburgh! We also still have plenty of grey, cold and wet days, but there are some glorious rays of sunshine thrown in for good measure. One day I even went bare-legged… and went all goose-pimply:

I’ve never seen bluebells before (I don’t remember them from years previous in Edinburgh — too cold?) but they pop up everywhere, pretty cemeteries included:


Bleeding hearts always remind me of our garden in Maryland. Ooo I so miss them and the peonies, lavender, lilac and lily of the valley!


Do you remember the cherry blossoms in the Meadows? Last year the blossoms froze before they could bloom. I was holding my breath until they opened all the way. Just lovely, aren’t they?


And a requisite Castle pic:


I know Atlanta is already hella hot. I can’t remember what heat feels like, but I can imagine almost warmish!

I hope all your conferences go well. And house buying! Eeeee so exciting slash I know incredibly stressful — I so wish I was there to walk around the house with you and squeeze your hand.

I’ll show you pics of the castle we went to last weekend in the next letter/post. You will love it. It’s kind of Bloomsbury meets Renaissance holiday home.

Miss you ooodles and love you like bluebells love May!



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Sunny Edinburgh



Dear Cath,

Can you believe how sunny it is in these pics?! And blue, blue, blue sky as far as the eye can see (which isn’t far because of the hills and stone edifices everywhere). And yesterday was actually warm enough for us to sit out in the sun. Matt got a sun burn on his forehead and I look exactly the same shade as in the middle of winter. Do you tan easily? I feel like I must naturally have SPF 85 in my skin.

But still — sunny! Things are so much better when it’s sunny. My bones relax and everybody is wonderful. It’s like being tipsy on vitamin D. Though that wasn’t quite enough to scare the monkey-brain away when I had my check-up this week for endo. But to make myself feel better post-appointment I hit the harder stuff: retail therapy. Did I tell you they now have a homewares department at the big H&M on Princes Street?!

I bought a-this pillow (Standard Vintage Edition No. 3 of what? A newspaper? Pillow fluff wrapped in an enigma, printed on sustainable cotton):


And a-thiiis pillow which I’ve been lusting after for two years on their website. It’s washed linen and feels heavenly soft:


This weekend has been even more indulgent — no more shopping but lots of eating-off-the-“diet.” We met up with friends and went to Spoon. It’s about a 10 minute walk down Nicholson street from where you lived. Right across from the Festival Theatre. I’ve never been there for brunch and it was delicious. They even had proper American fluffy pancakes which they smothered in yogurt, honey and slivered almonds:


And look! I had my first plate of kippers for breakie! I felt very Jeeves-and-Wooster at the morning buffet. They were delicious though incredibly bone-y:


I had to take the requisite coffee photo as well because Matt showed me that the updated version of the Google camera app can do this really cool out-of-focus thing (also used it in the photo of me at the top of the postie). Isn’t it lovely? Makes me look like I know what I’m doing with a camera — or at least a phone camera:


A girl could get used to this: sun, gluten, linen pillowcases. Apparently that’s all it takes.

I hope you had a linen-pillowcase kind of a week/weekend too!

Miss you so much — more than any amount of sunshine and pancakes can make up for.




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Living in a Scottish Castle



Last week Matt’s family came to visit us in Scotland — it was schwonderful and I miss them already. But do you know what was the icing on top of the trip cake? We stayed in a castle. A for real castle. With a turret and everythang. And dungeons, people. Dungeons. It would have scared the bejebus out of me staying there alone, but luckily I had my nephews to hold my hand when I wanted to go exploring:


Originally (we’re talking 1590s-1700s) the castle looked a bit more like this (that house-y bit to the left is what we stayed in):


We spent most evenings by a roaring fire in this room (the portraits looked way creepier at night with the fire flickering):


Cath and I have stayed in a number of grand houses via The Landmark Trust (in Italy, Cambell Town, and Aryshire). The difference with this ole pile is that it’s still owned by the St. Claire family (aka the Earl of Roslin and his brood) who’ve been around this neck of the woods since the Norman Invasion. So Roslin Castle still feels quite lived-in, what with the ancestral portraits, photos with the Queen (for reals) and such. And it’s quite cosy, you know, for a castle (she says like she’s stayed in lots).



So what does one do in a castle all day, you ask? Drink tea, eat copious amounts of clotted cream with warm scones and sunbathe in the courtyard-which-used-to-be-the-great-hall-in-1590 natch:



We had lovely dinners in this red dinning room which is supposedly haunted by a lady in white (wayyy creepier at night when it’s just lit with candles — but good creepy).



