Friday, 31 August 2018

Incholm Abbey

So, no rest for the wicked! After our fabulous long weekend adventures, we had a (mis)adventure around Incholm Abbey on Wednesday. Not to be confused with Inchmahome, which we have previously visited, when holidaying in the Trossachs! Incholm is located on the Firth of Forth, and its name means "Columba's Island" whereas the latter is located in the Lake of Menteith, near Aberfoyle - a very important distinction we have discovered in retrospect!
Incholm is one of those sites I've really fancied for a while now, but it's only open on season whereas we do the bulk of our weekends out and about off season. With it being an on season weekday, the hubby and I figured we should give it a go and hope for the best.
We weren't disappointed!

To get to the island requires catching a boat over - we used the Maid of the Forth ferry (recommended via the historic Scotland website) and pre-booked ourselves onto the morning boat at a cost if £14 each (£20 for non historic Scotland members). A quick double check showed that they were indeed dog friendly and we enjoyed a half hour boat ride out to the island. Although it was sunny, autumn is certainly about as there was a definite chill in the air. We've both caught small-child-lurgy and decided to sit downstairs in the warmth and watch the scenery in comfort and away from any wind chill. A wise choice I suspect owing to overheard comments.

After a delightful loop-de-loop about a small rocky outcrop full of seals, the priory soon came into view. It was far more intact than we had expected and, with an hour and a half until pick up, we got our kids quiz and were off. There were rangers showing off sea life and a monk doing a walking tour, but we decided to have a meander about the priory at our own pace. We found the kitchens and the dormitory and the quad and enjoyed a wandering through the maze of buildings. The quiz came in hand otherwise we would have missed the delightful octagonal Chapter House - another reason they are certainly worth picking up! It was as we scaled up the bell tower however that Missy had her misadventure. 

Clearly in an adventurous mood!
When it comes to narrow spiral staircases, we tend to have one of us go up/down and then allow Missy off the lead at the all clear to safely get up or down at her own pace without tripping people up or wrapping them up in her lead. This time however, as the hubby was scaling up a very steep staircase, which was really more a glorified step ladder, Missy launched herself up them and dragged me along with her before either of us had realised that it was going to be far too steep to get down again. Deeming it a future problem, we went up to the view point and found a pair of German tourists who were very surprised to see Missy.
I shuffled backwards down the steps first, trying to encourage Missy down with some biscuits as our new audience looked on. The hubby decided to allow them down first and, as I discussed with the lady of the couple about how the stairs somehow felt steeper coming down, we overheard my hubby explaining that he would just carry Missy down, at which point the German lady shouted up, asking if he would carry her down too!
In hindsight, I rather wish I had taken a photo. It was not one of Missy's finer moments. Scooped up in one arm (so that the hubby could hold the rail with the other, we normally carry her in two) she paddled her legs uselessly in the air and kept trying to catch the rail as they slowly advanced downwards, gaining a round of applause from our new German friends when she was eventually placed down on solid stone. We allowed them to go down the tiny windy staircase first whilst Missy shook the embarrassment out of her fur and then behaved perfectly for the rest of the day, doing exactly as she was told.

Missy rather pleased with herself after being rescued!
We realised that the island had a military base and a walk, but had used up most of our time going about the Abbey. Once safely back on the ferry, we were told that, so long as its not the peak of high season, if we just notify the crew, they are generally good to let you catch a later boat to give you more time on Incholm, which is likely what we will do next time we go. Chatting to the monk tour guide, we also had another odd phenomenon explained to us - that to Inchgnome island, a rock outcrop beside Incholm where, during the winter breeding season, gnomes appear and multiply. In 2014 they applied for Independence from Scotland but were denied, and apparently next year they will be applying again. We were told to keep an eye out on the web, so I'm not sure if its a campaign on Historic Scotland's part, or all part of an elaborate joke that our monk friend was in on, but I'm certainly going to keep an eye out!

The tour finished with more seals and a swooping sail beneath the three bridges, all of which we were informed over the loudspeaker, were record holders in their own right. A rather marvellous way to end our little misadventure!

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Big Celebrations

Well, August is that month in my family, the one where everyone seems to have their birthday and every week has cake scheduled in it. With the hubby's birthday landing on the bank holiday Monday this year, my sister was able to manage a sneaky wee visit up with the promise of a big get together with the family, as well as tons of Aunty and Uncle time for us with her two.

Firstly, I was able to pass on the big sewing project I've been working on for my sisters birthday. I found this amazing print and just knew my sister needed a dress in it. With the whole family being cat daft (I'm working on my nephew to be in team dog), I couldn't resist the opportunity to make some matching pieces for the kids too. I have threatened a matching waistcoat for the brother in law (he did get a matching tie that I forgot to photograph!). Check out the AWESOME hat I got in return!

