Sunday, July 26, 2015

Classic Scotland Cruise

Returned from Scotland about a week ago.  Jet lag and the flight took a toll this time, so my writing has lagged behind a bit.  Scotland is wonderful—people, location and history.  Checked all my boxes. 

IMG_3303This trip was aboard a barge.  Built in the 1930s as a working barge and renovated now as a luxury passenger vessel cruising the Scotland Caledonia canal.  But, the best part of the trip was the staff and other passengers—4 staff members and 8 passengers, and the Scotland Highlanders we met.  The two kilted fellows in the photo right were attending a wedding near our hotel in Inverness (our two days pre-trip).  “May we take your picture?”  With a laugh, they both replied, “Aye!”

IMG_3391The barge staff included Mick, our captain; Paul, tour director; Danni, host, and Sasha, the chef.  Each one with a story, personality plus, and outstanding service.  Let’s start with Danni and Sasha (Danni on the left, Sasha on the right).

Danni is 28 years old originally from Dublin, Ireland and an aspiring circus performer.  She attends specialized schools in the off-season to improve her craft.  Her skill includes a combination of dance and acrobat.  No doubt, we will see her in Cirque du Soleil some day.  Depending on her school location (this year will be Spain), she also teaches English to help pay for school.  Last year she was attending school in Argentina and teaching youngsters English (with an Irish accent, mind you).  She tells a story of setting up the movie, “Up”, for the kids—only they learned it from Danni pronounced as Ooop (the Irish way).  The headmaster was baffled what movie they were actually seeing until Danni showed him the DVD cover.

Sasha is the best cook I have ever encountered.  I gained five pounds in the 7 days we stayed on board.  Each meal was a classic Scottish dish, but with a modern twist, i.e., Haggis with a whisky reduction sauce.  Sasha hails from Slovakia and hopes to open a restaurant there someday.  I plan on going…

Tomorrow, I will highlight Day 1 on the cruise and introduce Mick and Paul.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Another Passing

SCAN0847Jackie was my best friend in junior high and most of high school.  Someone described her as a “spark”.  And she certainly was.  Athletic.  Energetic.  Big Blue Eyes with eyelashes out to there.  Tiny, standing a little over five feet and maybe 95 pounds soaking wet.  One early spring day, circa 1970, I took her as my guest on a family outing to Lehman Hot Springs in Oregon.  Still snow on the ground, she was the first one to jump on the slide; a slide covered with 2 feet of snow.  Down she went with snow exploding all around her and into the hot, steamy water.  I thought this girl was the coolest being walking the earth.  I adored her.

PicnicNDesert-1The last year of high school and beyond we grew apart.  Nothing went wrong; we just took different paths.  Only occasionally seeing one another.  A couple of years ago we reconnected online.  We now only lived less than 100 miles apart—so we promised to meet for lunch someday with a couple of other school friends.

Yesterday, I learned she died from cancer.  Never making it public—I never knew.  Always the picture of health, she maintained her trim, muscular figure and energy.  To say I was shocked is an understatement.  Although she has not been a close friend of late, she was such an important part of my life during those difficult adolescent years that a piece of me died yesterday,  too.  She was special and I will cherish her memory.  I love you, Jackie.

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Why We Travel

Yesterday, we walked on the Kingston ferry to downtown Edmonds.  Beautiful sunny day.  Tree/flower laden little town square lively with people enjoying a Saturday. 

scotlandbargeThe purpose of our trip was to attend a Rick Steves travel presentation about his company “Europe through the Back Door” and the philosophy of his travel approach.  Rick actually gave the talk (I sat in the front to see him—Rick is one my heroes—for many reasons).  The travel company is quite large, employing over 100 people.  They are not a travel “agency”; they do not arrange air transportation, rental cars or hotels.  Instead Rick Steves & Company inspires us and informs us how to experience European trips that are not only historically educational by viewing locations and structures, but more importantly broadening culturally by interacting with the people and their way of life.  We can accomplish this by taking a Rick Steves tour and/or applying his travel philosophy.

I came away from the presentation once again energized and primed for another trip to Europe.  This summer we plan to visit Scotland and see the Highlands and Highlanders by floating down the Caledonian Canal on a barge.  Only 8-passengers and lots of Scottish whiskey with an occasional bagpipe.  We will make our way through Loch Ness and past preserved and ruined castles.

I once had someone scoff at traveling by saying they could see just as much sitting in front of the television.  Really?  Maybe they catch a glimpse of a place, but they certainly do not experience it.  For me, it is inspirational experiences and broadening my outlook of the world, that make life so exciting—not just Europe, but everywhere we visit.  Come on!  Get out there!

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Magic Moment #11–Foraging (Update on Teas)

lemonbalmLast Saturday our wild edibles class covered the use of different plants for teas, both for enjoyment and medicinal.  Our course does not focus on medicinal uses from wild edibles, but most seem to be used for some ailment or overall health benefit.  We tried lemon balm tea, cedar tea (surprisingly, quite good), raspberry tea, sheep sorrel tea, catnip tea, and quite a few others. 

