Posts in Scotland
A Trip to Kintyre - Part 2

Continuing on my posts about our trip to Kintyre with CalMac ferries.  You can read Part 1 here

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On Sunday, we were up early to catch the 10am ferry to the Island of Gigha. We’d been before, taking Ellis as a baby and had fallen in love with the tiny island just off of Kintyre, plus it has a botanic garden – Achamore – and I couldn’t wait to nosy around the plants.

The ferry takes just 20 minutes and with glorious warm, weather it felt like we were stepping off the boat into another world. Gigha is lush with plantlife, that coastal climate making it so intensely green and lush.  In fact, where our leaves up here had started to turn weeks earlier, we could only find one sign that autumn was on its way to Gigha as well.

Our first stop was Achamore Gardens.   Wandering around the woods and the gardens was really like stepping into the foothills of the Himalayas.  There were rhododendron specimens everywhere, and while we had missed the blooms, it wasn’t hard to imagine the woods being a light with colour in the spring.  The walled gardens were full of late summer blooms and we could see signs of the new work being undertaken to restore the gardens by its new caretakers the Achamore Gardens Trust.

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We spent the rest of the morning wandering around the beautiful little island.  First, exploring the ruins of the Kilchattan church, then heading to the north of the island for some beach time. We had reservations for lunch at the Boathouse at the dock and I begrudgingly peeled myself off of the beach.

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If I had known what came next, I would have run. Holy lobster. I have never been a huge fan of seafood since an unfortunate incident with a fish finger when I was 3. I always want to like it, but very rarely can be convinced to try some.  Well, count me a convert. The Boathouse’s menu of local (as in so local the lobsters are actually in kreels at the end of the dock and the oysters and halibut are from down the road) seafood completely knocked my socks off. I even ate an oyster. And loved it. Lobster mac n cheese, fresh langoustine tails, good bread and an outside table with a view of the sea.  The perfect way to end a holiday before we made our way back by ferry to the mainland.

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ScotlandKat Goldin
Scenes from Orkney

The week off in Orkney was incredible. The simple act of taking time off was great and so very needed and spending them in Orkney was a dream come true.  The highlights were definitely seeing Flotta with Liz from Northern Lace, hanging out with Elly at Birsay, seeing dolphin's in Stromness harbour and just all the beach time with three sea loving kiddos.  

We are already planning our trip for next year!! 

Have a great weekend! 

Around Here

The last few weeks have been full of:

- Making elderflower flavoured everything. Cordial and jam mostly. I would have done champagne, but we are out of yeast. The winner on the cordial front has to be rhubarb and elderflower.  I followed this recipe and it has become my go-to drink mixed with soda water. 

- A trip to the sea.  I realised I hadn't been to the sea in months  and,  following my own advice, we packed up and headed to the west coast. We played in the sea, watched the ferries and ate ice cream. Oh and I ate my first oyster...it was weird.

- The weather here is unsurprisingly changeable.  However, we have been getting out as much as the torrential downpours and midges allow. Its felt cold this year and I can feel it wearing me down in a way it hasn't before. In my experience, one can only use the "sit by the fire and knit" excuse for bad weather 11 months a year...surely July should be a reprieve from that before Autumn rolls in in August.

- we are off this weekend to Yorkshire, so I am off to pack up the car, move chickens, do work and run around collecting children. Just to say that I am still behind on emails, etc, but I am slowly working through pattern support and other enquiries. 

 

ScotlandKat Goldin
Are We There Yet?

We are on the count down towards summer...4 sleeps in fact.  

It couldn't come faster in our house.  We are all so incredibly exhausted. End of term activities, Blogtacular and deadlines collided in these last 2 weeks - the house is a bomb-site, we keep losing children in the un-mown grass and I can't remember the last time we had anything other than cream cheese sandwiches for dinner. 

As yesterday was the start of summer (despite the fact I am currently wearing a woollen hat and socks in the studio) we headed out for our annual pilgrimage to Loch Lomond, eschewing our usual trip to Rowardennen for the closer-to-home banks at Inversnaid. 

Starting at the parking lot of the Inversnaid Hotel, we walked part of the West Highland Way through the woods and along the banks of the Loch.  I use the term "walk" loosely as it really was more of a "drag the children away from the shoreline for a few short minutes" to wander up the hill. 

But then it was down to the beach to throw stones, go swimming and play in the burn that flows into the loch. 