Saturday was a BBQ at my older sister's house as a small get together. We had originally intended on meeting for a dog walk at the kelpies first, but upon arrival discovered it completely full with no parking available. It didn't spoil the day as we had been running late to begin with, and afterwards, once the kids were safely in bed, we adults enjoyed a murder mystery party with friends. Alas, I was not the murderer, but with my false beard certainly got the kudos of the best costume! It's the first murder mystery we've had were people 'died' during the course of the meal! A good laugh!

Sunday was a packed itinerary! We started the day swimming and continued on the water theme with a very soggy doggy show as we attended the West Calder Dogs Trust fun day. After completely acing temptation alley and showing us all that old dogs can still learn new tricks at the agility, we all gave up during the egg and spoon race. Whilst we grown ups didn't mind the rain, it wasn't fair to keep the little ones put in it. So we decided to bring forward the family birthday bonanza.

A very soggy doggy - just imagine what the kids were like!

With four cakes on the table, there was certainly no shortage of treats! I tried to keep things varied with a nice marzipan sponge for my sister, the rocky road/white Christmas layer cake which was mine, the chocolate Dalek piƱata cake (hubby's) and the sugar free monstrosity that was for my brother in law. The BIL was an honorary mention as his birthday had not been celebrated within the family and it was my first shot at making him a cake. Whilst making a fully sugar free dessert was a challenge, I was happy with the outcome - my niece enjoyed helping to decorate it and chose where to place the characters. I'll have a master baker out of her yet!

After the cake, we ushered the family out of the way and took the kids to the walking with dinosaurs arena show. I will be honest, I wasn't sure about taking a 15 month old to the show, but he was absolutely enthralled for the whole thing, and even cheered on the torosaurs during their battle!

We took hubby's birthday quiet. With such a late night the kids were understandably tired, so we gave the Kelpies another shot and this time were successful. It's the first time the play park has been quiet enough that I felt I could play in it myself, and I will say that it's a superb play park - even if most of us got stuck in the twisty slide! We followed that with soft play were we treated ourselves to hot chocolate and cake (yes, more cake) and watched my nephew figure out how to get onto a slide himself and go down.

Yesterday was home day for my sister. After a morning of reassembling the house (my niece was rubbing elbows with the boys in the man shed playing beetle drive - my sister did try to sneak in with the aforementioned false beard and was denied access!) we went trampolining. It was a good way to end the visit as the kids were tuckered out and there was no complaints about having to go home. my niece did try her hardest to convince her parents to stay longer, but with them both working the next day, there was little room for negotiation.

All in all a very good weekend! Missy is absolutely tuckered out from the affections of her cousins. She always impresses me no end with her absolute tolerance to the children. We are hoping to get visiting down to Manchester soon, so hopefully it won't be so long until we get together again!

Sunday, 19 August 2018

A Quick Weekend

Well, it's Edinburgh, late August and the population of my fair city has probably doubled owing to the Fringe. Locals know this time of year for crazy traffic, crazier taxi drivers and floods and floods of tourists. Sometimes, rarely, we even partake in the shows so many come to see!

After four years in our care, I finally braved the Fringe with Missy. I know plenty of dogs that hate crowds and are terrible in cities, but Missy has always done me proud when putting on her completely unbothered city slicker face. She weaves through tourists, ignores the crazy traffic and the mad press of people and just looks completely laid back and relaxed as she does it. She was a dog from the streets, and clearly no amount of suburban living, mountains of pillows and treats will take that from her. We cruised through the throngs of people and she lavished in the attention of every enquiry of her breed and every pat of the head to exclamations of 'shes so calm'.
Show-off. That's what she is! Absolute show off.

Which was fitting as that's what we were off to do. The Official Unofficial Fringe Dog Show - bit of a mouthful but, based at the meadows and away from the worst of the crowds, it seemed like a good way to go and brave the festival. Naturally, we were the first there and, watching a game of cricket being played in the location we were supposed to be based at (neither Missy or I understand cricket, except that white must surely be a poor choice when running about and kneeling on the grass) started to wonder exactly what we'd signed up for.

At 2pm I spotted a group of Fringe performers, obvious in that they were dressed stylishly despite the forecast rain and carrying lots of bags and some pin boards. We made our way over, keeping it a casual looking flyby. I needn't have worried, we were immediately leapt upon by a lovely aussie lass who, after enquiring if Missy were part kelpie (one of the many dogs I suspect is somewhere hidden in her heritage) hugged Missy and enquired if we were there for the show.

