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)

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