It was like getting a taste of the freedom that awaits us at the end of this week. Open spaces, back packs full of snacks and days with no agenda other than to find a decent cup of coffee. 

 

 

ScotlandKat Goldin
Snow Days

Although we'd been expecting it, the bad weather finally arrived this week in the form of gale force winds, rain, hail and snow. We count ourselves lucky that TV and internet outages and a bus that can't get up the road are so far the worst effects of the inclement weather. 

Leghorn the Insane

Georgia and the dog have spent most every moment outside since the snow arrived. This morning, she drew elaborate plans to instruct her father on how to build a snowman to her exacting requirements. She comes in for hot chocolate, only to rush out again when a new idea strikes for her next snow-venture, barely stopping to put on all her winter gear. 

A day of hearty meals, DVDs and knitting awaits us today...with a potential foray out into the cow pasture for some sledding down the hill (that leads straight to a bog...not for the faint of heart!).

As the temperatures have gotten colder, I have given up working in the studio unless I absolutely have to.  As great as it is to have my own space, the old byre isn't insulated and working out there too long leaves me frozen to the bone.  Instead, I have opted to stay in front of the fire in the house with a dog to keep my feet warm and today with the added bonus of the whole family to snuggle in beside me.  

I can think of worse ways to be stranded. 

These Days

These days in the run up to Christmas are just so full.  Its as if the vacuum created by keeping my work schedule relatively open sucked in every type of Christmas-related activity you could imagine. I suppose it is the fact of living a village life - if I am not attending a fair/nativity/visit with Santa/pantomime/show, I am baking for one. 

The last week's activities took place against a background of rain, more rain, gales, sleet, snow and more rain. Finally, last night the weather bomb (the news' term, not mine) moved on and we were left with the perfect kind of winter's morning - the cold, crisp, cracking ice on puddles kind. 

It is the perfect kind of respite from the mad rush that we've had for days and will see again come tomorrow. Georgia and Ellis spent every moment they could before rushing off to school playing outside this morning and the dog and I took our first not-miserable morning walk in weeks. 

Speaking of dogs, a few weeks ago, our beloved dog Mac was hit by a car.  It was very sad and very traumatic. Living alone at the end of a 1.5 mile track, you are lulled into a false sense of security and it took us all off guard. I cried for days. I am alone up here all day and didn't realise how much company he provided until he was gone. We'd been talking about getting a 2nd dog anyway and when a little Bearded Collie needed a home, we jumped at the chance. He is a lovely boy we named Marlow.

Ok, I am off to enjoy a few moments of quiet before the rushing begins again. Have a lovely weekend! 

Scotland: A Love Letter

There is no question that I believe in love at first sight.

Scotland had me at the moment I saw the craggy Ochil Hills. Standing and looking out of a window in the Stirling shopping mall of all places, I felt that I had found what I was looking for, that I had travelled all over the world to find.

We have lived here for 10 years and that love affair has continued unabated. From the breathtaking Highlands, to Edinburgh, the most beautiful city I have ever visited, to Glasgow, where if you even look lost, someone will come up to help you, Scotland has a kind of wealth that I'd never realised I was missing in my life. Iowa is an amazing place, and somewhere that will always be the home of my childhood, but Scotland is my Home. 

When my family visits us from America, we can't help but  take them on a whirlwind journey of our beloved sights. Like introducing any loves to each other, we are keen to show the best bits and take everyone on a grand tour covering as many miles and sights as we can possibly pack in, our enthusiasm (hopefully) contagious.

Its not just the sights we love. Some of the best friends I have ever had, we met here. Friends who are like family, who are there at the best and worst of times. I count myself lucky that I turned around that day 10 years ago to see those hills in that shopping mall window, if for nothing else than to watch their children grow up with mine. 

But never in those ten years have I loved this country more than in the last few weeks. In truth, I don't know if I can even describe to you what its like in these last few days before Scotland votes for or against independence. I stand in open mouthed awe at the sheer level of passionate engagement - 97% of the eligible voters are registered with over 100,000 registered in the last month. The stories I have read about registering the most disenfranchised of society make my activist heart sing with pride. From the school gate to the corner shop, all everyone is talking about is what happens after the 18th of September--and not just the outcome of the vote.  For the first time in my life, I have seen issues like inequality, feminism, the right to health care and climate change move right to the centre of every day conversation. They may not be academic arguments and they may not use those exact terms, but none the less they are discussions about what kind of a society we want in the future and which side can give us that.

