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