Friday, July 29, 2011


So, I've recently found a brand new way to procrastinate and put off working on my dissertation (like I needed another way), but this one is something that actually is pretty neat. It even has Jeremy spending time on it, though he still refuses to make his own account. It's kind of hard to explain what it is, but basically it's a way to organize and remember random things that you find on the internet. Now I realize that doesn't sound so appealing, especially if you're just thinking it is full of cute kitten photos that have 'can i haz a cheezburger' written in black block letters. Those are definitely represented well on this site, but that's not all it is. It's a place to find and share and remember all those cool things you find online. I've found numerous recipes I'm just dying to try, or sewing projects I'm itching to get back to my sewing machine to attempt, or I'll be honest, funny and stupid stuff like a photo of Sean Connery with a mustache that says "I mustache you a question, but I'm shaving it for later." Hah. Yes, I know, but it really is helpful and a great way to find DIY projects and just be inspired to do things. People who have spent any amount of time on this site will understand that it can tend to suck you straight into a time vortex and before you know it, you've spent two hours looking at photos of Lord knows what. But some people have decided to become 'pinspired' and try to use or recreate something neat that they've found on Pinterest, so it's not just another time-wasting activity. As I mentioned before, I am sans-sewing machine whilst we're abroad, so all my sewing inspirations are put on hold for the moment, and unfortunately we are also short on a lot of cooking items and utensils that would allow me to make some bangin' new recipes, and to spend money on buying them would be silly since we'd be leaving them in a month's time. But, clever as I am, I have managed to incorporate something that I've found on Pinterest into my week. On Monday I had a really rough day, being given the run-around and down-right insulted by the letting agency that manages my flat, phone call after phone call, and finally an e-mail, and an unfortunate fight with Jeremy while he was at work about the whole thing, after all that I was in no state of mind to write anything worthy of anyone else's eyes on my dissertation. So I decided to curl up (I wish I could say on a couch, but we don't have one that's worth curling up on, and we only have Ikea chairs, that while are remotely comfortable, are nothing compared to a comfy, sink-into-me full size couch), so I guess I didn't exactly curl up, but you get the picture, and I watched a movie with some freshly baked cookies. Nutella cookies to be more specific, yes, you read that right. There are only four ingredients in these little babies, and they are absolutely divine fresh out of the oven. Not too sweet, and just right with a glass of milk and slices of a Pink Lady apple (my fave).
So, all said and done, Pinterest has not been a complete waste of time, and I intend to put to use more of the amazing little gems I find on there as well.
Here's a tantalizing photo of my batch of Nutella cookies that cured my no-good-very-bad day.

Check out Pinterest as well, if you haven't already, but you have been warned--do keep in mind its addictive nature.

Oh, and since I know you want it, here's a link to the recipe I used to make those things you can't take your eyes off of up there. Make them, you know you want to. Happy baking, and happy pinning.


Thursday, July 14, 2011

contemplation over evening tea.

