Friday, December 28, 2012

Piped Into Dinner

Have you ever been piped into dinner? I have. While in Scotland we enjoyed the honor of being piped into dinner. This tradition has its foundations with the military and there are a great many requirements that go along with the formal presentation. We waited anxiously in the gorgeous lounge area at The Atholl Palace Hotel in Pitlochry, Scotland.

Set among the hills of the Southern Highlands, this was an incredible place to relax and be completely charmed by Scottish hospitality.

Our piping, while formal, wasn't quite as full of rules and regulations. Our piper did wear the full formal uniform as you can see here.

In the regulations of formal piping, the guests are piped in according to their rank or standing. There are warnings sounded at 15 minutes and 5 minutes prior to the dinner and often the piper will give this warning playing a short upbeat song. Then when they announce dinner and the march is to begin he might play a tune like "Brose and Butter."

In formal settings you might be piped in to the tune of "Roast Beef of Old England", but our piper played "Scotland the Brave" and did a fine job. We waited behind our chairs as is tradition and then we were served an incredible dinner. Here are some of the lovely dishes we enjoyed.

After dinner were were again treated to the pipes. This time the bagpipe was explained to us and contrary to popular belief there really aren't any cats inside being unmercifully squeezed. The bagpipe is made up of several parts as you can see.

The piper blows into the blowpipe in order to fill the airtight bag. Once there is sufficient air he can begin to play. The Chanter is the melody pipe that he will use to make music. It takes a great deal of skill to play the bagpipes, as well as a lot of hot air, as our piper quipped.

That evening was such a wonderful flavor of Scotland. The hotel was beautiful, the Christmas decorations perfect, our piper quite capable and the food delicious. It was such a special time and toward the end of the evening our piper played "Amazing Grace" and we stood and held hands. We sang Auld Lang Syne and ended our evening. It was a very special dinner and I'll always remember it fondly.

The next morning we boarded the train and headed to Edinburgh for our final 3 days, but Pitlochry memories remained with us and always will.

God Bless and Happy New Year. May 2013 be a blessing to you in every way and as the Celts would say, "Slainte agus buaidh gu brath"  - Health and success forever.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Reflecting on the Past

With so much of death in the news this week, I couldn't help but reflect on the past--especially when I look at pictures of the ancient cemeteries in Scotland.

Cemeteries have always been one of my favorite places to wander. I love the quiet, the beauty and the simplicity of the settings. Even in the midst of large cities, cemeteries always seem a place of peace and respite.

Walking through these wonderful old cemeteries reminded me of how precious life is and yet how fleeting. For all the time these folks spent on earth, here 200+ years later their markers still stand as reminders of the past and what once had been.
Sometimes the markers give us insight into the lives of the men, women and children. They often mention their relationship to others and give a hint of what others thoughts of those who've died.

For a time these stones will continue to mark the final resting places of these dear souls, but eventually even these will pass away.  The real markers, the lasting markers, are the memories we leave behind, the kindnesses we showed each other, the love of Jesus that we shared.

 Last week 26 people lost their lives in a school shooting, hundreds, even thousands of others died elsewhere and in will we. What kind of marker will you leave behind? Will you be remembered as beloved--as someone who generously gave of their heart? Will people smile when they mention your name?

The tragedy of that school shooting was heartbreaking, but I am blessed as the mothers, fathers, grandparents and friends share their stories and give a reflection of the love these dear ones left behind. Stones will be erected in their memory, but the true mark of their existence is imprinted on the hearts of those who shared their lives.

Whose heart are you imprinting?

God Bless!

Friday, December 14, 2012

I Blame Judy Miller

Okay, so in all seriousness, I wouldn't have gone to Scotland if Judy Miller hadn't dragged me there kicking and screaming. :)  Well, not exactly, but the trip really was her idea and so I blame her. I mean I wanted to go and spend time with Liz Higgs and see Scotland again, but it was Judy who set the trip in motion. For those of you who don't know Ms Judith Miller, let me tell you she has her bag of tricks for getting her way.  I've co-written about 12 books with Judy and have always been amazed at her writing techniques and ability to spin a wonderful yarn.  She's a super friend and I blame her for spoiling me.  Here's a pic of our latest release just out this month.  

