Monday, 31 January 2011

Taking stock

Well, who would have thought it? It's the end of January already. And time to take stock of my first month's progress with this year's resolutions. (If you want to see the full she-bang, have a look at my separate Goals page.

Resolution 1: Work out what I want to do when I grow up
Nope, still no idea. But my nephew has given me a good idea of 15 Things to Do Before I Grow Up - on which I'll blog next month, promise!

Resolution 2: Live a life less ordinary
Nope, don't think I've made much progress on that either. Still feels fairly mundane to be honest. I have got a new friend though! And made new friends too.

Resolution 3:  Stop living small
Nothing major, although I've been a bit braver in a few things, standing up for what I think is the right thing to do rather than just the safe thing.

Those are the big things I want to aim for, but I've also got some smaller goals or targets for 2011 as well. They are;

Goal A: Blog more regularly
I've achieved 32 posts in January. Not bad! (33 including this round up one)

Goal B: Get back to writing my book
Nope, no progress over on All Write Now . I seem to be having a bit of a writer's block at the moment!

Goal C: Rediscover poetry
I've blogged 2 poems in January. Not quite my one a week goal but not bad. I've certainly been reading more of it so that's a start.

Goal D: Learn new stuff
So far this month I've learned Moebius knitting and freeform crochet, volcadas at tango, how to use a slow cooker (almost) and a bit more about coaching.

Goal E: Do more travelling
Not a new destination, but a new attraction in an old haunt - Vancouver Art Gallery. I also found a fab new eating place in Stirling at the weekend.

Goal F: Live more sustainably
Nothing particularly new on that front, but I have been learning more about low carbon food and have started using a slow cooker. Not quite got myself to being able to give up the car yet, but I'm working on it.

Goal G: Exercise more
No exercise whatsoever this month. I really need to start running again. Definite target for February!

Sunday, 30 January 2011

(Anything but) Junk Food

Serendipity is the chance discovery of little treasures by happy accident. It's also what lead me to discover Stirling's latest eating establishment - The Junk Rooms on Friars Street. I was stopped on my way to my tango class last weekend by a guy handing out leaflets. I actually thought he was stopping me to ask the time or directions, and feeling in a helpful frame of mind, I decided to stop. He explained that The Junk Rooms had just opened and we got chatting. Since I was on my way to my tango class I offered to take a few of his leaflets there and in return I'd bring a few leaflets about the Tango Festival down for him to display. I so tired at the end of last week's class that I didn't make it back down, but after today's Practica I decided to pop in.

And I'm really glad I did, what a lovely place, just what Stirling has been needing. It describes itself as a cafe, bar, bistro - and it is indeed all those things. There's a selection ranging from breakfast rolls to full evening meals, and everything in between. All made (apparently) from seasonal locally sourced food and presented as modern Scottish cuisine. Whatever that is, it certainly tasted good. The only disadvantage was that I wasn't hungry enough to try some of main course choices available.

What I had instead was an antipasti platter - carefully put together for me with oatcakes rather than bread after a discussion about diet and allergies with the owner. I had only gone in wanting coffee but he talked me into something a bit more substantial as you can see. Unfortunately they didn't have any gluten free cakes, but maybe I could suggest he stocks some things from The Cook Room?

Apparently it's also an Artists' Co-operative, something that suggests itself from the individual and quirky interior design. Mismatched tables and chairs, wooden floors, vintage glass lights and a stunning display of cut glass in the window all go to make a relaxed, airy and individual place that's a pleasure to be in. And they've even got a leather couch for me to slouch on as well - what more could a girl ask for? It doesn't hurt either that the staff are extremely easy on the eye!!

So if you're in Stirling and looking for somewhere a bit different to while away an hour or so, or catch bite to eat, you could do a lot worse than wander down to the Junk Rooms and try it out for yourself. I predict they'll give my other favourite haunts of Beanscene, the Burgh Coffeehouse, the Port Street Deli and Ziggy Forelle's a run for their money.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Making new friends

As some readers will know, up until just over a year ago I shared my little flat with my little old lady cat, Miss Kitty. She had been with me for almost 17 years and therefore constitutes the longest relationship I've had, not including family. When she died I was devastated and really felt the loss of her. Many of my friends said I should get a new one to replace her, but I just wasn't ready. I knew I would be at some point, but not straight away.

And now it's happened. I'm ready. And I didn't even know I was.

I checked my phone on Tuesday morning to find a text from the cattery Miss Kitty used to stay at. The fabulous Gwen had been sending me the occasional text over the course of the past 12 months with cats needing re-homing that she thought might be right for me. As I said, up until now I hadn't been ready. But when I got Gwen's text on Tuesday - very cleverly complete with this photo - I knew I was. A quick visit on Thursday confirmed it, and then tonight I brought my new boy home.

