Some Like It Hot

Photo by Jan Gottweiss on Unsplash

I knew it would be a scorcher of a day even before my morning weather briefing from “Alexa.” Heading out the door with The Poodle just before seven a.m. was a certain clue;  a blast of moist, warm air greeted me before I had taken two steps.  A quick look at my weather app confirmed; temps were already in the eighties and would reach 98 today with a 104 heat index. I kept the walk brief, more for The Poodle than for me. 

For the most part we’ve had a manageable summer, weather-wise.  We’ve been fortunate that nothing too dramatic has occurred in our neck of the woods.  And though the dog days of summer doesn’t seem to be waning on this Hades-hot and muggy day I am not complaining.  In fact, through eyes burning with salty sweat– just from a walk around the block– I am almost energized. 

Bring on another dog day, and another one after that, I say as I head back down my driveway with a panting Poodle.  I’m sure at least one of my dear “seven” readers is scratching their head over my wishful thinking.  But here’s the thing…

I’m already thinking of bone-chilling cold winter and Uggs.  And while I love Uggs, I’d honestly prefer not to have to wear them

So yes…I’d venture to say that…..

Some like it hot. 

Which leads me to purposefully digress….altogether off-track…to last night.

Dinner at my sister’s house.

So….Sis and family returned a week ago from an excellent adventure in Bangkok Thailand.  My bro-in-law had to attend a work-related conference which naturally presented a lovely opportunity for the family.  While they all enjoyed their exciting and exotic adventure–which included, among many things, python petting and lemur love as well as a Thai cooking class, we kept the home fires burning–so to speak–providing their pooch, Nica with her own home -away-from-home doggie-vacation (playing with The Poodle aside, this also meant she enjoyed gourmet delights that aren’t the usual fare at her house.)

Sufficiently recovered from a particularly unpleasant jet-lag, Sis felt like showing off her newfound Thai cooking skills.  “Come on over when you’re done with your pool-time.  I’m cooking Thai tonight…libations at 5:30,” she texted.

My sis is a terrific cook and she is often more adventurous in her approach than me.  So, naturally we were all in.

Arriving just a tad late from the pool we were welcomed with ice-cold libations: beer for the hubby and gin and tonic for me.  Normally I don’t imbibe in anything other than wine but every once in a while –particularly on a hot day–my brother-in-law suggests I enjoy something different and I’m always happy to comply.

 

Some like it Hot…really HOT

On the chopping block in my sister’s kitchen there was colorful array of tiny dishes as well as a platter of tiny bright-red peppers that made my heart sing just looking at them.

“Wow…what a production,” I say as I survey the food prep. There was expertly chopped fresh cilantro in one bowl, and lime wedges in another. There were little bowls of sliced red onions, green onions, and fresh mint leaves. A large fresh ginger root was at the ready too.

“What’s in this bowl,” I asked, as I sipped on my gin and tonic.

“Kaffir Lime Leaves,” she replies. “And that…” pointing to what I had just picked up, “… is Lemon Grass,” she says.

“Really?! Wow… I have never used Lemon Grass in a recipe,” I say. She then tells me about making her own rice powder for the Chicken Larb dish.

“Wowza! You really went all out! This all had to have taken hours!”

“Not really,” smiles sis as she takes a moment to relax with her drink. “It just took a little time to find the right ingredients.” We’re fortunate to live in an area that makes that fairly easy. “Anyway,” she continues, “these recipes are all pretty easy. Here, take a look at this.” She hands me a book by Chef Kris Yenbamroong entitled, Night + Market.

I flip through it as sis continues with her meal prep. I’m amazed that the guy has had no formal culinary training and yet he opened a Thai restaurant in L.A. to rave reviews and has authored a cookbook.

“Hmm…there are some really interesting recipes in here. “And you’re right, they look fairly easy.” I also note, as I looked at the chef/author’s photo, that he is heavily tattooed. “He’s heavily inked in black and white,” I add.