Another thing to do in your castle? Take timed self-portraits — such good backdrops for blog photos! But know that if you are staying in a castle with nine other souls (or more — lady in white and co.?) someone will walk in when you are doing your blogger posing and then you end up looking like a startled prairie dog:


This was the stair down to one of the bathrooms. When I was little and in princess-mode I never imagined Princess Buttercup et al descending the turret stairs to the toilet. What do princesses need loos for?


Roslin Castle is situated right above a gorgeous glen that acts as a sort of three-quarter moat (Yes, a moat! And there was a bridge over the moat!). So lots of lovely walks to be had. And it’s just a short walk up the hill to Rossyln Chapel of The DaVinci Code fame. Rosslyn Chapel is beautiful and really magical even if you don’t care for the Dan Brown-iness of it all.



Do you want to hear some modern day magicalness surrounding Rossyln Chapel? Weeeeell, we went up to the Chapel for mass on Sunday. When I walked in I noticed this lovely young Asian woman in the back pew — one notices such things in more rural parts of Scotland where the general population is decidedly not Asian nor young. Halfway through mass I noticed she’s waving at me and mouthing the words “Lar.” Holy smokes! I know that lovely young Asian woman!

Three and a half years ago Cath and I met the author Cheryl Tan at the Decatur Book Festival and got to interview her for this here blog (read the interview here). So a writer from New York met a blogger from Atlanta once in Decatur, and then they meet again in Roslin, Scotland nearly four years later?! What are the chances?

Lesson to be learned here? All Asians do know each other. Red coats are in. Rosslyn Chapel is magical.


(Cheryl, I’m still so excited about this! And I’m so glad I’ll get to see you in a few weeks post-retreat!)

So, hows about it guys? Have I finally convinced you that Scotland needs to be number 1 on your places you must visit now? If you come, we’ll go castle hunting together.


Dearest Cath,

Even though this year has been utter poop in a lot of ways, it has also been the exact opposite of that. I got to see you like FOUR times in six months and we stayed in a villa in Italy. And now me in a castle. Next stop? Move over Karl, the AsianCajuns are staying in Versailles.

The only logical next step, non?

It’s only been a week, but I feel like I haven’t talked to you in 20. We have to stop being busy and just skype each other all day. What are you doing? Whatchu you got on this week? When are you coming?




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In a Land Far Far Away


Missing this lady (to the right)!

I left Atlanta two weeks ago and have belly-flopped back into Edinburgh life, splashing around trying to distract myself from missing Cath. So sorry for leaving you guys in a Lar lurch. Recovering from surgery and then jet lag and then a cold while heading back to work hasn’t made February my favorite month, but it has kept me busy enough to trick myself into thinking Cath is just right down the street. Not across an OCEAN. Damn you, Atlantic! When you get so big?!

To combat my twin blues, I’ll post some piccies of Cath and I together in Seattle way back in mid-January. Ahhhh bliss!

AsianCajuns-seattle Walrus-carpenter-seattle

Oh wait! There’s also some photos of Edinburgh to combat the angsty twin mumblings. A hodge-podge of a post this is!

The following photos are from my trampings around Edinburgh (the top one is of Edinburgh Castle on a rainy day — i.e. almost all days). It really is such a wonderful place to visit. Don’t let my lack-of-a-twin-sister moaning put you off. Look at all the nice things you can do here: ogle old buildings and storefronts, sniff flowers on rain-soaked (everything here is rain-soaked) pavements, have lunch in old church crypts by the window, eat delicious carrot cake whilst you gulp your tea. It’s a heavenly story really. It’s just missing one or two (or 20) key players.









Dear Cath,

I really am sorry my blogging has ground to a halt. Like you (but less successfully and ambitiously), I’ve tried to keep busy so I don’t have to think about our distance. Not only has this not gotten easier… it’s gotten harder! Two main things that make me feel less like myself here in Scotland: 1) not having you around and 2) lack of vitamin D. In that order. But see with #2 I’m thinking about just going to the tanning salon down the street (I know bad, but you know what this constant dirge of grey is like) — voila UV light in my eyeballs, tricking me to believe I live in southern Spain. But how, oh how, do I find a place that has Cath holograms. I need one of those shops on my block. Sometimes I’ll glance really fast past a mirror and think it’s you or see someone from behind that looks like you (and me too?) — and that’s all the more crushing.


At least I get to see you on skype today!


Your far far away sister Lar


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