But I digress.  On our 3rd day in Scotland we took a beautiful drive to Stirling. Here we are in Stirling at Stirling Castle. James V’s Palace at Stirling, Scotland is one of the finest and best-preserved Renaissance buildings in Great Britain.

 I hadn't explored this castle prior to our visit there and I have to say it was great fun.  My knees are still complaining from the uneven cobblestones and stairs,

but I guess I can blame Judy for that too because she made me go the extra distance to the weaving room where they were making exact replicas of medieval tapestries.

They use this patterned piece of linen and then weave accordingly trying to exactly match the colors that were originally used.  It's amazing the way they are able to give us another view of the ancient.
This is a picture of what the tapestry will one day look like.
The castle offeres beautifully restored rooms and wonderful historical detail.
You can used this link to learn more about Stirling Castle
So we had a pretty incredible day and learned so much about Stirling and James V, and I blame Judy for that too.  Judy furthered her influence by introducing me to the Downton Abbey PBS series.  I blame her that haven't gotten nearly enough writing done this week for having to stop and watch episodes in order to get "caught up" for the January debut of season 3. Shame on you, Judy.
So you can see the kind of influence our Judy has on me.  I guess rather than blame Judy, I should say thank you, instead.  It was a super great time with a very dear friend and I will never watch Downton Abbey without thinking of her, but for the sake of my writing career you probably shouldn't tell me about any other PBS series, favorite movies or girlfriend trips for a while.

Friday, December 7, 2012

A Wee Bit of Scotland

I'm back from Scotland, but the photos and memories will continue for some time to come.  I was so blessed to get to travel with my dear friend Judy.  Judy always keeps me out of trouble as you can see here.

I was a little worried about how Scotland would fare with me, Liz Curtis Higgs and Judy all in the country at one time, but everything worked out well.

This is Andrew - isn't he a cutey?  He's my son's age. Boy do I feel old.

But one of my very favorite things about the trip were the churches or kirks as they say in Bonnie Scotland. Such wondrous old buildings - some very ancient and thousands of years old, some newer, but all beautiful.

Here in Luss, Scotland we were treated to this lovely kirk. The St McKessog's church is on the banks of Loch Lomond (yes we sang the song as a group) is named after St. Kessog. Kessog is claimed to have brought Christianity to the area around Luss in 510 AD.

The present church was built by Sir James Colquhoun in 1875 in the memory of his farther who died in a drowning accident off Inchtavannach. The church has a rafted roof of Scots pine, built purposefully to remind people of a boat overturned.  You can see for yourself in this picture that it does just that.
I tried to imagine all the people who have worshipped here. Luss is such a neat little village and the ancient feel engulfed us as we walked around.  I was completely caught up in the moment and hope to one day return for a longer stay.  Judy and I even discussed how we should purchase one of the small, restored cottages for a quiet little writing retreat, but I digress.
The church had some incredible stained glass.




Probably the thing I enjoy the most are the old graveyards.  I love to wander through the headstones and read about the people buried there.  It's always fascinating to imagine who the people were and what their lives might have been like.  This church graveyard did not disappoint.
I could have stayed here all day despite it being cold and windy.
Here's the grave of a Viking. The style is called a hogback.
Next week I hope to show you some more.  I was so very blessed to participate in this trip of Christian women. We met some wonderful ladies and now have some 43 additional friends, as well as a great many incredible memories and ideas for books yet to be written.
Beannachd Dia dhuit

(Blessings of God be with you - ScotsGaelic)


Friday, November 16, 2012

Awesome News From the Publishers!

Bethany House Publishers
a division of Baker Publisher Group
True West Magazine 




Do You Have My Christmas Decorations?

My Christmas decorations have disappeared.  We've looked all over and they're just gone.  They were in storage in the shop, but when we went to locate them they were no where to be found.  So, it got us to thinking that maybe we had experienced one of those moments and put them away in the crawl space.

My hubby Jim went climbing down into the crawl space and gave it the once over and no Christmas decorations. Even our cat Cal was perplexed.

Then we thought maybe we'd put them in the storage under the stairs, but they weren't there either.

