Scaled Back

This week’s WordPress photo challenge is all about scale.

This week, share an image that highlights a size relationship — make us pause and take a second look to understand the scale of the elements in your photo.

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Cleaning the windows: 72 floors up. The building so close behind them is actually a block down and across the street.

This is the first time I’ve actually seen them out there cleaning – I guess normally they come earlier in the morning.

While I love heights, have taken classes in aerial silks and enjoy rock climbing, dangling from a “string” 723 feet above the city is a bit too much for me.

“I’m not going to ride on a magic carpet!” he hissed. “I’m afraid of grounds.”

“You mean heights,” said Conina. “And stop being silly.”

“I know what I mean! It’s the grounds that kill you!”

— (Terry Pratchett, Sourcery)

A sea of serenity

This week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge asked that you publish a photo conveying serenity.

I’m finally starting to feel a little calmer, now that I’m physically several hours and mentally several hundred miles away from the cacophony of my office, phone and computer.  It’s been…well, it’s been a week.

A glass of wine and a snugly blanket are doing a bang up job of helping me relax.

I’ll spare you a selfie of me chilling out on the couch, since I’d rather show you some pretty pictures of light and ocean – something that always makes me feel calm, peaceful and effortless.

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I took these when we were in Rosemary Beach, back in October.

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I don’t think there can be bad sunsets, but theirs seem to be particularly lovely, with sea, sand and sky like molten metal.

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Right now, I’m wishing to be…

…basking in that serenity.

Feelin’ the Burns

So far this NaBloPoMo, I’ve managed to write a fresh post every day without resorting to a re-post of one of my old favorites. However, I noticed a fun-sounding  Post-a-Day yesterday when I was scrolling through the Reader and realized I had written something years ago that would respond beautifully to the challenge.  It brings up some great memories, too, so I thought I would share again.

“What’s the most elaborate, complicated meal you’ve ever cooked? Was it a triumph for the ages, or a colossal fiasco? Give us the behind-the-scenes story (pictures are welcome, of course).”

This is a story from 2011, right after my husband and I met, about a very special dinner.

The Last (Burn’s) Supper

Just in case you’ve missed the clues, I am a Ferguson. For the uninitiated, uninformed or uncaring, that means I’m of Scottish heritage, something my family is insanely proud of; after all, we are descendants of the first kings of Scotland. Our royal pedigree made absolute sense when I found out – I’ve always felt I was a princess, my tiara is simply implied.

Clann Ferguson Badge

Imagine my delight when my fabulous new boyfriend, David, turns out to be of Scottish ancestry as well–Clann Douglass, to be exact. Visions of bagpipes and Caber Tosses dancing in my head, I turned to him one January night and asked him the question burning so long and lonely in my soul:

“Would you host a Burns Supper with me?”

So for those uninitiated, uninformed or uncaring (and for you now joining them) Burns Supper is one of the major Scottish Holidays (along with Tartan Day, Hogmanay and St. Andrew’s Day) celebrated by Scots around the world. Specifically, it’s the commemoration of the life and works of famous Scottish poet, Robert Burns, who was born in 1759, and has been known as the “Bard of Scotland.” Burns is revered for his egalitarian beliefs (rare for those days) and his works, most notably poems such as “To a Mouse,” which inspired the Steinbeck novel Of Mice and Men; and “My Heart’s in the Highlands;” and the traditional New Year’s anthem, “Auld Lang Syne,” a classic to this day. Typically Burns Night, or simply “Burns Supper” is held on the anniversary of his birthday, January 25th, and is celebrated by eating the customary supper of haggis, neeps and tatties, reading his poems, singing his songs and downing shots of Scotch Whiskey to toast his “immortal memory.”

Since eating, drinking and being of Scottish descent come somewhat naturally to me, I had always aspired to host a Burns Supper, but in the past had found myself overwhelmed by the proscribed ritual: the entire night is shaped around a complicated timeline of speeches, toasts and songs a little beyond my American-born and raised sensibilities. I was also intimidated (read: flat out terrified) at the thought of creating the traditional menu, as it stars not only “Neeps and Tatties” (mashed turnips-bleck! and potatoes) but features the dread Haggis as centerpiece of the entire event. To be honest, for me, organ meat steamed in sheep intestine doesn’t exactly pique any desire to chow.

The Dread Haggis

The Dread Haggis

Ahh, but now! A partner in crime! Not only Scottish, but an excellent chef and delightfully (and possibly foolishly) excited to do things with me. Let the (Highland) games begin!

We decided to stage the event at David’s house, since he would be doing most of the cooking. If you’ve been following along with my blogging adventures, you know by now that I’m not only not much of a chef, but neither do I possess the culinary infrastructure required for major meal production. The guest list was easy: my dear friend (and fellow Scottish-American) Dana McPherson, who I knew was not only familiar with Burns Supper, but culinarily adventurous, free that evening and and in possession of a formal dress kilt with no apprehension to wearing.