Right now we're still getting used to each other but I think we're going to be the best of friends. As you'll see, he seems to approve of his new owner and at least he's stopped pacing round the flat for long enough to sit on my lap.

I promise to keep you posted but for just now I need to go. Someone thinks I should be paying him more attention - how very male!!

Posted to The 52 Week Project on Flickr

Thursday, 27 January 2011

More firsts

Yesterday I got to do the most amazing thing. I went to my first ever citizenship ceremony, and even better I got to speak at it. I got to welcome a handful of newly granted British citizens not just to life in the UK, but to living in the glorious part of the world that is Stirling.

I also got to do what I am learning to really enjoy - speak in public. Yes, it's still nerve wracking. Yes, I still stumble over my words. Yes, I do still worry about what to say. But at the same time, I get a real buzz out of it now. I think it's largely because the kind of things I'm invited to speak in public at just now are celebratory events and I have the opportunity to share in them with the various different audiences. Whether it's welcoming new citizens, congratulating new graduates or speaking to visitors, it's such a change from the normal grind - and as they say, a change is as good as a rest.

I used to be very shy as a younger person - the idea of speaking in public would have had me running for the hills. Even talking in class or, as I started working, speaking up in meetings was painful. I am so impressed that young people today seem to be more self assured and able to cope with that challenge. I take my hat off to anyone who is willing to give it a try. I was particularly impressed this week with the niece of a friend who not only took on the public speaking challenge, but did so in the form of delivering The Immortal Memory at a Burns Supper - awesome!

All I can say is, keep at it Flik - you're doing great already and just think how confident you'll be in your adult life. I salute you!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011


Now I know what little bottles of wine are for. Making an otherwise painful evening pass with minimum angst!

Monday, 24 January 2011

The Ploughman Poet

Is there for honest Poverty
That hings his head, an' a' that;
The coward slave-we pass him by,
We dare be poor for a' that!
For a' that, an' a' that.
Our toils obscure an' a' that,
The rank is but the guinea's stamp,
The Man's the gowd for a' that.

What though on hamely fare we dine,
Wear hoddin grey, an' a that;
Gie fools their silks, and knaves their wine;
A Man's a Man for a' that:
For a' that, and a' that,
Their tinsel show, an' a' that;
The honest man, tho' e'er sae poor,
Is king o' men for a' that.

Ye see yon birkie, ca'd a lord,
Wha struts, an' stares, an' a' that;
Tho' hundreds worship at his word,
He's but a coof for a' that:
For a' that, an' a' that,
His ribband, star, an' a' that:
The man o' independent mind
He looks an' laughs at a' that.

A prince can mak a belted knight,
A marquis, duke, an' a' that;
But an honest man's abon his might,
Gude faith, he maunna fa' that!
For a' that, an' a' that,
Their dignities an' a' that;
The pith o' sense, an' pride o' worth,
Are higher rank than a' that.

Then let us pray that come it may,
(As come it will for a' that,)
That Sense and Worth, o'er a' the earth,
Shall bear the gree, an' a' that.
For a' that, an' a' that,
It's coming yet for a' that,
That Man to Man, the world o'er,
Shall brothers be for a' that.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Minus one or plus one?

I've blogged before that it doesn't necessarily take two to tango. Well, I guess it does, solo tango woud be an interesting spectacle but probably not that, well, spectacular! But what I mean is that you don't have to be part of a fixed couple to do it. Early last year I discovered that there were classes in Argentine tango locally and, having challenged myself to take more risks and pick more daisies, I decided to go along to the class by myself.

I'm so glad I did. What I found is that I love tango. It's a dance form that it is dramatic, passionate, spontaneous yet disciplined, and above all deeply addictive. I've also found that it's a very social and sociable dance scene. Yes, it's couple based - it does take two to dance the tango. It's a lead dance and for that you need a leader and a follower - ie 2 people. But it's also a scene where everyone dances with everyone else. And, at least in our exclusive circle, everyone looks out for each other.

So, I've got a lot of pleasure from learning and dancing tango - and also from learning to let go and to follow someone else's lead. I've also got a new groups of friends. It does help that I managed to persuade a male acquaintance to come and learn too, and that he has become my dance partner - when he remembers to turn up that is! I suspect it also helps that we're not bad at the dancing either - even if we do say so ourselves.