I don't know the way the vote will go next week and as I am American, I have no say in that outcome. No matter what happens though, change of some form feels inevitable.  I only hope that the country I love isn't too scarred at the end. But, I suppose in the same way one loves the rain in Scotland for the green it makes, hard conversations over the next few weeks and months will hopefully make us a better country - inside the United Kingdom or outside of it.

And I will love Scotland through those good and bad times, because that's the way true love works.

ScotlandKat Goldin
Verdant

Its that time of year when the whole world seems to be in bloom. The green is retina-searing--if you look down too long it leaves marks on your vision when you look up again. 

Even after almost 10 years of living in Scotland, my knowledge of the local flora and fauna is poor. I tried to weed the garden yesterday, but unless it was grass or a plant that I knew for certain in its young form, I was unable to distinguish between veg and weeds. The children are constantly asking me the names of the birds we see and I have to constantly look them up and have the RSPB bird identifier bookmarked.

I do love it though, there is a hare that grazes in the back yard with the chickens in the afternoons. A young roe stag that grazes by the road on our morning cycle and looks like something out of a fairy tale. We've counted 16 swallow nests in the outbuildings. The paddock has turning into a field of yellow irises. Even the field mice that live in the compost are a source of constant amazement for us all.

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Sometimes, I am overcome with gratitude for the crappy situation that led us here. We had to go through all of that to get to us here. Don't get me wrong, I am not going to be writing any thank you letters, but its a good reminder that everything happens for a reason. 

Its not only the landscape that is full, we are in the end of term frenzy. Every day over the next few weeks seems to have some sort of activity. Sports day, school barbecue, summer fairs and friends compete with gardening, chickens, dog, and seasonal chores to fill the days to the brim so that we aren't sitting down in the evening until 10 or 11. This weekend is no different,  we'll be taking advantage of the recently arrived elderflowers (ice cream and elderflower fritters for dessert tonight) and starting big batches of elderflower cordial and champagne for the summer and then also heading over to Stirling for the Top Festival. If you are local, its worth checking out - lots of great things to do for kids and young people! 

Have a great weekend!

ScotlandKat Goldin
On The Bonnie Banks

I wouldn't be telling you anything you didn't know if I said it's rainy and cold in Scotland. "Hot" means a temperature somewhere between 16-17C (about 60F) and "a nice day" usually means a day that isn't pouring. 

Saturday was one such "nice day", and heavy rains that appeared in the afternoon held off for a morning spent at the shore of Loch Lomond. Rowardennan is easily my favourite spot on this famous loch - off the beaten path enough to feel secluded, but not too far from amenities that its a chore to get lochside. 

While we weren't quite at "hot" weather, rather a balmy 12C (53F) a bit of paddling, wading and sausage eating did go a long way to scratching our "we need summer" itch.

Which, after about an hour of playing in the water, was followed by our "Swarm of Midges" itch - something to keep with us for the week ahead as a reminder.


ScotlandKat Goldin
Last Minute Escape

On Saturday morning, as I pushed send on my latest magazine submission, could feel the next few weeks closing in  - courses, deadlines, sorting out the house, a trip to London...all pressing down on us. And so a rash decision was made. "Load the car, we are going camping."

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A drive of just two hours takes us deep into the Highlands - Glencoe, where we stayed at the perfect Red Squirrel Campsite.  With a stream to the back of our pitch and a river a few steps away, the kids were as happy as they could be, repeatedly asking if we could just move there permanantly. 20130831-IMG_2760 20130831-IMG_2776 20130901-IMG_2798 20130901-IMG_2804 20130901-IMG_2822 20130901-IMG_2824

 

On Sunday, we drove up the Road to the Isles to Glenfinnan. Its a part of the world that we love - rain or shine, and Sunday was a bit of both. Fortunately, we are all generally unphased by the wet and spent most of the afternoon wandering to see the sites.  Ellis and I even managed to climb the modest-sized hill to a view point of the Glen.

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Every time I spend time out in the hills of this amazing country, I feel so lucky. Listening to the accents and languages of people who travel to the places we visit, I am always reminded that Scotland is a place where people take trips of a lifetime and we have it all just a few hours away.

Sigh, and now back to work.