“Yes…and it’s quite prevalent to see in Thailand too. So many people with beautiful and interesting tattoos.”

About an hour later with libations finished and a last minute scurry to complete the final touches, we all sat down for our Thai meal experience. For our first course, sis had prepared a soup with red chilies and shrimp that had us sweating bullets at the first slurp.

“Holy Hades…. this is spicy hot!” I said in surprise. In hindsight, I should have known since there was a plate of fresh hot red peppers in the kitchen.

“Oh no, is it too spicy?! I’m sorry!” sis said with anxious concern.

“Are you kidding? I love it! The hotter the better,” I said with unbridled zeal. “This is terrific!” And I really meant it.

For the main course she had prepared Chicken Larb, also delightfully spicy, and a thrill to the taste buds. For inquiring minds about Larb, which is essentially a meat salad, check out this link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Larb. We also enjoyed spring rolls (the only non-Thai item on the table) as well as citrus, spice-infused jasmine rice and a delightful papaya and mango salad.

Chicken Larb

So peeps, we ate ourselves silly that night and enjoyed every hot and spicy morsel of it. For a nano-second I think of purchasing the book. After all, I should spice it up a notch in my own kitchen and expand on my usual repertoire of Italian delights…

Hmm. On second thought, no…for the moment at least. There is fun to be had watching –and being a part of–my sis occasionally stepping outside of our Italian heritage. There’s always something to learn and merriment too, in my sister’s kitchen. Quite simply, it makes life all the more colorful and that’s a bliss I don’t want to miss.

What A Difference A Day Makes

….or, twelve days, to be more precise.

So kind readers, I have not been overly vociferous on this here cyberspace spot about my disdain for the bathrooms in my 90’s built house. Mostly this is because I am keenly aware that there are plenty of folks in the world who, I’m certain, would give their first born for a proper roof over their heads, let alone a functioning indoor toilet. Yet I cannot tell you how many times in the last two years I have bitched and groaned about my crookedly-seated master bath toilet or the “poop” brown color everywhere–from cabinets to flooring–in three bathrooms.

Yes. I know. I’m lucky to have not one but three bathrooms.

Oh wait: full disclosure, we actually have five counting a guest powder room and a basement bathroom.

Sigh.

Okay, I feel embarrassed…silly even… complaining about twenty-five year old bathrooms.  I am one lucky woman.

But still:  The cabinets were well worn, and in some cases broken. All the wall mirrors were plenty oxidized with unsightly black edges. And don’t get me started on the floor tile.  Add to that, we discovered a broken pipe under the Jacuzzi tub.  This adds credence to a universal truth: TRUST YOUR INSTINCT.  In this case, it was my refusal to use the Jacuzzi tub because my gut said so.  Our contractor said just one soak in the tub would have caused a great deal of damage.  An image of me–in the tub–crashing through the floor into the kitchen below flashed before my eyes.

So we decided to update the bathrooms. And, instead of pulling off the band-aid a little at a time (i.e. one bathroom remodel a year) we went for ripping off the band-aid all at once: let’s remodel all three.

I’ve never had to remodel bathrooms; completely new territory for me. Naturally I spent many sleepless nights worrying about money and making the best selections within our means. As I didn’t want to shell out an additional $5k on top of the project estimate for a design consultant I relied on my gut–which was, in a word: terrifying— as well as endless hours perusing Houzz.com, Build.com, Pinterest and a host of other cyberspace articles on bathroom projects. I also relied on my sis’s creative skills, picking her brain every now and then on everything from accent tile to drawer pulls. Add to that weeks and weeks of countless trips to Home Depot and as many more to the tile store agonizing over color, grout, accent tiles, etc. My exercise routine plummeted and my chip-snacking sky-rocketed. Still, my only mantra through the process of selecting tile and all the necessary fixtures was: Anything will be better than the poop brown that we have now.