I sit at my computer as Edinburgh's evening light spills into my living room and down the left side of my body. The evening is cooling down from today's heat wave of seventy degrees Fahrenheit, and the clouds have come to bask in the glorious colors that always illuminate the sky at this time of day. It will still be some time before the sun decides to call it a day, but though the day lasts well into what should be night, it seems that the sunset itself stretches its own life during this time, lengthening that time between times, rather than lengthening the day or shortening the night. I have a trusty cup of tea in hand, well, near hand anyway, I can't exactly type very well (or quickly) while holding my over-sized green Ikea mug, I'm not quite that good.
My dissertation is actually coming along swimmingly, and I'm quite pleased with how well I'm staying on schedule. I'm due to finish the first half by tomorrow, which leaves me the latter half of the month to finish my first draft, and the whole nineteen days I'll have in August before its due to edit and revise, edit and revise, and edit and revise some more. I'm about twenty-two pages in, and over 7600 words down. So I really should be about half way--I'm fairly certain they're going to be pretty stringent about not going over fifteen thousand words, so hopefully I can keep it below that mark without having to exclude things I really wanted to write about. I've gone through ancient Celtic mythology, and then traversed the early Irish literature with Cúchulainn and Fionn MacCumhaill and other notable characters, and now I'm finally getting to settle down with the real meat of the dissertation, the folktales. I just read an article about folk-memory within folktales, and how important is it to remember that while these tales are entertaining and amusing to us now, they once held vital information and vestiges of beliefs and customs held by the people who so lovingly perpetuated them. To the early Celt, it was no stretch of the imagination for people to transform into animals and vice versa, it came with a great knowledge and as a way to continue learning through new eyes and new experiences. There was no rigid barrier between the human and animal forms, and in fact many animals held certain characteristics that mirrors things people saw in themselves, so it seemed not strange at all that there were those who could shift from shape to shape. I love the freedom of folktales, the innocence of imagination, the lack of that-isn't-possible attitude, where we can lose ourselves in a good story of a maiden being turned into a swan for one year, then back to her own form the next year, and a man who, having fallen in love with said maiden, turns himself into a swan to be with her. Why not? Why can't we fancy those things occurring at some where, some time, and transform our own minds from the cold scientific reality of what can only be tangibly proven.
I for one am a firm supporter of imagination, and 'what if?' stories of wonder and romantic notions of shape-shifting and things we cannot explain.
Here's to the unknown.


Friday, July 8, 2011

Thursday, July 7, 2011

four years later.

It was four years ago today that I made the best decision of my life.
It was four years ago today that I embarked on a journey full of love, laughter, tears, and life.
It was four years ago today that I married my best friend.
It was four years ago today that I married Jeremy Edmund Foreman.

I am so blessed to have spent these past four years being married to the love of my life, my best friend, my sweetheart, my one choice of the men on this earth. I will carry his heart with mine for all of my life in this world and beyond it. 

Here's a look back on our anniversaries past:
Year One. With our sweet pup, Cael.
Year Two. At Craggy Pinacle.
Year Three. At Biltmore Estate.
Year Four. In Dollar Glen on the way to Castle Campbell.
Our anniversaries just keep getting better and better. I can't wait to see what year five has in store for us. I love you, Jeremy, thanks for loving me back so well. 

Our day in Dollar Glen and the hike up to Castle Campbell was some of the most fun and jaw-dropping beauty I've had and seen here--which is saying something. It was amazing to spend it with the one person I really ever want to spend those moments with. 
We stopped to have our piece at a picnic table on the way into the glen. Jeremy, the romantic that he is, left our mark on the table.

An amazing day, an amazing husband, and we love each other an amazing amount. I am truly blessed.


Tuesday, July 5, 2011

a journey of a lifetime. [day one]

I'll admit I had pretty normal expectations for this trip. It was with a touristy tour company called Macbackpackers and while I was looking forward to seeing all the of the things listed on the website's description of the tour, I knew I wouldn't get to see everything I wanted to and have to put up with around twenty other people vying for the best photo op and just generally around to get on my nerves. While, yes, there were a few people on the tour who bugged me, it was enormously outweighed by the genuinely likable other people on the tour, the quirky fount-of-knowledge that was our tour guide, Ewan MacLeod, and the splendor of the landscape and scenery that constantly surrounded us. And also while, no, I didn't necessarily get to see all that I wanted (that's most likely an impossibility at this point) we got to see and experience things that were way above and beyond the things I was expecting--which was pretty amazing.
Let me start at the beginning. We left Edinburgh around 9AM on Monday morning and headed north, over the Forth Bridge and into the Kingdom of Fife, all the while hearing stories about the places we were going through, Edinburgh, over the Firth of Forth and the bridge, talking about the origins of 'a botched job' and the unfairness of the moniker. The land surrounding us was already beautiful and just kept on being gorgeous as we passed small towns and large towns, stone house ruins, and little wooden bridges. Our first stop was Dunkeld, a small town on the edge of the Highlands perched on the powerful River Tay with an ancient stone cathedral and narrow village roads. We stopped shortly to see the cathedral and get some lunch--and both were lovely. The Church has been around in Dunkeld for over 1400 years when Celtic monks used it as a base for mission work, it's location at the edge of the Highlands and Lowlands being ideal.