But at the same time, it can be hard - and it has on occasions prompted some blue moments for me. I've also blogged before about how sometimes it feels like the world is made for two, for couples and that this is the normal way of things, that anyone on their own is somehow abnormal. Heading off to a tango class and not knowing if you'll have anyone to dance with can be like that and can make it hard to look forward to what should be a fun afternoon. Most of the time I can get over that feeling and turn up, have fun and be glad I went. Other times it's just too hard and I give in to the demons. But I'm getting better. Last weekend I felt like that but I still went. Last night's milonga carried the risk too, but again, I went. I was so proud of myself for doing it, and even better, I had a fabulous time - both the dancing and the company.

The theme for yesterday's 30 Day Challenge photo was 'Something that has had a big impact on you recently'. Needless to say, for me it was separating from my (now) ex-husband and striking out on my own. As I said there, fortunately, while it's still hard - by a huge margin now the good days outnumber the bad ones. Long may it continue. And long may I continue to enjoy my tango.

Watch this space in mid February for blog posts from Scotland's first International Tango Festival, happening right here in Stirling and which I'm going to book my tickets and workshops for today!

Posted to The 52 Week Project on Flickr

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Winter wonderland

So cold but so pretty. Days like these are magical!

Friday, 21 January 2011

More meetings with remarkable trees

As regular readers of my blog will know, I have a thing about this particular tree. So when it was all frosty and beautiful today, I nipped round and got this shot of it.

Pretty eh?

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Cooking with gas

Since I came back from my fabulous Christmas holiday with my big sister in Canada, my life has been somewhat hectic and it was only this week that I started cooking again. As regular readers will know, I love cooking. It's one of the things I like to do to relax. So to have been so disorganised and unsettled as to not be cooking, well...

It's not that I haven't made anything to eat - I've been making myself porridge every morning, and sandwiches for supper. I cooked a poached egg earlier this week but it wasn't until Tuesday that I made my first proper dish - mushroom risotto, a recipe I know so well I could make it in my sleep properly.

And tonight I was inspired to make a yummy prawn curry - all from scratch (apart from the curry paste that is) and very good it was too. In fact, I was so pleased that I was inspired to cook that I decided to document it for posterity.

So I started with the chopping:

And then there was some stirring:

followed by some simmering:

And then finishing with the eating!


Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Half full or half empty?

"No pessimist ever discovered the secret of the stars, or sailed to an uncharted land, or opened a new doorway for the human spirit" - Helen Keller

A friend of mine posted this on Facebook today and it made me think. I've always preferred to be an optimist - I find that life is better that way. There is enough unhappiness in the world without creating more for yourself by imagining the worst.

I know the counter argument is about not building up your hopes to have them dashed, and being constantly disappointed when life doesn't turn out as you want. But on balance I'll take the downs when they happen rather than worry about them over much in advance.

I'm not unrealistic about life. I know there are times when life won't be all sunshine and roses. I know bad things happen. I know shit happens. But as I've said in a previous post, I'd rather hope for dolphins than settle for waves.

But I'd never thought about the need for optimism in moving forward. Often it takes the leap of faith, the belief that something will work and the hope that there is a solution that moves us forward. Helen Keller hits the nail on the head - success comes in cans, not can'ts. Giving in and admitting defeat without trying to find a solution achieves nothing. Not trying at all is the most likely way not to succeed, and even if you get a bit bashed around the edges on the way through, at least the chances of getting somewhere is vastly increased.

Unbridled optimism without the balance of realism is dangerous. But unmoderated pessimism is just, well, depressing!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

This morning I walked on diamonds

Oh yes, the icy weather is back. Beautiful and treacherous, but preferable to the grey damp cloud any day as far as I'm concerned.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Old dog... tricks?

One of my challenges for 2011 is to learn new stuff. I've decided it doesn't need to be completely new stuff, even just additions to existing skills count. And since they're my challenges I get to set the rules!

So far this year I've not been doing too badly - I've learned how to knit a moebius loop and a hyperbolic rose. And now I've learned how to create curves with short rows - rows as in toes, not rows and cows as one of my friends sought to clarify!

But it's not all been yarn based learning either. Yesterday I was back to tango with a 2 hour workshop on volcadas, or being thrown off balance whilst dancing to the uninitiated. Great fun, really flamboyant to watch, damned hard to do but great fun. It's all in preparation for the first ever Scottish International Tango Festival that's taking place here in Stirling in February - can't wait, I must get my tickets and classes booked this week.

Shame I'm not making better progress with my other challenges - other than increased blogging that is!

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Low Carbon Food

I blogged yesterday about getting a slow cooker for my Christmas and how this was a more sustainable cooking choice. Of course, when I went back to check it out online, I found that it's not necessarily that straightforward. It seems that if I want the most sustainable modern cooking choice I should probably have gone for a pressure cooker instead. But since I'm a bit wary of things that might explode, and also since I'm looking for convenience I'm happy to compromise a little bit and settle for a slow cooker.