Now, save for shower glass (expected to arrive next week) and hanging mirrors, we are through the worst of the upheaval and the difference is astounding, though my photos don’t convey well enough the before and after! Suffice it to say that we were thrilled to be able to increase our master bath space by a good fifteen square feet without a lot of trouble, and, by getting rid of the “built-in” Jacuzzi tub we gained usable space. In addition, oh what joy to discover we gained nearly a whopping three square feet to the shower!

I’m over the moon with the results!

Now here’s a burning question: What do I do with all my free time now that I no longer need to spend endless hours on Houzz, Build.Com or Pinterest?

Ah, Yes….I suppose I can get my tush to the gym now and afterwards enjoy a soak in my tub under the serene eyes of Buddha…

Not complaining…and there is bliss in that.

It Doesn’t Take Much…

It’s in the 90’s today with 65% humidity.  Just a wee bit sweltering for another day into our first week of bathroom updates.   The twenty-five year old cabinets, fixtures, tiles, etc. are  history.   Out with shabby brown stuff and in with whites and neutrals.   I’ll confess to many sleepless nights thinking about it all: Did I make the right decision on the floor tile…the shower/bath accent tile?  Is this neutral direction too blah?  And more importantly, will my selections negatively affect resale?  In fact, just the night before I’d had a mini panic attack. 

“I should have researched designs more thoroughly.” I say to hubby as I paced the bedroom floor.  He brushes aside my anxiety saying everything will look great.  He also adds an emphatic: “No more fixing-up this year! Period>”

Tension rises as I know Hubby could have happily lived with poop-brown floors and cabinets for at least another decade.

So, In an effort to save money I did not seek professional design help; that would have been another 5K to the project!  And, alas no…I don’t spend any time watching fixer-upper shows on T.V.  It was time-sapping enough browsing bathroom ideas on Houzz or Pinterest.   This is not our “forever” home.  My objective is to keep things simple and neutral.  I also remind myself that anything I do to update the bathrooms is sure to look amazingly better than it does now.

I cannot wait to get rid of this tile. Only the half of it…

So, The Poodle and I are hanging out on the screened-in porch trying to escape the thunderous noise from the work being done on the upstairs bathrooms.  The Poodle is curiously calm despite the drilling and hammering as cabinets and tiles get ripped out from the walls and floors.  Just a few days before rain fell in buckets, nearly drowning out the construction noise. In fact, there was a flash flood alert just a few miles away.

On this morning, as I sip coffee, beads of sweat form at my temples. I close my eyes, inhaling deep and exhaling slow as I contemplate the day. A Spotify playlist of lively Latino tunes has the contractors singing along as they work. It makes me smile, which is helping to temper a building anxiety.

There has been some turmoil as of late, which actually began whilst we were dining in a Scottish pub on the last day of our vacation. Hubby’s mother had an “episode” in her memory care unit causing enough of a to-do that now she needs to “advance” to another level of care. Understandably, Hubby is majorly stressed (we both are) as we consider what to do next.

My mind drifts to where I was just two weeks ago; cycling in the Scottish countryside. One of the morning rides had us cycling in quite a downpour. Not only were we cycling in torrential rain but it was cold enough to briefly sleet as well. I think too of how awfully nice the Scots are. In fact, everyone I met was as nice as can be and good-natured too. I’m not sure why I’m thinking about the subject of “nice people.” Perhaps it’s because of all the stupid stuff people say or do. I was happily disconnected from news and world events while on my excellent bicycle adventure. Since my return I have encountered a person or two who have been mildly rude or unhelpful. Nothing terribly egregious mind you…but still.

So what a lovely memory I carry from meeting one couple, whose names unfortunately escape me because I’ll recall the noise level was fairly deafening…

So I’ll call him James and her Lillian.