We piled back onto the bus with a whetted appetite for what was to come, yet I know for Jeremy and I, we would have liked to spend a little more time at the cathedral--we only had about a half an hour to see it, get our lunch, and be back on the bus. But a little time is better than no time.
The next stop was Ruthven Barracks ruins, but on the way we went through the pass of Killiecrankie and heard the story of the Jacobite rebel, Bonnie Dundee, who in 1689 routed the English government with only 3500-5000 men and three guns. Dundee used guerilla tactics and the knowledge and familiarity he and his men had of the land and, far outnumbered and up against new warfare technology--grenades among other things, defeated the English gloriously.
Ruthven Barracks were built by the English in 1719 after the first Jacobite rebellion of 1715 in an attempt to get a better rein on the Highlands. The Jacobites set fire to the barracks to rile the English, and what stands today is for the most part what was left by the departing Jacobites after the Rising of 1745.

We then took an unscheduled stop, as our guide called it, at Tomatin Distillery, where we took a tour of the distillery and store house and then sampled it's 'water of life' or uisge beatha as it's called in Gaelic. I'm not a huge whisky fan, but it's growing on me. I can definitely appreciate a hot totty on a frigid Scottish winter night, and it does set a small warming fire in the pit of your stomach that warms you long after you've stopped drinking it. Jeremy, however, is definitely a fan of whisky and thoroughly enjoyed the tour and the taste we got afterwards. We also procured ourselves some whisky fudge, which I for one can most assuredly get on board with.

Checkin' out those legs on the 12 year old. Whisky, of course. Hah.

After the whisky tour we continued on our way up into the Highlands, passing gorgeous scenery after more breath-taking hills and lochs. After a little while, Ewan decided to take us on a couple detours near Inverness, telling us that'd we be a little late into Kyleakin that night, but it'd be worth it. And goodness, was it! Firstly, just outside of Inverness we stopped at Clava Cairns, ancient stone memorials of stacked rocks as well as standing stones in the midst of an old moss-covered forest. It was incredible to behold. I wished it could have been just Jeremy and me there, so other people wouldn't spoil the solemnity and grandeur of the place, but it was amazing enough even with them there. The cairns date back nearly four thousand years and are a Bronze Age prehistoric site of a cemetery. The entire area comprises passage graves, ring cairns, kerb cairns, and standing stones which together make for a beautiful setting and mystical atmosphere with the surrounding forest and rolling hills in the distance. 

Too soon we had to be off again, and this time we were headed for another solemn but infinitely more somber stop: Culloden Battlefield. In 1745, Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite men took one last stand here, just outside of Inverness on 16 April 1746. Tired and hungry from their long march from England, Charles Stuart's army fought bravely. The battle took place in less than an hour, but the repercussions from this battle can still be felt to this day. Nearly 2000 Jacobites were killed or wounded in the battle while the English Government's losses were substantially smaller. The aftermath of the battle and subsequent crackdown on Jacobitism was brutal and violent, earning the Duke of Cumberland--who saw the deeds done and no quarter given--the moniker of "Butcher". Following this harrowing loss, steps were taken to further integrate Scotland into the Kingdom of Britain; civil penalties were introduced to weaken Gaelic culture, outlawing the speaking of the Gaelic language and the wearing of traditional Highland dress, as well as an attack the Scottish clan system. The short time we had to walk around the seemingly now peaceful battlefield were sobering, and as we neared the large stone cairn towards the center of the field built in memorial to the sacrifice of the brave dead we also passed large stones on either side of the path marking the mass graves of the clans who fought there. It was hard to hold back the tears that sprung to my eyes as I passed the stones and felt the ghosts of men whose lives were cut far too short fighting for their country and their families, fighting for something they loved and believed in whole-heartedly.

