Sunday, 28 October 2018

Happy Howl-o-ween

Well, Missy has been popular this weekend, not one, but two Halloween parties! My honorary niece and nephew have been insisting on a pirate Halloween party since we bought them costumes for their birthday and they insisted that Missy had to come too (at four, both have decided that they should have a puppy each and are working hard to convince their father. Their mother would like one puppy, and is also working hard to convince the father!).

We arrived at two and went on a woodland walk altogether, collecting pine cones and leaves and building forts. The weather has gotten very cold and we perfectly timed it that they both got to play with the Frisbee with Missy and we were back in the car before the rain started. Once back at the house, the kids had time to get changed (as did the hubby and I, much to their delight) and have a snack before their dad arrived and the party began. There was dancing and pass-the-pumpkin and soon they were off to bed. We grown ups then played elder signs until the small hours before heading back home, thankful that the clocks going back meant that we were getting an extra hour in bed.

Waiter, there's a hair in my tea!
Today was a Howl-O-ween doggy party organised by Edinburgh Samoyed Rescue. The hubby and I took Missy, my oldest niece (13) and nephew (9), their pup Wee Ben and my mum along and we prayed it wasn't going to be a complete wash out event which some Facebook advertised things can turn out to be. Being the first to arrive at the Golf Tavern (highly recommend) we set up shop in a nice sunny bit of the function room and were soon swamped by dogs. Set up next to us were two fabulous collies and their chihuahua buddies and then the Samoyed's arrived - there was at least five of the fluffy monsters bouncing about the place as more dogs turned up.

"Mini-Missy" the spider
We made good friends with another Missy, who won best dressed as a spider, and became absolutely enamoured with a bearded boy called Loki who, with his underwhelmed and laid back demeanour was an exact match to Missys temperament. To be fair, I could have stolen away most of the dogs - as the hubby said to my mum, people have a right to take a child anywhere, regardless of how naughty they are. Dog places are such a privilege that only those with well behaved animals will go.

Case in point, as we were organising to leave, Missy quickly dashed off to a small child (2 at most) who was giggling with glee and throwing dog treats at the ring of canines about her. The dogs were perfectly behaved as they waited for the treats and gently took them from her and no one was panicking about it or freaking out. Such a lovely atmosphere!

The two hours passed by swiftly and we were soon back at my mums for the VIP (Very Important Puppy) after party. Maisie still has another round of vaccines before she can go off and play with all the big dogs so we decided to have a get together for her and continue her socialisation. Missy worked with Maisie on her play bow as they played together for a little while and then Missy retreated to the sofa to let Ben take a turn. He is still very unsure of the puppy, but hopefully they'll learn to get used to one another soon. The best thing for now is to just keep trying.

She'll grow into it soon enough!
There was munchies and cake (of course there was cake!) and then we all played Say Anything before we had to make our leave as it was getting dark. Missy is fast asleep on the sofa after such a busy weekend and we've all really enjoyed it! I've finally convinced my family that dog parties are an official thing (and not really weird or twee) and here's hoping there's a Christmas one that Maisie will be able to join us at!
Till next time!

Sunday, 21 October 2018

Meet Maisie

So, Missy has a new cousin (courtesy of my brother) - a shitzu cross called Maisie. He didnt think about how phonetically similar Maisie was to Missy, but its too late now and we're all having a good laugh about muddling the two up.
And she sure is a sweetie!

We decided to risk it for a biscuit and get the trio together (Missy, Maisy and Wee Ben). Poor Ben wasn't very sure about a puppy in the house and Missy very sensibly watched the chaos from the sofa, she being the only dog who could get onto it! After a while Missy gave into the cuteness and played with the puppy for a little while, but Ben was very much unimpressed and hid in his crate. Maisy is a feisty wee thing and I think she's just about crazy enough to fit in!

Trust me, just look at the weird black thing and once it goes click, you'll get a biscuit...
I was also dog-sitting Ben today so, before losing the light, took him round one of my favourite local walks. Naturally I bumped into every single one of Missys pals, and had to laugh as it was commented yet again that Missy must have shrunk in the wash. I wasn't going to risk letting Ben off the lead, but he did his best to keep up with Missy and has thoroughly exhausted himself.