Of course, as the articles I reviewed made clear, the really sustainable cooking choice would be either a hay box or a wood burning stove. But since neither of those are particularly manageable in my rented first floor Victorian flat, a slow cooker it is. Particularly since my oven and hob are both gas and at least some of my electric will be coming from renewable energy sources.

(If you're interested, there is some evidence that microwaving is a relatively sustainable option, given its low power consumption. But having tried a year of living with only a microwave and no hob or oven, I wouldn't recommend it.)

But actually most of the research will tell you that it's far less how you cook than what you cook that makes the difference in sustainability terms. And also how much you use and how much you waste.

For example, meat and dairy are fairly high carbon, so cutting down on both of those is advisable if you want to reduce your carbon footprint. Eating seasonal food is also a big win, as is not eating imported food, particularly if it's been air-freighted in. It can get quite complicated if you're not careful however - if you really do want to eat tomatoes out of season, sometimes buying them from abroad will be lower carbon than buying them from the UK where they've probably been grown under glass with additional power and water (and artificial fertlisers) going into the mix. Organic is generally better too - most artificial fertilisers use fossil fuel derivatives. Buying local is a definite plus point.

But then it gets complicated again - with a growing global population and decreasing food producing land, it's likely that food will start to become a scarce commodity in future. Staple food prices are already under pressure, and food riots have happened elsewhere in the world in the last few years even if we've been isolated from them here in the UK. So, successful ways of optimising food production are something we need to crack, and limiting the use of fertilisers isn't going to help.

Then when you start to look at international trade and the degree to which some developing nations depend on their food exports, it gets even more complicated. Of course, against that you have to balance whether the food exports are actually 'cash crops' that are in fact limiting the ability of a country to produce the food it needs to sustain itself. And then there are Fair Trade considerations too.

As I said, it all can get very complicated and can leave you wondering what to do, and indeed whether anything you do will actually make a difference. For what it's worth, here are my suggestions for the little things we can all do to lower our food carbon impact:

  • Eat less meat and less dairy each week - try at least one day without meat per week
  • Only buy what you need to eat and don't get tempted by the Buy one, get one free offers we're now bombarded with. My sister recommends making up a weekly or monthly recipe schedule and buying to that. I'm not that organised unfortunately!
  • Get better at cooking with leftovers - it's amazing what exciting dishes you can make from what's left in the fridge sometimes!
  • Try to think about how you're cooking your food - don't turn on the oven for small items on their own. If it's going to be on, think about what else you could make as well while you're at it.
  • Think about cooking double quantities and freezing the rest for another day - this is particularly good if you are cooking for one or two. But if you do have and use a freezer, make sure it's well maintained and filled but not to bursting. The same goes for your fridge by the way.
  • Try to buy seasonal food and think about where it's coming from. Local is best, but if it's out of season, imported might be better if it's seasonal where it comes from (ie grown without additional heat) and hasn't been air-freighted in. 
  • Try to buy organic too but don't get too hung up on it. 
  • It's also worth checking out the sustainability of the supplies of food you buy - for example, shark fin soup is a big no-no, as are certain types of fish. Jamie Oliver has a top 10 sustainable fish recipes that are definitely worth a look.
For more information on sustainable and lower carbon food (and other) choices, I'd recommend getting a copy of Mike Berners-Lee's How Bad are Bananas? out of the library. It gives you the carbon footprint of a number of everyday lifestyle choices and activities, together with an explanation about why. Definitely worth a read if you want to know more.

But the most important thing to remember is that no matter how small, all our actions are worth something and even if we don't or can't do it all, the smallest things can add up. As far as I'm concerned, it's better to do something than nothing after all.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Christmas comes but once a year...

...unless you're me that is.

I've just finished celebrating my second Christmas Day with my parents back here in Scotland. As regular readers will now I spent my first Christmas Day with my big sister, Mr Ebb and the Wee Guy out in Canada. So now that I'm back in the UK, it was time to catch up with Mum and Dad and open our remaining Christmas presents.

I got here last night. Mum cooked 2 lovely meals, Santa left me a stocking as well as the pressies from Mum and Dad, and all in all it's been a great Christmas part 2. No snow though - so just like my first Christmas really!