We had some time on the bus to regain our composure as we drove through Inverness and toward the western coast toward the Isle of Skye. We had few short stops at Loch Ness then Urquhart Castle, then we drove through the area called Kintail, through some of the most breath-taking mountains I've ever seen--and coming from Western North Carolina, that's saying something. I kept wanting to stop and take photos, but we didn't so the only shots I got were out of the dirty bus window.

Lovely, but the stains on the window really don't do it justice. Anyway, we didn't stop until we reached Eilean Donan castle which is one of the most recognized and photographed castles in Scotland being in such movies as 'Highlander', 'Entrapment', and 'Made of Honor'. Just look at the photos I managed to get and you'll see why.

It was only a little further after this that we were in Skye. After a quick stop at the store for some neccesities, we crossed the bridge to Skye, the Cuillin hills in the distance across the water on our right and the little sea town of Kyleakin, where we were staying, on our left. This was the view we had from our room at the hostel.

We got situated in our cute little house that the hostel was in, and we had the rest of the evening to do what we liked. We got dinner at the local pub, Saucy Mary's, then went walked along the coast. We went towards the castle ruins, which was used by the Vikings in ages past to control the narrow strait between mainland Scotland and that coastline of Skye. 

After meandering towards the castle, we thought we might miss the sunset, so we turned back to walk over the bridge and get some shots of the sun going down behind the Cuillins. There really aren't any words I could use to describe the beauty and peace of that sunset, and I really don't want to even try, because I know that I'll fall far, far short of what we really experienced. Even the photographs don't do it complete justice. 

We walked back into town still awed at what we had just beheld. By the time the sun was completely down, though it wasn't really completely dark, it was around midnight or later. The summer dim was in full effect the nights we were there, it never got fully dark, the light always kept a hold, if tenuous, on nightfall. It was lovely.
We stayed up in the hostel talking and carousing with the friends we had made on the tour, and finally went to bed, in anticipation of what the next day held.

I think I'm going to post this as 'day one' and do day by day posts, because with working on my dissertation and other things I really don't know how often I'll get to work on this. So here you go, day one of our adventure in the Highlands and the Isle of Skye. Hopefully days two and three will be able to be written and enjoyed within the next few weeks.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

after thought.

Look! I did get some sun today! Hurrah.

All right, all right. Back to the dissertation...

a spot of sun in the meadows.

When I woke up this morning, the sun was streaming in through the windows. Looking above the tenement building facing ours, which was itself bathed in sunlight which lit the sandstone in a rosy golden hue, all I could see was blue sky and warm sunlight. Jeremy unfortunately has to pull a double-shift at the shop today, or we both would have been out enjoying this weather.
As I wrote in my journal this morning, cup of tea and bagel beside, I opened our windows and let the warm summer breeze waft in and rejuvenate my senses. It is times like these where part of me wishes to be out of the city, when I have to choose between closed windows and relative quiet, or open windows and cool air with a side of traffic noises and squealing brakes. I really can't turn my music up loud enough to drown it out, plus I'd most likely have to listen to something as discordant as the noises shoving their way through my windows. I tried to ignore it while I could, but in the end I was convinced that an hour or two outside in the Meadows, away enough from roads and traffic, wouldn't go awry.

It didn't.

For an hour and a half I basked in the light of the sun and felt it's warmth soak into my skin, leaving freckles in its wake. I read--for my dissertation, because August 20th is all too near to spend too much time away from it--and I just enjoyed the solemnity of being outside on my own, letting my thoughts go where they would and enjoying a good read on the battle-goddesses of Irish mythology.
It really is amazing how a good sit in the sun seems to melt away all the tension warring for dominance in your mind. Yes, we are going home in a little more than two months, yes, we need to be out of this flat in a little less than two months, and yes, my dissertation is due in about a month and a half, but no, I am not going to let all those deadlines spoil the simplicity of an hour of sitting in the summer sunlight.
So here's to summer, and here's allowing ourselves to enjoy her fruits.