I trust Missy well enough that she was off the lead on her usual hunt for squirrels and Ben panicked every time we lost sight of her. Despite knowing one another all his life, Ben hasn't had many adventures with Missy, so isn't used to her phantom act. Although Missy did humour him for some of the walk and walked alongside him.

Well, that's all this week, I've been busy with crafts but nothing fitting to the season, so will share later. However, there's some fun plans in store for next week, so expect some fun Halloween photos in my next post!

Sunday, 14 October 2018

A Week up North Part 2

After a day of quite heavy history, our middle day was intended to be lighthearted and fun, with both Landmark and Clava Cairns picked out.

Landmark is an outdoor adventure park, and had come highly recommended by older sister and her children as simply the place to go and visit in the Aviemore area. It started off well, we were amongst the first into Landmark which was all bedecked for Halloween and decided to go on the red squirrel nature walk. We instantly realised the place had been oversold to us - the 'really big and long' walk was less than a kilometre long. Missy was on point for the whole trek round and, when we did spot the red tail of a squirrel, she was thankfully behind a screen and unable to see it, despite clearly being able to smell it. 
We took turns (no dogs indoors, although she was permitted in the big marquee beside he restaurant, so we were able to eat under cover) and did the little puzzle and optical illusions house, the butterfly and bird house and also the small roller-coaster and one of the water slides. There were loads of dogs accompanying their families and we took to opportunity to chat to some of them. By that point two coach trips of kids had turned up and the place was rammed with families and a further visit around the squirrel viewing walk showed that the glimpse of the tail was the best we were going to get as kids ran around screaming at each other (which I have no problem of children doing, but red squirrels are notoriously skittish, and will only be seen in absolute silence).
Impostor syndrome had hit hard and we decided that it was most definitely the kind of place kids would have a great time at, but I couldn't justify to myself waiting in a very long queue to have a shot on something when I was surrounded by masses of kids desperate to get on too. We decided to consider the experience as worth doing, but only to repeat when able to borrow some of my nieces and nephews!

The day took a downturn after that. Deciding that Missy would appreciate some peace and quiet, we decided on getting another Historic Scotland site out the way and visit Clava Cairns. Its one of the free sites that you just turn up at and, so long as everybody respects the rules, they are generally nice little sites. We'd got out the car and waited for another to park before making our way to the gate. No sooner had my hand touched the gate when the door of the car we'd waited to park popped open and, engine idling and finger wagging, some middle aged man started shouting at us that dogs weren't allowed in.
My temper gets the better of me in these situations and I invariably say something I shouldn't. I simply snapped back that the sign clearly stated dogs were permitted on leads and we recieved another tirade of abuse that is was a sacred site, the place was covered in dog muck (I barked back that I am a responsible owner and pick up after my dog) and he continued over me that dogs simply werent allowed and he knew 'the rules'.
My husband is far better in these situations. Calm as can be, he simply asked 'do you work here? Are you a groundskeeper?' and at the following response of 'what? No.' the hubby simply walked through the gate and we left the ghastly man behind. It was a lovely site but we took no enjoyment as Mr I-know-the-rules was stomping about the place also, clearly waiting for Missy to do something inappropriate like sniff a rock. Out of the safety of his idling car, he made no movement towards us again, but by that point the whole thing was rather ruined for us. The hubby told me off for trying to get Missy to pee on the mans car as we left and tried to figure out what to do with the day.

Stopping at the local shops to stock up on some ice cream and purchase a new Halloween costume for Missy, we decided to explore the site about the lodge we were staying at. We had been told there was a lake and weren't disappointed when we found the patch of water nestled in the trees. It was completely flat and still and, with the autumn colours in the trees, absolutely beautiful. Upon returning to our lodge, we tucked into the ice cream and made a bullet proof plan for our final day before playing some board games. 

It was time to hunt down Nessie on the Jacobite Loch Ness cruise. The weather was to stay dry but it was one of those formidable days that threatens at rain with dark skies and banks of low lying cloud. Perfect for hunting monsters.

A promising start on the hunt!
The boat ride was dog friendly and the staff were more than happy to Missy come aboard. She made friends with an american tourist who was missing her dog and a couple from somewhere European and they simply insisted on cuddling and patting her. Deciding that the world was back in alignment and that things were how they should be, we settled down for the hour long ride and enjoyed the commentary about the history of the Loch and the lore of the monster.