We’d just arrived in Glasgow hours earlier and after a shower and a brief nap we hailed an Uber and off we went to city central. It would be the best opportunity for shopping as the remainder of our adventure would find us in small country towns–and sure enough–too exhausted for much else after cycling all day. We managed to pick up a Crawford tartan scarf for hubby and odds and ends for my sis and her family. After a few purchases we decided to find a pub to begin, in earnest, our Scotland vacation. We stumbled on Denholms, a place up the street from Glasgow Central (train) Station. Hubby was intent on a brew while I just wanted a glass of wine. It was barely 5 p.m. and the place was already packed and the noise level was loud. Hubby asked if I wanted to find a quieter spot.

Downtown Glasgow side street

“Are you kidding? This is perfect! We’re in Scotland!” was my reply.

Hubby ordered his brew and I got a glass of house wine. Hubby was happy with his selection. My wine…eh, not so much. But I drank it anyway just happy to be on a new adventure. As we sat and sipped our libations the lovely couple (that would be ‘James and Lillian’) the next table over, noting that we were Americans, struck up a conversation. Strong accents aside, it was difficult to hear with the background music and all the pub chatter but we gleaned that James was from Liverpool and Lillian a Glasgow native. James served in the military, during the Falklands War, and now retired from the military drives the equivalent of an 18-wheeler throughout southern Scotland. James and Lillian are still newlyweds…barely married a year! They chatted with us as if we were Denholms regulars. These folks were nice as can be!

Another round for the Americans!

At one point I excused myself for the restroom. When I returned just a few minutes later there was another glass of wine waiting for me as well as another large brew for hubby.

“Oh dear…” I began, a look of dismay directed at hubby. But before I could finish my sentence he chimed in informing me that James had surprised him by ordering round for us.

“Oh my…well, thank you James!” I said. “But…well, I haven’t eaten for quite some time…not since getting off the plane early this morning. I fear I just might just slide under the table if I drink this.”

“Ah, but it’s better wine than that first glass you ordered. Come on…give it a go,” said James with a wide smile.

“Darling…perhaps we should have asked first before ordering,” says Lillian. She adds a jovial apology.

“No..no. This is fantastic,” I nearly yell over the increasing din of pub chatter and lively music.

Indeed, the wine was far better than my first glass and yes, I could feel a slight buzz coming on due to drinking on an empty stomach. When James and Lillian finally prepared to leave I asked if I could take a photo of them–which they were absolutely tickled to pose for. By then, the small pub was tightly packed. We exchanged a round of hugs and thanks.

“Oh you shouldn’t be thanking us” I said, hugging Lillian. You bought us drinks! You both have given us a lovely start to our excellent Scottish adventure.”

“Aye…but we had a lovely time too,” replied James.

Hubby and I lingered for a few minutes more which is when I caught sight of my first Kilt-clad gentleman. It was obvious he was a regular. As I watched him make his way to the far side of the counter he greeted folks right and left. His mood was so genial as he ordered his brew and then raised it in thanks to the bartender that inexplicably, it made me smile from ear to ear. Of course, I had to take a picture of the man in the Kilt and had I not felt that I’d pass out from hunger I would have stayed and gotten his name.

Kilt clad gent enjoying his evening brew

The Poodle rises from his place by my side and starts barking, snapping me back to reality. One of the workers had come into the kitchen for water. Through the patio window I could see he was eyeing the enormous Costco box of chocolate chip cookies that I had placed on the kitchen table. I had purchased several boxes–as well as bottled water– as snacks for the crew. “Go ahead,” I said as I entered into the kitchen. “The cookies are for all of you guys.” Still, I could sense his hesitation–most likely due to a language barrier– so I motioned him to take cookies.

“Thank you Miss,” he said radiating happiness with a broad toothy smile.

Oh how lucky I am. And, it doesn’t take much….

Though uncertainty, sadness, and a host of other emotions punctuate the day one thing is for certain, the feelings experienced from gratitude and kindness…that is true bliss.

Feeling blissful, one moment at a time.