I am worried, however, about my choice of presents. And this is no reflection on my parents or their taste, they gave me what I asked for. And what was that? A pair of slippers and a slow cooker (as well as some great books, the obligatory Dilbert calendar and a really infuriating puzzle ball!) - hmm, is that middle age I hear calling to me from around the corner? Fortunately they also gave me £30, so tomorrow I'm rushing out to spend it on Uggs or a down payment on a ticket to T in the Park with the rest of the yoof!

Meantime, I'll just salivate over the recipes for Sticky Ribs, Lamb Shanks and Pork in Cider. Yum! Wearing my cosy warm slippers of course, and congratulating myself on my lower carbon cooking choice. Next year, a pipe!

Posted to The 52 Week Project on Flickr 

Going, going....

Well, after having built my snowman friend at the end of November, he finally decided to leave me today. This was him this morning as I went out for work, and by the time I got home he was gone completely.

I know for many people it's been a complete pain having had snow since 27th November until now, but I confess to being sad that it's gone and the milder (wetter) weather has replaced it. I love the quiet insulated feeling you get when the world is blanketed in snow, and crisp sunny winter days are my all time favourite.

Over the past year as part of my work, I've been spending time talking to staff about the implications of climate change, what's causing it, how it might affect us and what we can and should do about it. One of the things I've been saying is that as the climate warms we can expect our winters to get shorter, milder and wetter with much less snow and frost. Last winter, of course, was exceptionally cold and snowy over Christmas and New Year (which I missed when I was in Canada) but I spent my year telling people that it had been exceptional and that our winters would indeed change as predicted.

So when this winter's extreme weather started, I was very surprised. Surely if the climate is changing and global temperatures are increasing, we shouldn't get 2 such extreme winters in a row?

Well, there's a couple of things to say - firstly, yes you can get 2 freak events consecutively - just because they're rare doesn't mean they can't happen close to each other. A 100 year flood doesn't mean it only happens every 100 years, it's the likelihood that is 1 in 100. Just as the likelihood of flipping a coin and getting heads is 1 in 2, it doesn't mean that if you get heads one toss, you'll definitely get tails the next.

Secondly, it's important to recognise that what happened in Scotland and the UK this winter and last wasn't what happened across the rest of the Northern Hemisphere. While we've been having extreme cold weather, many parts of the North that are normally cold have been having pretty warm times, at least comparative to what they normally have. This in itself is a worry. The parts that are warmer than normal are those that are meant to be cold - the ones with the tundra and the arctic ice, the ones that sequester carbon/methane and reflect back heat. When they fail, the result is to exacerbate the warming effect. In other words, not good news.

Now, it's all really a bit hard to say exactly what's going on. Climate is a complex thing, and global climate even more so. All the projections are based on models with many thousands of variables, each with their own set of interreactions. But a post recently on George Monbiot's blog did suggest that far from being freak random events, the arctic oscillation that we've experienced for the past 2 years may in itself be a result of climate change. As a commentator at a conference I attended in 2009 said, there is no longer any such thing as natural weather, it's now all man-made. 

By the way, weather and climate are not the same. Global warming is to do with climate, weather is something else entirely - it derives from climate but is not the same thing. (Even if you're bored with the rest of this post, by the way, I'd advise you click this link! Trust me, it's fun)

Thursday, 13 January 2011


I'm currently participating in the 30 Day Photo Challenge, freely stolen from my friend Frances (who is currently not feeling too good. Get well soon, Frances, you have a fanny to freeze next week!) and subsequently borrowed by my happiest of friends, Kitty.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the challenge is to post a photo a day for 30 days on a particular daily theme. So far I've had to think about who I am, who I'm close to, what my favourite memory is, what I watch on TV, what I do of an evening, what makes me laugh and what my most treasured possession is (hence the passport pic, but you'll have to check out the 30 day challenge album to understand why).

It's good fun and it's also making me think. Some of these are questions that I don't really ask myself. I find that I glide (or often, stumble) through life without really stopping to think about it. Having to decide what is my favourite memory, most treasured possession or even just most liked TV show is not something I do normally. And I think it's good practice for me as I gear up to answer my number 1 question for this year - what do I want to be or do when I eventually grow up?

No answers yet, but just getting the brain in gear is a help!

Oh, and I'm also doing the 52 week Photo Project and have signed up for A Million Little Pictures too. 2011 is visually stimulating so far!

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

There is beauty in small things

WHAT is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare?—
No time to stand beneath the boughs,
And stare as long as sheep and cows:
No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass:
No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night:
No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance:
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began?
A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
 WH Davies

I was going to post this today anyway because it's been in my head. But then I heard that someone I knew when I was younger died yesterday before her time and it just reinforced that we all need to take time to live our lives, notice the joy and beauty around us and not put off happiness if we have the opportunity for it. We should grab life and love with both hands and hold it close to ourselves, enjoying its warmth and sharing it with others. We should take time to celebrate the beauty around us.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Focused minds

It was Day 2 of my return to work from holiday today. And not just your average post Christmas holiday return. Oh no, mine was also jet lag fuelled. Oh joy!