ScotlandKat Goldin
Chasing Down the Sun

 

On Saturday, the objective was simple: Watch a sunset on the West Coast.  We live on a small island afterall. An hour and a half to either coast...further than I would like, but manageable. We packed up and shipped out, first to Troon (which was not our kind of place) then to Girvan (which very much was).

The beauty of the sky and sea turning pink, then orange, then the dark grey blue, the shadowy Ailsa Craig in the distance, a near perfect sunset and well worth the travel. Scotland is so easy to love when its like this - all majestic and wild.  While I don't mind the rain as much as some, there is no doubt that when the sun shines there is no place more beautiful. Sigh.

photography, ScotlandKat Goldin
Regarding Balance

One day, late in 2012, I looked up from my computer, crawled out from a pile of yarn, put my camera down and opened my eyes. I saw a house that was messier than I have ever lived in, a husband who I hadn't spoken more than 4 words to in weeks months and 3 little unruly children who woudn't eat anything except pesto pasta and were exhausted, mean and bored.

Kevin and I have spent the last few weeks reeling us all back in - working hard to cook and clean and spend time as a family.  Its my main resolution this year - to spend more time with them being present, not worrying about impending deadlines or emails or swatches.

I didn't realise what an effect our work life was having on everyone.  It was only when I would go days without picking up the camera that I knew I wasn't in the best place (well, that and the fact that Georgia could sing all of the theme songs to all of the programmes on CBeebies), but I kept thinking I could just push through.

And so, we have spent the first few days of 2013 as we hope to continue. Together, cooking and laughing and walking and playing. Today we climbed a massive hill, led by Ellis. Tomorrow, we are sorting out the garden and storage room while the children are out - boring, but good in a new year sort of way.

Start as we mean to continue...now if only the weather could do the same.

Dinner Date(s)

Before this afternoon, I hadn't actually left the house since Tuesday morning. Lost in a haze of crochet and the Vampire Diaries on Netflix1...but this evening with Kevin out "working"2, it was my duty to collect the children.  Rather than come back to the woefully neglected house and eat sandwiches again3, we opted for the better option.  Pizza from the best place in Stirling and a play in the park. 

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Italian sausage, a park full of children playing Olympics, and 3 little loves...who needs anything else4?

1don't judge me. 172 rows of single crochet ribbing will drive anyone to cheezy vampire dramas.

2"working" in the Arts in Scotland throughout the month of August, actually means attending 1 of 6,000 arts events/openings/plays that are on during the Festival where drinking champagne and eating canapes is considered a requirement.

3 The other day Ellis looked at me and said, "Actually Mummy, your cooking is getting worse." The worst thing about it is...he is right.

4 except wine.  Which I now have. Ahhhh.

Highland Show

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There was no deep fat fried butter on a stick at the Royal Highland show, but there was ice cream in the rain, which really is the Scottish alternative.

ScotlandKat Goldin
Moss-side

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My children are at their best when in open spaces. Cafes, soft plays, restaurants, toddler groups, often bring out the worst sides of them.  They are busy people, with lots of energy that can rarely be happily contained within 4 walls.

We are always on the look-out for new places to explore.  We are so lucky to have so many within a short drive of the house.  Our routine most weekends is simple - load car, drive, stop, release children, run them out, get back in car, go home. I wish the car element wasn't there.  I miss having the countryside literally on my doorstep.  Its been a long time since I felt so hemmed in (which is ironic because I can see the beautiful, empty Ochil Hills out of my back window).  I long to have the space and wilderness for my own children that I had growing up.  We would spend hours wandering around the woods and ponds, my Scottie dog Snickers at my side. 

But, what I give up in wild, I make up for in a house that I love as if it were my own...a rare thing when you rent.  So if a drive to the woods is my payment for that, I will take it.

This past weekend, we stopped at Flander's Moss National Nature Reserve.  Wide paths, board walks, viewing tower, piles of gravel, bridge...just about the perfect combination

(these are only some of the photos from the day.  The rest were uploading when the laptop took a coffee shower.  Sigh.)

 

 

Magic in the Woods

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The first time I visited the Fairy Knowe at the top of Doone Hill, I thought it looked like a bunch of junk tied to trees.  This time, seeing it through the eyes of Ellis, looking for magic, and Georgia, cooing over all of the little creatures sitting amongst the roots of the trees, I could see the magic a little bit clearer. 

 

Doone Hill Fairy Knowe, Aberfoyle