Missy made friends with a greyhound named Rupert shortly afterwards as they set up and very quickly just under a dozen dogs had congregated. I try not to read into Missys social interactions too much, but after the how-to-you-dos to the other dogs, she focused her attention on flirting with the show organisers and therefore the judges. It was all soppy hugs and kisses and big brown eyes and tiny tail wags. I swear she knows when to impress and, with all the organisers being from Oz, she was clearly welcome to alleviate their home sickness and missing of their own dogs.

The show was what I expected for an impromptu free festival show - and firstly that it was a show, as in, an hour long period of entertainment based around a dog show. As we were comically made to jog in circles encouraging the dogs for "Best Prancer" we attracted a decent sized crowd of more than just the pet family of the contestants. It was all in good fun and everyone, including the dogs, had a terrific time. The Facebook post had said to bring fancy dress, and Missy showed off her triceratops costume and came first. So not a bad day at all.

Sadly, my elder sister with Wee Ben in tow were meant to have joined us but they missed the show entirely. We still organised a catch up and had a doddle about Arthurs Seat. In his unicorn costume (bought, not made I may add with only a tiny amount of smugness) brought a lot of laughter from the passers  by! I had Missy pose with him before letting her run free in just her fur and collar to chase rabbits. There was a near miss, but fortunately none caught - that leg of the family are all very squeamish, and I'm not terribly sure how my eldest niece and nephew would react if handed a dead rabbit! Best not find out!

Sunday was a glorious lazy day. Well, as lazy as Missy and I can manage really. We enjoyed two rather damp walks about some nice woodland and in between there was much baking. It's that time of year where everyone on my family and friend circle have birthdays, so I took the chance to get ahead of the game and started some batch baking. Not sure if the lemon and poppyseed cupcakes are going to make it to the freezer though...!

I also finished off a big sewing project I've been working on. It's a new sofa cover, and matching cushions for the dining chairs! I know I will completely regret the white, but I adored the print and with it being a king sized bedsheet on clearance for a fiver, just couldn't resist it.
Missy has certainly given it her seal of approval. Now to get her off the sofa so I can try it!

As an aside, I will be posting more detailed photos of my sewing projects on instagram under @missdaisysewing and if you want regular updates on Missy and her adventures, you can find her there too @missys_grand_adventures
Till next time!

Sunday, 12 August 2018

Perthshire Highland Games

Well, its been a busy few weeks! We finally got the sheds replaced (it only took us six years to get around to it!) so that was the entirety of last weekend and, just as the cuts and bruises from demolishing and then erecting two sheds had started to fade, the hubby and I got rid of the old sheds yesterday. I'm sure there was some kind of inanimate spite from those sheds, I am completely black and blue from getting them hacked into small pieces and then shipped off to the dump.

So today I went with the girls for a meet up in Perth. One of my friends moved to Inverness at the beginning of the year, and we've been trying to figure out a good meeting point that doesn't involve driving for 3 hours. Perth didn't work out as a perfect midway, so we may need to revise logistics, but that's a battle for another day! We had brunch at The Rose House cafe which was really nice (thier raspberry cake comes highly recommended!) before deciding the brave the dreery weather and head out to the Highland Show at Scone Palace, which was only 10 minutes away.

I've mentioned many times that I love highland shows - the heavy games, the dancing, the pipe bands and the freshly made doughnuts make for a fabulous day no matter the weather. This games was much larger than the Bathgate games that I've done before with foot and cycling races in addition to the usual contests. I got really lucky and finally managed to watch the dancers compete in the national dances (including the Hornpipe and Flora) which I tend to miss as they run at the same time as the heavy games. I adore the Hornpipe costume, the little sailor outfit is so distinctive that we could tell from the main field the dance, which was why we went over.

Surprisingly, the tug-of-war, which I haven't seen competed live, was largely underwhelming. I thought tere was going to be lots of shouting and pulling and instead I saw sixteen men (two teams of eight) basically anchor themselves to the ground and not move. It was 22 minutes before one team started to gain traction over the other and, I will confess, we enjoyed the band master competition (where they throw and twirl the batons) much more which was happening in the same field. Missy was fussed over during the event (she always gets lots of attention in her little pink raincoat) and we then went and got some doughnuts, purely to keep warm, honest.

The last event we watched was the caber tossing. It's always a crowd-pleaser and was totally packed with people clapping and cheering. Sadly, the ground was too wet to get a proper toss, and we only saw one proper turn before sneaking out. We were all cold and soaked through at that point and Missy had started to shiver, so it was a good time to go. Fortunately I'd packed her little dressing gown, so I had her all dried off and wrapped up in no time and she snoozed away for the drive home. Unfortunalty I had to contend with lashing rain (we exited just before the heavens opened) and then fog! What a change of weather its been in only a few weeks!

Still, despite the weather and hairy drive, a brilliant day!