Rough and Tumble Beauty

My photo: Sunlight beneath a large fern ~ Isle of Arran
The National Flower: Scottish Thistle: Photo by Brian Breeden on Unsplash

Seven days of cycling through the Scottish countryside made my heart sing in so many ways which, to be truthful, I was not expecting. I’m not sure exactly what I was expecting but I didn’t think–for example–that I’d find picture-perfect neatness among the rough and tumble landscape nearly at every turn. Honestly, my words here cannot possibly convey the beauty of Scotland! Countless times I remarked to hubby– as we cycled through tiny towns, over hills and dales, around castle grounds, on an island off the mainland, and also in Galloway Forest Park in Dumfries and Galloway–about how neat and tidy everything was. My Libra affection for all things beautiful was smitten indeed with the tiny white-washed cottages that dotted lush green and rocky landscapes. Framed by perfectly trimmed hedges and old stone walls, yards are neat and orderly with pots of flowers, thoughtfully placed here and there—their blooms vibrant against the backdrop of white walls. I was so enthralled with this neatness I felt compelled to ask one of our Scottish cycle guides, Craig, if there was some sort of monetary penalty for keeping a junky yard.

His look was quizzical to I explained my question. “In Alabama country, it is not at all uncommon to see discarded old toilets and bathtubs in the front yard, along with piles of garbage, bed mattresses, broken sofas, and other debris. Honestly you’ll see everything from thoroughly dilapidated houses to abandoned rusted-out cars to heaps of old farm machinery.”

“Aye, no…we don’t have that issue,” he said. We Scots simply take a lot of pride in our surroundings. We like to keep things neat and orderly and often we compete for the prettiest gardens.” He further added that his yard wasn’t quite as soothing to the eye. “I’m never home long enough to take care of things (But of course! He’s busy catering to cyclists like us!). I’d wager you’d be a wee bit disappointed with my yard.”

My photo: That’s some back yard!

“I think we need to overhaul our yard,” I said to hubby days after returning home. I could see a slight clenching of his jaw which made me quickly add:

“Oh…I know! That is not going to happen of course! We’ve got three bathrooms up next to remodel on the list of things to do to update our “fixer-upper.”

“It’s just that I can’t get those quaint tidy yards and all those flowers out of my head,” I explained. “Everything seemed so exquisitely manicured.”

My photo: Tidiness round every corner

Not only are yards and Cottages charming and prettily maintained the flora of Scotland didn’t disappoint the eyes one bit either. I wasn’t able to put names to everything that made my heart sing put I do know that there were lovely poppies at one lunch stop, as well as Heather, Thistle (the national flower of Scotland) and a profusion of purple rhododendrons practically in every nook and cranny. I found out later that those beautiful pops of purple rhododendrons everywhere are considered “invasive” and threaten the native biodiversity of the countryside. Ferns, large and small, from fragile to hardy, were everywhere too, even growing out of stone walls and atop barns and cottages. Vividly green moss was everywhere–on rocks and walls, on massive gnarled tree roots and lichen too, adding interest and color to the landscape as well. And who knew that there are some 1,500 varieties of Lichen in Scotland?! Interested in learning more, check out: https://www.nature.scot/plants-animals-and-fungi/lichens. Additionally, because the Isle of Arran enjoys the warming influence of the Gulf Stream and with it a mild climate, it is abundantly rich in diversity of flora and ferns. Incredibly, the small island of Arran boasts some 900 flowering plants and a host of interesting greenery to include the rather bizarre looking Monkey Puzzle tree.

Lichen: Photo by Kai Gradert on Unsplash

As I consider an afternoon walk with The Poodle you can understand, dear reader, why my head is still across-the- pond, in Scotland where temps are at least thirty degrees less sweltering and sheep (even the baa-bad ones) bleat in conversation roaming endless pastures of rough and tumble beauty.

There is bliss in that.

BAA-AH Bad

It only took less than twenty-four hours into our Scotland bicycle adventure to form a solid opinion of sheep: they are exceedingly stupid… and dangerous. 

Of course, there are opinions to the contrary.  In a 2017 BBC article one Harriet Constable wrote: Sheep are actually surprisingly intelligent, with impressive memory and recognition skills. They build friendships, stick up for one another in fights, and feel sad when their friends are sent to slaughter. They are also one of the most destructive creatures on the planet.