Me and my bonnie laddie in our Scottish finery

The next step was to convert the menu to something that, in my opinion, was actually edible. Judicious internet research revealed, ta dumm!, that others share my aversion to turnips and tripe, and have created alternatives to the classic offal and root veg offering. Armed with a “Neo-Scottish” menu and a sheath of recipes, David took over in the kitchen, leaving me to figure out my wardrobe for the evening. David, despite limited mobility due to a broken leg (fodder for another blog post) had managed to acquire a last-minute formal dress kilt, but I was scrappin’ for anything fancy-n-Ferguson, finally donning a royal blue velvet Betsy Johnson slip dress with my Ferguson scarf jauntily knotted over one shoulder and afixed with our Clann kilt pin. Not nearly as fabulous as the boys, but would have to do.

Due to a spectacular and incendiary incident with a can of compressed air and a faulty furnace (yes, also most likely another blog post) Dana arrived late, a little crispy around the edges, but properly bandaged and bearing our evening’s libations. He was primed with pain meds, but David and I had taken the precaution of blunting our trepidacious tummies with the contents of a bottle of champagne (a Nicolas Feuillatte Cuvee Palmes d’Or 1996, a gift from Dana and a really incredible bottle of wine, btw.), so we were all three buzzily excited when we finally sat down around 10 p.m. for our official celebration.

David and Dana

The first order of business, according to Tradition, is to say a blessing, called the Selkirk Grace or the Kircudbright Grace, made famous by Burns who recited it for the Earl of Selkirk near Kircudbright.

Some hae meat and canna eat
And some wad eat that want it
But we hae meat and we can eat
And sae the Lord be thankit

Next up: the grand event! David, bless his heart, had not only undertaken cooking the entire dinner (hey, I did make the salad) but had also spent weeks learning the infamous Burns’ poem, “Address to a Haggis.” According to ritual, after the salad (or first course), the haggis is born in triumphantly (ahem) on a platter, accompanied by bagpipe music. The host then lauds the haggis with Burns’ immortal tribute.

Me and Dana

David may have cheated a little by having the poem pulled up his Blackberry
(ahh, modern technology) but executed it with such zeal and such an admirable brogue, that Dana and I were stunned into silence. (Well, to be honest, we were mostly stunned from two bottles of excellent Chardonnay, a 2002 Darioush Reserve, and if you listen to the video we took of the night, the “silence” part is also a little questionable.) Needless to say, we were pretty impressed.

Address to a Haggis
Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.
The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hudies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o’ need,
While thro’ your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.
His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An’ cut ye up wi’ ready slight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like onie ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reeking, rich!
Then horn for horn, they stretch an’ strive:
Deil tak the hindmost, on they drive,
Till a’ their weel-swall’d kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
‘Bethankit!’ hums.
Is there that owre his French ragout,
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi perfect scunner,
Looks down wi’ sneering, scornfu’ view
On sic a dinner?

David’s Address to A Haggis

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckless as a wither’d rash,
His spindle shank a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Tho’ bluidy flood or field to dash,
O how unfit.
But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread,
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He’ll make it whistle;
An’ legs, an’ arms, an’ heads will sned
Like taps o’ thrissle.
Ye pow’rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o’ fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware,
That jaups in luggies;
But if ye wish her gratfu’ prayer,
Gie her a Haggis!

The poem ends with a dramatic (and somewhat violent) stabbing of the Haggis (I presume to let out the steam, but knowing what goes into traditional haggis, my thought is it probably originated as a precaution). I have to say, David did a spectacular job – the Neo-Haggis was really quite tasty and I went back for seconds of Neeps N Tatties!

We paired the entree with Dana’s contribution of a 2000 Darioush Reserve Cabernet –truly an exceptional wine (not that we were in any perceived danger of dehydration by then) which David broke up with shots of Johnny Walker Black Label Scotch for inspiration.

Enjoying an amazing meal

The evening’s framework cust0marily calls for more toasts and speeches, including a toast to Burns’ Immortal Memory and a “Toast to the Lassies” to which I had prepared the counter-toast, the “Reply to the Laddies,” (“Down with trousers! Up with kilts!”) but it was so late by the time we’d finished dinner that we decided to save them for next year. It was a truly lovely night, dare I say say intoxicating, in every way, with great companionship and wonderful food and wines. What a fun, fabulous and incredible ode to our heritage!

Now, on to Hogmanay!

NaBloPoMo Day 29: Let there be light

This week’s photo challenge on WordPress: in a new post created for this challenge, share a photo that captures a light source.

We’re enjoying a relaxing and lovely family vacation up in the North Georgia mountains.

It’s been amazing sleeping in with no agenda or schedule, reading a book curled up before a roaring fire or just sitting in front of the huge picture windows: drinking in the rich blue heavens, sunlight sparkling on the lakes below us, color saturating sunrises and sunsets in bands of jewel-toned strata.

Such a blessing to spend time with our parents; cooking, eating and drinking, catching up and swapping stories and watching old movies late into the night.

It’s so hard to break away to write, so I’ll accept the photo challenge and share instead a glimpse into our light-dazzled mountain views.

sunset

NaBloPoMo Day 22: Pick Your Power

Today’s WordPress Daily Prompt: You get to choose one superpower. Pick one of these, and explain your choice:
•the ability to speak and understand any language
•the ability to travel through time
•the ability to make any two people agree with each other

I pick the ability to travel through time.

