Sunday, August 26, 2012

Kasey Is Here!

When I was scanning through all my pictures, looking for ones of me and Kasey, two things were obvious....1. Kasey and I need to some new pictures together and 2. Man, we had a good time in grad school! Unfortunately, the most recent pictures I have of us are from my wedding because I have only seen her 3 times since we moved overseas (big frowny face). BUT, she is here all the way from Austin, Texas and we have a fun filled week exploring Scotland and there are bound to be some great pictures and stories to add to the repertoire of pictures throughout our friendship. We are starting the week in Edinburgh at Military Tattoo and Fringe Festival and ending it hanging out with Her Majesty the Queen at the Braemar gathering. You'll have to tune in next week to find out what those events are and how much fun we had!

Here's to best friends and new memories!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bringing A Book to Life

This month's book club choice was Sophia's Secret by Susanna Kearsley (also released as The Winter Sea). It's a historical novel set at Slains Castle, located just 30 minutes north of Aberdeen in the town of Cruden Bay. The book is almost two stories in one as famous author, Carrie McClelland, visits the ruins of Slains castle and is inspired for her next novel by the stark and beautiful landscape. She starts to create a story of Slains that is oddly familiar to her while a story of her own is being written during her stay in Cruden Bay.

After Laine hosted an amazing Scottish tea inspired book club (complete with millionaire shortbread) she suggested that we should all do the Slains Castle and Bullers of Buchan hike so that we could see the inspiration and setting for the book (the main characters in the book took a similar walk as well).  When we left Aberdeen the weather looked promising and we were all excited for the pictures we would all capture with a cloudless sky. However, as we neared Cruden Bay the haar (Scottish word for fog) started to set in and our 100% visibility was quickly diminished. Although, it wasn't ideal for picture taking, it did help to set the tone of book and the weather they experienced.

The haar really cramped our picture taking

The haar cleared up a little on our way back
After our hike, we visited the St. Olaf Hotel for lunch and sticky toffee pudding. St. Olaf is a small, family run hotel that was mentioned in the book and where Susanna Kearsley stayed while doing her research and getting r basis for the novel. The attendant at the hotel was so welcoming and helpful especially once we told her our reason for visiting. She clearly remembered the author's stay and offered to let us she the room in which she stayed during her 3-4 week visit. It was so cool to see her view as she was developing the story. She had a perfect view of the Slains castle (top left in the horizon) and just over the roofs you see in the picture is where she put the make believe cottage that she mentions in the novel. 

Oh so yummy!
The view from Room 4, just over the roof is the cottage described in the book
Giddy girls living in a fairytale!
 After snapping our photos and pinching ourselves we headed back downstairs where the lovely attendant was thumbing through the guest books to find Susanna Kearsley's entry from 2006. We didn't want her to spend her time looking so we thanked her million times and headed to the car. As we were almost pulling away, she came running out, book in hand and there it was, Susanna's guest entry. It was the perfect ending to a very special day. Imagine if you could visit all the settings of the books you read! I guess I could if I stick to those set in Scotland :-)

I highly recommend this book to anyone (because it's a great story that anyone would enjoy) but especially those living in the area or have plans to visit. It is truly amazing to see a book come to life.
Oh and check out Laine and Debbie's take on the day as well! 
Have you ever visited the actually setting of a book you've read? Tell me about it!

Friday, August 24, 2012

Big Sticks, Big Antlers

Every time we are out walking, Angus is bound and determined to find the biggest sticks. I have even seen him stare at a stack of trees that had just been cut down with a look of contemplation of whether or not he could pick one up. Boy loves his sticks and will run with them until his jaw gives our or he's hit me in the legs enough times for me to say 'leave it'.
Sunday afternoon we headed out with our friends, Laine and Jonathan and their Brittany spaniel, Bailey for a hike around Loch Muick (pronounced Mick). Even though Angus is a Labrador and is born to swim he has been a little skiddish about actually swimming. He'll get in the water and splash around with the best of them but as soon as the water gets to a point where he can no longer touch, he turns right around. I kept asking myself 'If Labs are supposed to be natural born swimmers, why isn't he swimming?' Well, we learned Sunday that he hadn't had the right motivation to get out there and show us his inner Michael Phelps.