Now this isn't just a small bit of stuff. This was a collection of several rubbermaid tubs of Christmas village houses and other pieces that were quite sentimental.


So I thought I would just ask - do you have my Christmas decorations?

I am happy to say that a few special pieces are still around.  Judy had gifted me with a lovely nativity set several years ago and I'm happy to say that is still with me.

There were a couple of new village pieces I'd picked up at a garage sale this summer and they are still sitting in the garage awaiting their debut. 

But there are some very dear friends out there somewhere and I don't know where they are.  They've been missing for over a year now, as last year when we realized they weren't where they were supposed to be - we figured we'd find them after the rush of the holidays.  We went out and bought a few lights for the house and actually skipped doing a Christmas village or tree.  I really don't want to go that route again this year as it seems very bah humbug.

So, if you see my Christmas decorations - please send them home.  Meanwhile, I guess I'm just going to have to start recollecting.  Oh well, I suppose there are worse things to have to do.  Somebody get me some chocolate and a nice hot mocha coffee.  I have a feeling I'm gonna have to go out shopping and need to have some sustainence.

God Bless!

Friday, November 9, 2012

Northwest Beauty and Thankful Hearts

I found myself continually praising God as we traveled through the Northwest.  There were many areas that had been affected by fires and some had suffered great damage, but there were also so many places where the fingerprints of God were so evident.

Going through this area just east of Butte, MT all I could think about was the rocks crying out in praise.
There were other places where I wished we could have taken a side road and slipped off the beaten path for a time and just worship and be alone with God.
The weather, although cloudy, was also an inspiring part of the ambiance.  When my daughter Julie was little and saw sunbeams like this, she would say, "Look Mama, it's a little bit of heaven coming down."  You know, she was right.
We definitely enjoyed seeing the yellow tamaracks - evergreens that aren't always green.
And of course there is always that special feeling that you get when home comes into view.
At Bible Study Fellowship this week we talked about starting each day in a spirit of thankfulness and worship.  Everytime I look at God's handiwork I am filled with a deep thanksgiving for all that He's given me.  I had wanted to live in the mountains all of my life and wasn't sure that it would ever come to be, but God put that desire in my heart and God brought it to be.  I also wanted to write books and God showed me a way to do that very thing for Him.  And I wanted to travel and see new places, and with my writing and ministry for God, I get to do just that.  So as Thanksgiving draws ever near - I am shouting out my thanksgiving to God and praising Him for the many blessings He's given me.
Of course - that includes the blessing He's given me in each of you.


Friday, November 2, 2012

Research fun in Seattle

This last week we went to Seattle to do a little historical research.  The town is a fascinating place to visit and we had a great time.  On the way to Seattle we were able to touch base with family in the Tri-Cities area,  here I am with my niece Bethany and her boyfriend Corey on the left side and my nephew Phillip and his girlfriend Rachel on the upper right side.  That's my son Erik sitting beside me and my mom in the lower left corner.

The weather in Seattle was typical for this time of year - overcast, misty, rainy and chilly.  But that didn't stop us from venturing out to learn what we wanted to know.  Jim and I were able to uncover a lot of super interesting bits of history to use for future stories and even Erik got in on the research.
We stayed at a really neat hotel - the Best Western Pioneer Square.  This hotel was built in 1914 and the decor and folks there were awesome.  I highly recommend this hotel if you want to stay in the historic district of Seattle.
Here I am researching the joys of eating crab at the Crab Pot.
And here we are researching the Space Needle Restaurant.  A very expensive endeavor to be sure, but it proved to be a lot of fun and a great meal.
And while in Seattle we were able to visit the Chihuly glass exhibit next to the Space Needle.  The following are some of the amazing pieces that were being shown.  This glass art is incredible and while I've shared photos from the Boston exhibit before, I can't resist sharing some Seattle shots.
And of course we had to get a shot of the Space Needle itself.
And Jim got creative with this photo reflecting the Space Needle in the Chihuly glass.
I hope you've enjoyed a taste of our trip.  I hope to share some additional photos with you next week and hopefully in a year or so I hope to share a new series with you set in the Seattle area.
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