While it may have looked like I was doodling and not listening in this morning's work meeting, I was in fact concentrating really hard. There is good evidence to suggest that doodling helps with recall of things discussed during even the most boring meetings.

Not that this morning's meeting was boring, I hasten to add. Any signs of dozing off were entirely due to the jet lag.  And I can of course recall every word!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

14 days of joy

As regular readers of my blog will know, I've just got back from spending Christmas and New Year with my big sister and her family out in Canada. It was a fantastic holiday and - courtesy of Big Huge Labs  mosiac maker - I've gathered together a few shots that sum it up for me. The full photo album is available on my Flickr page.

It may only have been 14 days but it felt much longer (in a good way!) and I've come back feeling relaxed and at ease. I would say I'm feeling happy but I'm missing my sister too much at the moment for that, but my break has definitely helped my soul.

It's also been quite successful at helping my health too. Thanks to my sister's fantastic cooking I've managed to put back on all the weight I lost from my pre-Christmas 'flu episode.

So, now all that remains is to unpack, do the washing, get some supplies in and get ready for heading back to full reality (otherwise known as work) tomorrow. But for the time-being, I'll continue my holiday with a coffee and free WiFi at my latest Stirling haunt.

Saturday, 8 January 2011

So good ... be back home again, even if I am missing my big sister, Mr Ebb and the Wee Guy dreadfully. They are off skiing on Grouse at the moment, so I can't even phone them for a chat. Although if the jet lag works its magic, I may well still be awake by the time they get home!! You would think after 22 hours travelling I would be sleepy by now?

The journey home was fine, or as fine as leaving family behind on the wrong side of the departures gate can ever be. The Air Canada flight left on time, even if they did charge me excess baggage for no good reason (grr) and arrived in Heathrow on time. I managed about 4 hours sleep on the plane and, apart from a bad case of restless legs as I was trying to drop off, it was all very comfortable. I managed to navigate my way through Flight Connections without mishap this year too (last time I got lost and went round about 3 times before finding the way out!) to get me from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 at Heathrow.

But then disaster struck! Well, not quite disaster but certainly delay. Everyone doing the snow dance for me must have got their steps muddled I think. Instead of dumping huge amounts of snow at Heathrow and therefore preventing my departure from Canada, the weather gods diverted the snow to Edinburgh, delaying my arrival back home by about 4 hours. And also messing up my carefully crafted transfer arrangements from Edinburgh Airport back to Stirling. So instead, I managed to get another couple of 'first' experiences under my belt - a taxi transfer home from the airport (ouch, expensivo!) and arriving at an airport and not being met by anyone. I wouldn't recommend either experience to be honest!

While at Heathrow for my additional 4 hours I whiled away the time on my Netbook, chatting to a fellow delayed traveller and knitting (yes, the dreaded Moebius cowl in its second incarnation - looking much more promising this time). I did NOT - contrary to many friends' text suggestions - go shopping for shoes. Honest!

And now I'm back home - to a lovely warm flat, with running water. And 4 inches of snow. So, what was the first thing I did after I'd dumped the bags and cleared the snow from the steps? Built a snowman of course. A mini one, admittedly, but a snow man all the same!

As one of my other texts commented this afternoon, welcome back to the new year in Scotland - looks pretty much like the old year did when I left. Back to the familiar sites of a snow covered car with no easy possibility of driving off any time soon. And also back to the familiar welcoming sight just inside the front door - snowy boots drying off! There is, after all, comfort in familar things. And I do like the snow!!

PS Still missing you big sis xxx

Still moving

Well, my sock monkey and I are still travelling. After our 10 hour flight from Vancouver, we are now ensconced in Terminal 1 at Heathrow where our flight to Edinburgh has been delayed by 3 hours due to snow at Edinburgh. The airport itself is now open but our flight seems to have been caught in the delay loop - the flight by the same carrier leaving after our scheduled time isn't delayed however. How does that work?

Luckily sock monkey was clever enough to pack a good book to read and I have my netbook (fully charged) and my mobile internet connection to keep me occupied. I also have sock monkey's book for when she finishes it and my moebius knitting (2nd time lucky?). Between all of that we should have enough to keep us busy until our flight leaves. (You'll be pleased to know that I also packed spare undies and wash stuff so I am at least clean for my extra delay - no doubt much to the relief of my airport pick up at Edinburgh!)