Our instructor makes a tea for her partner, who struggles with asthma.  For her, the tea has worked well enough to replace the inhaler.  Here is the "recipe" for the nervine tea that helps with asthma and is a good general calmative.  (Note:  Helps as a preventive; not during an episode.)

(Photo of lemon balm – part of the mint family)

For 1 mug (or smaller, for concentrated dose)

  • 1-2 chamomile tea bags
  • 2 medium sized lemon balm leaves
  • 2 medium sized catnip leaves
  • 1 big pinch of ground/shredded licorice root

As instructed--with any medicinal tea, sip rather than guzzle.

Happy Health!

Friday, May 22, 2015

Magic Moment #11–Foraging (Update on Nettle)

StingingNettle0396The trick to picking stinging nettle is do not, I repeat, do not let it touch your skin.  Use rubber gloves, a long sleeve shirt, long pants, socks, and sturdy shoes.  In our weekly Saturday class, we had one gal accidently reach into the box of fresh nettle the instructor brought.  She was in agony until she was instructed to roll up a nettle leaf (with gloves) and mash it adding a little water (or spit, whatever is most readily available).  Then squeezing out the nettle juice on to the affected area, the blistering and “fire” will subside, somewhat.  (Photo from  http://www.wildwoodsurvival.com/survival/food/edibleplants/nettle/)

On to cooking nettle.  With your gloves on, snip off the leaves into cool water and rinse off little spiders and dirt.  Then place into  boiling water for two minutes.  Remove the leaves and the hot water is now a delicious tea!  (The nettle tea can also be used as a rinse on your hair to make it shine.)  Place the cooked leaves into a blender with garlic, parmesan cheese, and olive oil (your choice on consistency, but it needs to be somewhat of a paste.)  This makes the best pesto I have ever eaten.  We had this on top of mashed potatoes.  Just delicious.  It compares to fresh cooked spinach, but with a little sweet-ness.  Packed full of iron and protein.

The only downside is the preparation and care needed to bring it home for cooking.  But, I will try this again.  It is that good.

Made a salad of miner’s lettuce yesterday with ranch dressing and fresh radishes from our friend’s garden.  Tastes a little “green” compared to Romaine, but very flavorful.  We found a huge growth area under a tree a little over a block away from the house. 

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Magic Moment #11–Foraging (Update)

flowering miners lettuceWhy is foraging in the woods so exciting to me?  Free food.  Fresh.  Finding treasure!  April 25, 2014 I shared with you my past experiences with foraging and plans to continue on the Olympic Peninsula.  Exactly one year after that post, I enrolled in  a class, “Wild Edibles” through the Peninsula College.  Let me tell you, the “O” Peninsula is a treasure trove of plants that are both edible and have medicinal properties. 

Our first class on April 25, began with a quick overview of approximately 20 plants.  The class was held outdoors at the Railroad Park in Sequim (old forest area with trails, restored railroad bridge provides biking/hiking trail over the Dungeness river).  After the quick introduction, we headed into the woods to identify the plants.  We only took 2 steps and immediately found edibles—miners’ lettuce, dandelions, nettles, and much more.  The miners’ lettuce is unbelievably good—smooth texture, mild pleasant taste, and so pretty!  It grows in the shade everywhere! [Photo left by Hank Shaw]

stinging nettleThe second class (there are six sessions) was held in the kitchen preparing different parts of the dandelion.  This time of year, the dandelion root and leaves are bitter and I am not a fan, will try again January through March when it is supposedly “sweet”.  BUT..the yellow flower made into a syrup is a cross between maple syrup and honey.  And I am a big fan!

Today, we learn how to pick stinging nettles and “dead” nettles (not really dead—not stinging).  In the kitchen we’ll prepare a nettle pesto sauce and a tea.  [Photo of nettle right]  Will let you know how it is…

Friday, April 24, 2015

Magic Moment–#23 Balance

A friend of mine recently posted a picture on Facebook of a few her friends crossing a creek (and I think she was in the photo also).  All of them over 60 years old and slowly crossing the water with walking sticks.  The photo was taken by her 28-year old daughter who easily made a graceful single leap over the entire stream. 

The visual hit me.  These people were all my peers—all the same over 60 age bracket.  Of course, I do not have youthful balance either at this age.  Besides the stiff joints and bones a little more brittle these days, my balance has become a wobble at times.  I can work on my equilibrium through exercise and yoga (and I do), but it is nothing like my younger years.

tracksinwoodsRemember how good it felt to run like the wind, arms flailing, jumping over fences, down steep hills.  One moment (I was 15-16 years old) sticks in my mind of balancing under railroad tracks on a trestle beam.  We were on vacation deep in the woods somewhere in Washington State.  High in the air with both arms out, just like a tightrope walker.  Not just me, but I dared others to take the walk.  We were sweaty with fear, but was it ever exhilarating!

Older, wiser I would never attempt this now.  (We would have most certainly been hurt badly, if we fell from that height.)  But, I still remember the feeling of being invincible.  On top of the world.

[Photograph from Pinterest; author unknown.]

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