When we approached the part of the loch that was easily accessible, Ryan found a stick that he thought Angus would want to fetch. He tried numerous times before he gave up (Angus was not interested in the puny little stick Ryan found) and just let Angus carry about his splashing around. Upon coming over to where Jon, Laine and I were enjoying our snacks, Ryan found a much larger stick log. This thing was so big we weren't sure that it would even float much less be a fetching object for Angus. However, Angus seemed excited (ie. wagging his tail) so Ryan said 'what the heck', he lodged the log out in to the lake and as soon as Ryan released Angus he was off and what do you know, he was swimming! We still weren't sure if he'd be able to lug it back but boy we were wrong. He not only lugged it back, he kept going back for more. And once we were ready to move on with our hike, Angus kept that stick with him for about 5 minutes, hitting Jon a few times on the back of the leg in the process, before he said 'forget it, I'll find another one' (it had to have weighed at least 10 pounds).

There he goes

We carried on with our scenic route. We had the lake view the whole time except for a little detour to see the Glas Allt Waterfalls.

After emerging out of the woods, we came across another great spot for Angus to prove to us he is really a lab and that he loves to swim. Since 'the stick' was left behind, Ryan searched for another that was substantial enough for our boy (even though it didn't hold a candle to the log).

I got this one on video. Please ignore my crying laughter; Angus swam past the stick and I thought he was going to head across to the other side in search of it.

Needless to say, I am a very proud dog mom! (I think he could beat Michael in the pool ;-)

And here are the rest of the views of our hike. This was my third time (hike1, hike2) to hike Loch Muick and also my third time to see deer on the side of the mountain. Hunting (or stalking as they say here) starts at the end of the month so the stags had their full growth and some still had velvet. This is probably my favorite hike that I've done and I'm okay doing it at least 10 more times :-)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Greece: A few of my favorite things

Here are my 10 favorite things about Greece (in no particular order, well maybe the first one is in the right order ;-)

1. Greek Salads-they were my favorite before I went to Greece and now they have flown off the charts as my favorite salad. Fresh tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, olives all topped with a block of feta (because anything less is not enough) and doused (but not too heavily) with olive oil. What more could you ask for in a salad?

2. Sailing the Aegean Sea-highlight of the trip! Loved every single second of this experience.

3. Dancing the night away with 3 of my favorite people-if you know me then this comes as no surprise. And when I can get my hubby on the dance floor (and I don't mean just standing there), it makes it that much better.

4. Sunsets in Mykonos and Santorini-the beauty of nature never ceases to amaze me. I could watch these sunsets every night and never get tired of seeing them.

5. Windmills in Mykonos- these windmills were built in the 1500s and are an iconic feature of Mykonos.

6. Streets of Mykonos- the stone streets with the white trim against the bright white buildings with blue doors is what I picture when I think Greek islands (Mama Mia anyone?). I love the restaurants, bars and shops that are tucked away on these alley like streets (I say streets because people speed up and down on mopeds all day long). You can easily get lost but who cares when you can just stumble upon another charming alley with restaurants and shops galore.

7. Greek Salads-see #1. This is worthy of two mentions on my list :-)

8. Visiting the Acropolis and learning the history. Greek civilization is 5000 years old and is the home of democracy. The stories of Greek mythology have always intrigued me and with my imagination, I was able to see them come to life. It was neat to learn about the parallels of Greek mythology to Christianity (Athena was the virgin goddess=the virgin Mary). These parallels were necessary for the Greeks to make the transition to their new religion.

9. Cruising Mykonos on 4 wheelers and mopeds-this is one of my favorite things to do when visiting an island. It's also the cheapest and most fun way to tour and discover a new place.

10. Visiting the first stadium of modern Olympics-it was cool to see where it all originated and to compare the Olympic stadiums from the last 100+ years. They've come along way but there is something special about the original and I love that it was still used in the 2004 Athens Olympics. I hope they keep it up for whenever Athens hosts again!

If you've been to Greece, tell me your favorite thing(s)!