Before the morning of June 16th I knew nothing about the woolly wonders, thinking them incredibly cute…even sweet.  I mean, who doesn’t love those Serta® Mattress Sheep….or claymation sheep…..or…counting sheep to achieve a peaceful slumber.

Serta Mattress Sheep

So imagine the following scene that happened before my eyes….

Our group of nine cyclists were cycling along a lovely country road in Dumfries and Galloway.   We had already had our group meeting and first route briefing, fueled by cups of tea and coffee and freshly baked, mouth-watering scones along with tiny jars of a lovely assortment of sweet jams.  As we headed together for our first ride we stuck together.  This particular ride would be our day-one orientation ride to work out potential kinks in our bike fitting and to orient ourselves to riding on the left.  The latter naturally a critical skill to master, like…um… immediately!   All of us had a moment of forgetting to look to the right and not the left when entering an intersection (as that’s where cars would be coming from).

We were all pedaling along nicely, getting into a lovely rhythm whilst oohing and awing over greener than green fields partitioned here and there by old dry stone walls (many are centuries old) as well as modern hedges and low wire fences. The stone walls were a marvel to me as there is little to no cement to hold them together. How they have managed to stand over hundreds of years through the fiercest of weather is astounding to me. A major feature of the Scottish countryside these stone walls serve as property boundary lines as well as keep livestock (cows and sheep) from roaming away.

Dry Stone Wall – Dumfries and Galloway

In theory that is.

As we pedaled in a mostly leisurely fashion for this first ride, we rounded one corner to come upon farmland to our left. There were plenty of sheep, of course and for the most part they were preoccupied with eating…grazing. Some bleated in the distance and some who were closer to the rock wall looked up as we approached ….

Several woolly fellows crossed the road quite a bit ahead of our guide leader Jeff and my husband. They happened to be cycling side by side while the rest of us followed single file. They slowed their pace to allow ample space for the sheep to pass slowly, in a manner that suggested they did this every day, as if they were on their afternoon errands.

Then, in the space of a nano-second two sheep grazing on a spot of higher ground looked up, taking notice of us… and for some unfathomable reason they decided to hop the fence.

The incident unfolded before I could blink.

Together….in perfect synchronicity….the two hopped over the old stone wall and directly into the cyclist just inches in front of me. This would be Dr. G. a pulmonary critical care doctor from New Hampshire.

The sheep literally took him out.

I screamed as the sheep ran into Dr. G. causing him to crash and land with a heavy thud to the pavement. Our bike guide, Jeff, literally flew off his bike, as did I.

In that split second I honestly thought that the writing was on the wall for our fellow cyclist. Surely our next stop would be at a hospital.

Aye….you just had to be there dear reader….

But our Dr. G. was spared that afternoon! Miraculously he suffered only a broken helmet, road rash to one arm and a seriously large bruise that took several days to develop. And incredibly, not even the bike was damaged. But, even more remarkable to me was he did not quit his bicycle adventure. After we all calmed down over the ordeal he was given a new helmet and off we went finishing our first days’ ride of nearly 43 miles. Little did he know that he became my hero for the week. I was but a breath away from hanging up the bike before the adventure really began. The country has over a gazillion sheep after all; I wasn’t keen on the now real possibility of another sheep attack.

You can do this…came the whisper on a breeze. And so I did.

Yes, there is bliss when you’re scared sheep-less.

More to come, when time permits.

Enjoy a few photos (click on them for a better view).

AWFUL, Offal

Scottish Sheep, Photo by Andreea Popa on Unsplash

Start Yer Day The Offal Way!

Surely this must be emblazoned on a t-shirt somewhere and if not, it should be as indeed that is what most Scots do.

So let it be known that I tried it too and I can unequivocally attest that the Offal way–or more precisely Haggis— is…..drum roll…

disgusting.

No offense to the kind people of Scotland.