A formidable landscape
After being told that Columbus had banished Nessie in 500AD, and how Nessie reappeared throughout the middle ages and through modern times, it was quite understandable to reason how such a stark landscape and vast body of water could spark imaginations and tales of monsters. Despite low cloud and dark skies, it was pleasant for Autumn as we rode on the top of the boat and discussed with the other tourists about how the highlands truly were the best landscape to be seen in the world. 

The boat sailed to and around Urquhart Castle. Some people got off here to visit the castle and those from the earlier tour joined us. The site does not permit dogs and the reason is simple, in peak season 2000 people can visit the site per day, so its simply too busy and dangerous to allow them. Urquhart Castle was our plan for the day  after sailing so, after discovering all the loch side walks flooded, we walked Missy in the woodland above the loch for an hour before heading over. Leaving Missy with food, water and a blanket in case it got chilly, we headed inside and explored the infamous site.

That's not the jetty, that's meant to be a courtyard
Urquhart has a long history, originally being the site of a pictish settlement before becoming the now-ruined castle it is today. With a full sized trebuchet upon entering the site, it certainly has lots to see and we explored the tower and the citadel whilst quoting Knightmare and filling in our kids quiz. The visitors centre was full of artifacts that had been found in the area and a ten minute film condensed more than a thousand years of history and explained how the castle had swapped hands and sides before being blown up by its very owners to stop it getting into Jacobite hands. 

We returned to Missy and drove to the nearest village of Drumnadrochit to try and find a late lunch. Nowhere was dog friendly and also serving food, so we found a cafe with outdoor seating and laughed as we were one of six outdoor tables occupied by dog parents. Missy was treated to a buffalo ear as we had lunch before we popped into the information centre and enquired about local walks. A forest walk was indicated to us and we were soon trekking up an enormous hill through woodland. Missy ran about looking for squirrels and rabbits, all of whom were wisely out the way and we made it back to the car just as the weather broke.

And the weather certainly broke. With Storm Calum attacking Ireland, we had weather warnings for rain through the night and on our return trip. Deciding it wisest to just head home, we didnt have any outlandish stops but treated Missy to one of her favourite local walks upon arriving home.

And that was it! Why do holidays always pass so quickly? We've earmarked the highlands for another return visit, so it certainly wont be Missys last attempt at trying to find Nessie!

A Week Up North Part 1

It was time for our annual dog staycation and, in our ongoing quest to get all of the Historic Scotland sites, we decided a trip up north was necessary and so settled on Invergordon as our base of operations. We managed to fit a lot into our week, so I think I shall split the blog into two parts!

To break the journey up and give us all a chance to stretch legs, we stopped at Killiecrankie to see Soldiers Leap - the spot where a government soldier leapt 18 feet across the river Garry to flee the Jacobites. It was the start of a theme for the holiday as the Jacobite rebellion is probably the moment of time that dominates the history of the north. 

Autumn has made its mark and the trees were all turning yellow, making the walk all the more splendid. Killicrankie is also one of two places you can go bungee jumping in Scotland, so whilst we heard the occasional scream, it didn't break the idyllic feel of the place. The hubby suggested that next time we stop at Killiecrankie we should do the bungee jumping, which I am all up for, once the weather is guaranteed to be calm and a little warmer!

Our first full day was spent predominantly at Fort George. We did the day a little backwards as Fort George was built after the Battle of Culloden as a way to control future threats from the North which never arose. Its a huge fort that has, and still does, serves the army as a training ground. Dogs were not permitted inside buildings, and it was strange to watch groups of squaddies jogging in laps about the place whilst reading how it was designed and re-purposed from first the fear of a landward attack from the Jacobites, and then a seaward attack from the French.

As I've already mentioned, it was massive. Audio tour headphones on heads (most definitely worth taking advantage of) and kids quiz in hand, it took up about 4 hours to get around the place. Its history is long and, despite never having been attacked or seen battle, it was interesting to see how it was used during wartime (including both world wars). We took turns going in and out of the mocked up barracks and the Black Watch museum and found a sheltered spot for lunch outside the cafe. The museum covers the history of the British army, and is current in including Afghanistan as a modern conflict.