Does anyone else think it's ironic that Vancouver Airport - that's Vancouver in Canada, that country in northern North America, close to the mountains, famed for its winter sports, - was completely clear and open while Edinburgh has yet more snow?

UPDATE 15.35 Looks like the outbound flight from Edinburgh is just about to leave so looking a bit more hopeful that I'll get home tonight, and hopefully not too late for my very obliging lift (thanks Hazel!) 

Goodbye Vancouver.

See you next time. And there is such a thing as a pretty airport after all it seems!

Friday, 7 January 2011

That's all folks ... for now!

Sadly, it's the last afternoon and almost time for me to head back to the UK. I have had a fantastic time and am really sad to be going. Mind you, with a view like this who wouldn't be?

A huge thank you to big sis, the Wee Guy and Mr Ebb for having me (again) for Christmas and New Year. It's been a blast. Looking forward to the summer now when I get to return the favour.

Every second passing is a second closer to summer according to the Wee Guy - what a great idea!

Art - day 2

Art day 2 involved a visit to the opening of a new exhibition at Port Moody Art Centre (where big sis will be having her own exhibition later in the spring). It was great fun - some of us explored the art, some of us watched the cable TV crew filming the proceedings and some of us just guzzled the buffet!

The exhibition was very good - 4 artists, 3 from British Columbia, of whom 2 were very local and one was from Kelowna, and 1 American. All the work was amazing - but special mention to Jennifer Macauley who painted the work you can just see behind the Wee Guy, and Kirsten Chursinoff who creates the most beautiful and delicate fibre art.

It was almost (but not quite) enough to take my mind off the fact that I fly home tomorrow (or later today if you're reading this in the UK, although it will also be your tomorrow by then anyway - eh?) and that I had to pack everything up tonight. The goodbyes don't get any easier unfortunately. But at least I have the prospect of a long visit from big sis and the Wee Guy to look forward to this summer.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

Art for art's sake

Yesterday was supposed to be a trip up to Grouse Mountain to go downhill (as opposed to cross-country) skiing but Beautiful British Columbia has reverted back to normal winter weather (ie raining/sleeting) and since I refuse to ski in anything that resembles traditional Scottish skiing conditions, we had to find something else to do instead.

And that something else was visiting Vancouver Art Gallery. It's somewhere I've been meaning to visit for the last few times I've been over here but the closest big sis and I had got before yesterday was a yummy lunch in the cafe.  We did that again yesterday but we also managed to get into the exhibitions as well. There were 2 amazing ones in particular - a massive one detailing the work of photographer Robert Adams, with over 300 of his photographs, the main theme of which seemed to be the interplay between man and the environment - with the environment not really coming out on top; and a deeply disturbing piece of conceptual art called Waste Not, which involved the artist laying out the entire contents of his mother's pack-rat collection of junk and ephemera for the world to see. Definitely not one for the faint-hearted or the neat freaks, although it was all very neatly arranged. There was also an exhibition of art featuring Everyday Objects but by that time I'd overloaded on modern art and it was time to go.

To be fair, if I'd wanted just to see art I wouldn't have needed to leave the house. My sister is a very talented jewellery and fibre artist in her own right. Currently she's preparing for 2 exhibitions - a group one (Roots) starting later this month and then a solo exhibition at Port Moody Art Gallery in April.

She's also just gone back to school after (hem, hem) 20+ years to try to meld her more recently acquired skills and interests with her former/formal scientific training. Her first day was on Tuesday and she looked quite the part, even if she wasn't quite sure if she felt it or not.

On top of all of this, she's also a Mum to a Little Person. Personally, I don't know how she does it. I have enough trouble getting my shit life together and it's just me!! Oh, and she has a PhD as well. As you might have gathered, I'm pretty proud of my big sister.

As for today, well it's raining again, big sis is back at school, I head back to the UK tomorrow so for now I'm just mooching around Newport Village and Suter Brook, browsing the shops and testing the free WiFi spots. A last relax before the return journey to reality - and my 2011 missions.

Meanwhile, I mustn't forget the eggs!

30 things

My online friend and inspirator (is that a word? if not it should be!), Kitty Pinkstars blogged today about the importance of finding things that make you smile and suggested making a list of 30 things, just as they come to mind and in no particular order.