So, you take some sheep pluck (that would be heart, lungs and liver) and mince it up nicely. Then, cook up this awful offal adding minced onions, beef or mutton suet, oatmeal, herbs and seasonings (like that would make a difference!).  Then, you stuff the disgusting “savory” concoction into the lining of a sheep’s stomach (excuse me whilst I stifle a vomit).  The final step is to then stitch up the delicately sautéed organ stuff into a nice ball and boil it for at least three hours.

And that my dear reader is Haggis, which is also described as a pudding.

So, I’m assuming at least one of my seven dear readers is scratching his/her head.  Why on earth would I ingest one morsel of the awful offal stuff?  I can blame it on fellow blogger extraordinaire Neil of Yeah, Another Blogger: https://yeahanotherblogger.com/ who recently vacationed in Scotland.  He said, and I quote:  …” Yet I regret one thing, culinary-speaking: I should have given haggis a try, even if only one or two forkfuls.”

He had no idea that he laid down the gauntlet, in a manner of speaking, plus I was determined to “do as I say” with respect to my nephew Alexandre-the-Greatest.  I’m ever pushing him to give things at least one try instead of opining without experiencing.

So Neil, I am forever grateful to you now that I’ve crossed this experience off my list of things to try (adding it to the list of things to never try again).  IMHO, Neil, you can sleep soundly –and without need of counting sheep!  Trust me when I say you need not regret not giving Haggis a try!

Still, It’s a wonder indeed that this national dish of Scotland— has, by some accounts—been around since the 1400’s and is on the Scottish table for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  And, incredibly, in recent, modern times, popularity has grown so much that there are Haggis potato chips, Haggis arancini balls, and even Haggis Bon-Bons. I wouldn’t put it past the Scots to have created Haggis ice-cream. 

Hmm….wait a minute; let me Google that.

Holy Hairy Coo (hairy cow)!  There is Haggis ice-cream! Don’t believe me?  Watch here:  https://youtu.be/WfjJxe30tdM

Another piece of believe-it-or-not trivia: Haggis is used in a sport called haggis hurling.  Honestly, As God is my witness, I did not make this up.  The “sport” involves throwing a haggis as far as possible.  And get this…the kicker is that once the flung Haggis lands it must still be edible.  The world record for haggis hurling was achieved by Lorne Coltart on 11 June 2011, who hurled his haggis 217 ft.  I’m passing on a YouTube search of haggis- hurling, thank you very much.

Still, I’m close to hurling up my morning Scottish shortbread cookies just thinking about it. 

More on my Scottish adventure when time permits 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿❤️🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Me, Holding my nose and giving Haggis a try
Haggis Potato Chips provided as a snack by our cycling guides

Obstacle Kind of Morning

Broken glass, despised by cyclists the world over.
(photo courtesy of Purecyles.com)

Glass and nails….glass and nails….glass…glass…glass and…

rabbit’s foot.

Now that was random.

Hmm.  Where is the rest of him (or her)?

I took a nano-second scan for the rest of the body.  It was nowhere in my line of sight.  It would be the fourth roadkill sighting (not including a deer that also met an unfortunate end) of the morning and I had been on the bike for less than an hour.

So…Hubby and I are attempting to get our sorry butts into shape for our upcoming cycling vacation in Scotland.  I’ve been across the pond many times but this will be my first visit to Scotland and our first across the pond cycling vacation.  We are woefully behind on training for cycling miles and miles for seven consecutive days. 

At this point, it is what it isI tell myself.

Our plan for the morning was a forty-mile distance.  Though it began refreshingly cool I struggled to enjoy the crisp spring air as I found it difficult amid the din of highway traffic.  Anxiety and tension pulled on every fiber of my being as eighteen-wheelers screamed past me.  I kept hyper vigilant for traffic as a myriad of obstacles such as potholes, road debris (lots of glass and nails) and downed tree branches from a recent storm that littered some of the bicycle paths and road shoulders.