Last week, fellow blogger Priceless Joy sent a lovely letter back through time to her 8-year old self and challenged the rest of us to do the same.

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  • Had I the power, I think I would choose to go back in time and visit my 4-year old self, this sweet little girl you see here.

    She’s still unscarred from her parent’s divorce and all the meanness life throws at you as you grow up. She fully believes that everyone around her loves her because she’s lovable. I wish I could get to her before she ever lost that.

    I would tell her to be strong and stay strong. That everything’s going to be alright.

    I would let her know that she will grow into her feet.

    I would tell her not to worry so much about trying to please everyone. Bless her heart, she tied herself in knots trying to be everything for everyone for so many years. I would hug her and let her know that it’s most important that she’s happy with herself.

    I would let her know that one day she will meet the love of her life. That it’s going to take a really, really long time, and it’s going to be very lonely for a lot of that time, but not to give up because she will, finally, find her prince.

    I would advise her to spend every moment she could with her grandmother. Not to get angry or impatient when her Granny brushed her bangs out of her eyes, “so she could see her pretty face.” To ask more questions and listen to all the stories and to learn how to make fried summer squash and pot roast the same way her Granny did. To know how irreplacable her grandmother’s unquestioning love and support was and to value every single second she was with her.

    I would encourage her to dream huge. To go after her dreams with all her heart and let nothing or no one stop her. And that’s it’s okay to make mistakes – mistakes are how you learn. The important thing is to never quit.

    And I would hope that she liked me, this person she turned out to be.

    But maybe through this visit, she’d turn out a little better,
    and get there a little easier,
    and never for one single second, lose the belief that she deserves to be loved.

  • NaBloPoMo Day 13: Inside the Actor’s Studio

    NaBloPoMo_November_small_0Trying to come up with a new topic for today’s blog, I ran across this WordPress Daily prompt and thought it was pretty interesting.

    On the interview show Inside the Actors’ Studio, host James Lipton asks each of his guests the same ten questions.

    What are your responses?

    What is your favorite word?
    – Heliotrope
    What is your least favorite word?
    – Mucous
    What turns you on creatively, spiritually or emotionally?
    – Making a connection with someone. When there is an instant bond and chemistry.
    What turns you off?
    – Overly judgmental reactions.
    What is your favorite curse word?
    – Rampant Douchebaggery.
    What sound or noise do you love?
    – I love the sound of rain. Trains. Fiddles.
    What sound or noise do you hate?
    – Any kind of alarm sound. It makes me panic.
    What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
    – Television host. Author.
    What profession would you not like to do?
    – Accountant.
    If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates?
    – I’m proud of you for living and loving with all of your heart, and moving through your fears.

    NaBloPoMo Day 9: Weekly Photo Challenge – Habit

    NaBloPoMo_November_small_0I am definitely enjoying NaBloPoMo so far,  that is if enjoy is the best word. There’s certainly a thrill in the challenge.

    I  do like that I’ve made a commitment to writing.  Well at least to posting – I’ve managed to put something up every day. I still have a feeling of accomplishment  however fledgling; that I’ve created something, taken one step closer to my goal, created a routine of blogging.

    So far I’ve shown you a lot of images, but I haven’t shared a lot of words.  I’m hoping this will change – I do have things to say.  Right now, with the stress of work and the fear of failing, it’s all muddled into a giant puddle in my head, needing to be sorted and categorized and mastered.

    In the meantime, I have pictures. 

    That’s how the words start in my head, after all. I am truly grateful for the daily prompts and photo challenges giving me an opportunity to show you these images; the seeds of my words, the foundation of this new habit.

    Coincidentally, this week’s WordPress photo challenge (and this day’s writing “cop-out” since I spent the entire afternoon cleaning the loft and doing unskilled surgery on my vacuum cleaner):

    “Show us something that’s a HABIT. Capture a moment both constant and fleeting.”

    Many bloggers posting to this challenge have shown moments from the habit of their daily lives.  It’s a lovely window into their uniqueness, illustrating the individual behind the post.

    Here’s a snippet from some of my my “habits” – a snapshot of a typical midweek morning.  I hope you enjoy the look.

    The first request for breakfast.

    Upon waking, the first {semi-polite} request for breakfast.

    The next request for breakfast.

    The next request for breakfast, this one with a little more volume. And muscle.

    Coffee on the veranda as the sun comes up.

    Maybe time for coffee on the veranda as the sun comes up. More likely running maniacally around the loft looking for my I.D. badge or name tag.

    It's one of the prettiest angles of the city skyline but it's a lot of cars between me and my office.

    It’s one of the prettiest angles of the city skyline but there’s still a lot of cars sandwiched between me and my office.

    Winding my way to the heart of downtown.

    Winding my way to the heart of downtown.

    Ten or twenty minutes to wrassle an elevator to the top, but the view outside my office is pretty sweet.  Now, on to work!

    Ten or twenty minutes to wrassle an elevator to the top, but the view outside my office is pretty sweet. Now, on to work!