The rampart is more than a kilometre long and we finished our visit by strolling along the area looking for dolphins (we were slightly off season for those) and counted the number of canons (31) that kept watch for attack. There are a lot of sheer drops about the ramparts and signs warning people to keep away from edges, so we ensured Missy stayed on a short lead and stuck close to us. The area was, perhaps unsurprisingly devoid of wildlife, but we still didn't want to risk anything!
On the website, a pet cemetery is advertised. Whilst we saw this from the ramparts, upon asking, we were informed that you could only gain access to it if you were on the tour. So just a heads up if its something you're particularity wanting to see!

As I said about doing the day backwards - we visited Culloden as part of out afternoon walk. I will admit that I was hesitant about doing the visitors centre (which does not allow dogs - we walked Missy for about an hour on the field before putting her in the car to sleep for an hour, with it being barely 12C, she was in no danger of boiling) as I was concerned about the direction they would tell the battle from. I know many people who use Culloden (and the subsequent highland clearances) as their excuse to dislike the English and the government, and was concerned such a slanted viewpoint would be reflected in the visitors centre. I need not have worried, again armed with our audio tour (another one that was well worth using as it gave far more information than was written on the wall) it explained from a completely neutral viewpoint of what the Jacobites did and how the Governement responded.
Make note on the two terms, both Irish and English fought alongside the Jacobites and there was a Scottish regiment within the government forces - the only bagpipes played during battle were from the Governments side. It was a lot murkier a story than simply Scotland against England. And really, when the throne is concerned, it was a Frenchman trying to steal it off a German - which makes the whole thing more confusing.

That is not to say that it was fought fairly. Bonny Prince Charlie was no tactician and simply fled when it was obvious it was going horribly wrong. And the aftermath of Culloden was atrocious to the Scottish people, and Britain as a whole was horrified to learn of the actions taken against those who were accused of sheltering Jacobites. With fog rolling down the hills, the atmosphere well matched the dark material of the day and we found ourselves a cosy dog friendly pub (The Snow Goose) to discuss what we had taken from the days military history before moving onto more lighthearted conversation with the other guests who had sat in the dog friendly area. 

Missy trying some non-alcoholic doggy beer
A tremendously good day despite the subject matter, and a refreshing change from talk of Mary Queen of Scots and Cromwell, who dominate the history of the central belt. 

I shall leave the adventure at that - next post includes our hunt for the Loch Ness Monster!

Monday, 1 October 2018

A Starry Weekend

Well, that was a quick weekend! It was a flitting visit down south my sisters to see my niece celebrate her 5th birthday. She had very nicely asked if her uncle could come and do magic for her party and, being absolutely wrapped around her cute little pinkie, we were more than happy to oblige her!

It was a cat themed party so, on a quest to fit as much about cats into the 30 minute routine as we could, we had a special kitten spell:
Paws! Whiskers! Tip of nose!
That's how kitten magic goes!
When chanted by more than 30 children, it was quite spectacular! And then there was a magic trick involving milk and magic appearing chocolate mice. All the kids and the helper grown ups had on cat ears and tails - I'd even managed to find the time to make myself a magic waistcoat to match hubby's coat and hat.

The highlight of the show though for me was the hand chopper (a portable guillotine for putting hands in rather than heads). After cries of delight at being asked to see a scary trick, the children were eager to see the hubby put his hand in. He chopped in two his (chocolate) finger with a truly spectacular snap and suddenly all those delighted faces turned to horror as a brave mum or dad was requested. It was a half beat too long before one child bravely volunteered his mother! The trick went perfectly afterwards and, barring the chocolate finger, no one was harmed!

My niece had a great time. Alongside the magic show there was colouring, pin the tail on the cat, kitten hoopla and even a beanbag toss whereby you had to feed the cat little knitted mice and fish. A great party and all the children (and parents) seemed to have a great time. My sister has posted all the awesome stuff to see here.

Missy wasn't left out. After a few hours in doggy daycare she was spoiled with doggy sushi and was even given a gift by my sister for putting up with all the craziness - so low and behold, the cowardly not-a-lion!

I really need to make a scarecrow and tin man outfit for my niece and nephew now! I wonder if I can talk my other niece into being Dorothy!

A very quick but awesome weekend!