As I peddled I found my head and heart were back in Southern California where cycling was mostly joy-filled.  From spectacular ocean views and frequent dolphin sightings, post-ride coffee and muffins with my circle of cycling buddies to year-round perfect weather, it was truly a cycling paradise.  Sure, there was traffic to contend with but somehow, even with all the cars, it was much more enjoyable than my present moment.  

At a stoplight, I take a sip of water and turn to see that hubby has caught up behind me. 

“I’m not having much fun at this today,” I tell him.

He is surprised. “What do you mean? he asks as he squirts water into his mouth from his bottle. 

“The noise of this traffic is almost deafening.  It’s just not relaxing…not like it was in California.”





My photo, taken during our Big Sur ride

“There was plenty of traffic there too.” he reminds me.

“Yes, but not all these monstrously huge eighteen-wheelers,” I reply.

We’re off again as the light turns green. We turn off the main road onto a designated bike path. It’s somewhat narrow and trees hang low over the path so we’re having to duck every now and then to avoid getting slapped in the face by a tree branch. I’m again well ahead of hubby when I see not to far ahead of me that there is a painfully-thin elderly man leaning against a rail. His walker is on the other side of the path. For a moment I think that he is in trouble but as I get closer I can see he’s fine. He’s smoking a honking big cigar and looks to be happy as a clam.

The rest of the ride went smooth enough…save for a mini melt-down on my part. And yes…of course It was dog-related. So dear reader, if you’ve followed a tenth of my thoroughly uninteresting life you’ll remember that my years of cycling in Alabama were so beset with dog issues that I pretty much gave up on the bike for two years. My beauty of a bike languished in the garage collecting dust and I’m sure she pined for her Southern California days as much as I did.

So here we were, with around ten more miles to home…We had already made the turn-around on the bike path back when I spot a woman walking with her dog. The dog, a large brown lab, was not right at her side and was not on a leash. In fact, said leash was in the woman’s hand whilst the dog frolicked in the weeds directly on the other side of the path from it’s handler. I slowed my pace considerably and loudly announced my approach as in: “On your left.”

Nothing.

Hmm. Let me try this again. Slowing more….I now shout: “Coming on your left.”

The woman turns her head. Ah. Okay, Whew….she sees me.

…but she does absolutely nothing to contain her dog. Hubby has caught up now and is directly behind me. “The dog is off-leash,” he says calm as can be. I’m certain he knows that my head is about to explode.

“No shit,” I mumble under my breath trying hard not to let fear overwhelm.

As I cautiously pass the woman, I was fairly sharp in my rebuke (but without expletives, so that’s good….right?) I added, as I peddled away something to the effect that though I’m not confrontational by nature if her unleashed dog would have come within a half-inch of me I’d be calling the police. I’m sure she did not quake in her boots but dog’s off-leash when cyclists are present is not something to take lightly. It can cause considerable harm to a cyclist who is clipped in. I still recall a huge hematoma one cycling buddy received on her thigh (requiring a hospital stay, I might add) as a result of a dog giving chase. And, ever-fresh in my mind is the day I received a healthy dose of pepper spray to the eyes as a cyclist buddy in front of me attempted to deter being attacked by a large dog.

Don’t get me wrong: I am a dog-lover….after all, The Poodle is the four-legged love of my life. And, I love to see pooches happily running free and unrestrained (like the beauty pictured below courtesy of a photo by Jamie Street) but there is a time and a place for untethered freedom and if for nothing else, when you see people on bikes, one should have the courtesy (and commonsense) to immediately properly restrain their pet. Dogs are animals after all. One never knows when they’ll get a bee in their bonnet to do something out of their normal behavior pattern! Like attack a cyclist perhaps.

Photo by Jamie Street on Unsplash

When we rolled into our driveway, I let out a long, slow sigh of relief.

“Another ride in the books and thankful to arrive without a fall,” I said to hubby.

“Amen to that and no flats,” he replies.

Ah yes…no flat tires. There is bliss in that!

Saddle Time