So here goes. My 30 things that make me smile out loud are:

  1. My nephew's infectious giggle
  2. Beautiful sunsets
  3. Pure white untouched snow
  4. The first green leaves of spring
  5. Snowdrops, crocus and daffodils - all the spring flowers
  6. Cherry blossom
  7. The perfect Cosmopolitan
  8. Lunch with friends
  9. Completing a project
  10. Starting a project
  11. A home cooked meal
  12. Coffee and good company
  13. Mastering a new step at tango
  14. Candles and a log fire
  15. Fresh sheets
  16. A cosy hot water bottle
  17. A crisp winter morning
  18. Dawn on a perfect summer day
  19. The seaside in any weather
  20. Fish and chips
  21. Tom & Jerry cartoons
  22. Watching clouds
  23. Bonfires
  24. Singstar battles
  25. Getting to the top of the hill
  26. Misty mornings
  27. Unexpected mail items
  28. The end of a run
  29. Holiday adventures
  30. Being met at the airport

So what's your list?

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Parenting Aunty B style

Of course Nessie comes to BC for her Christmas holidays every year - you just need to look harder!
One of the joys of being an Aunty is the reckless approach one can take to the part-time parenting that you get involved in.

I first met my nephew when he was about 8 months old and had started to crawl quite successfully on his own. He was safely corralled in what was known as the Baby Pit, the living area of the apartment that was 3 steps down from the rest of the ground floor. So what did Aunty B do - as well as starting what is now known as the Dinosaur obsession? She taught the Wee Guy how to climb stairs. Strangely enough, big sis wasn't too pleased. Can't think why! The only thing he could access was the kitchen, the front door and the vertiginous stairs to the rest of the apartment.

Mum and son
Eat up, it's ok Aunty B didn't make it this time
When he was a bit older I taught him what happens when you get sunscreen in your eyes - apparently it's really nippy and causes lots of tears - and also how to stick out his tongue, and blow raspberries. We also discovered that he has a really noisy neck, arm and belly. I think I tried to teach him how to say 'bollocks' but he wasn't having any of it - and since he already pronounced 'tr' as 'f' and loved pointing out trucks on the freeway, there was nothing new to teach there. 

Santa Wiis
Honest, if you sit there all night pointing the remote at the screen, Santa will appear even if you have been bad
This holiday I've taken to hypnotising him to eat his dinner - it's all about the eyes you know - and he now thinks I have reversey glasses that make me immune to his otherwise awesome hypnotic abilities.

Windswept me
Cultivating the mad scientist look

But the piece de resistance has to be Aunty B's strange but true scientific theories. So far I have managed to convince him that gravity is something to do with velcro, dinosaurs became extinct when they slide off the edge of the world (obviously before velcro was invented), things get hot by jumping up and down but it can only happen when it's light because otherwise they'd bump into each other (and that's why it's warmer during the day than at night) and that photosynthesis is caused by little pixies inside plants mixing blue water with yellow sunlight, making it into paint and then nipping out at night to brush it on the leaves etc. I'm working on a theory of evolution and what's causing climate change but I think they might just be too controversial cruel even for an Aunty...

Strangely my brother in law now thinks home schooling would be a really bad idea.

Yup, son. I think if you hold down the lid and I get the packing tape we should be able to post her back to the UK after the public holiday

Tuesday, 4 January 2011


Another of my resolutions for 2011 is to take more exercise. It is somewhat ironic that while 2010 was the year I took up running and ran my first 10k road race, this is the least fit I've been in a long time. It hasn't helped that I haven't run since my 10k back in September (excuses being - needing new shoes, rain, dark nights, snow) or that the gym I used to go to closed down and I haven't quite got round to joining another. But the upshot is that I am so out of condition - and I don't think I can just blame it on the 'flu either!

So when big sis and I went out snow shoeing at Cypress today, it was a bit sore on theold (sadly true these days!) muscles - the gluteal ones to be precise! But it was also very very pretty, so it was all worth it - and heck, I might even have kick started my body into wanting more exercise. You never know!

I don't think the foot wear will ever catch on though!

Posted to The 52 Week Project on Flickr

Monday, 3 January 2011

Something new

One of my resolutions for this year was to learn something new. And while I already know how to knit, this definitely counts as a new variation if not a completely new skills.

So what is it? It's Moebius knitting and while it doesn't look like anything special, it's really quite freaky - you knit both sides of a twist at the same time and where you start from ends up in the middle of the piece rather than at an end. I know I'm not describing it very well, but effectively you knit, in one go, a moebius strip - a twist with no end and only one side. Hmm! Maybe you'd better just tune back in to see the finished article in a few days!!

And in case you think I'm neglecting my crochet, I've also started to dabble with freeform crochet - the ruffled items above being exhibits A and B. They're examples of hyperbolic crochet and incredibly easy to create - just keep doubling the number of stitches each row/round until you're happy with the end result. Hours of fun!

And now, time to get up and go snow shoeing! See you later, blog readers.