One favorite moment

On Saturday we celebrated my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary with a party that my siblings and I have been planning for years.

It felt like a charmed day. We were celebrating the steadfast love and devotion of our beloved parents. The weather was perfect. The flowers were gorgeous. The venue was beautiful inside and out. On this happiest of days, we were surrounded by loving family and friends, some of whom we hadn’t seen in more than a decade. I’ll share more pictures later, but for now, I’ll just share my favorite moment of the day:

My siblings and I got to the restaurant early to set up. The car ride over and the few moments we spent in the parking garage before we got to work setting up, just us, for some reason was the very best part of that beautiful day.

As soon as the party was over, my tribe of seventeen people, from 2 to 78 years old, drove to the beach, where we all are now. I’m taking another short break from posting so that I can spend every precious minute of this time with the people I love most in the world. See you again soon!

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En route home from England, we had a longish layover in Copenhagen. We decided to spend the night in a hotel:

At the crack of dawn the next morning we made our way to the subway station…

We rode into the center of town and had breakfast along the canal:

We took a quick walk before heading back to the airport to fly home:

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Last days…

Our week at Corshill Cottage came to an end. We drove back to Edinburgh to catch our train back to Manchester, but first squeezed in a quick trip to the Camera Obscura. From the Outlook Tower at the top of the Royal Mile we got panoramic views of the city:

Inside the tower, we got another view of the city in the camera obscura, a darkened room in which mirrors and lenses are used to project a live image of the streets of Edinburgh onto a large horizontal screen. Our guide told us that when the apparatus, (the same one that is still in use today), first debuted in 1853, people would vomit and even pass out from the shock of seeing the live projection.

The rest of the Tower was devoted to optical illusions:

Finally, it was time to get back to Manchester for our last few days, and the pleasures of home life there:

My daughter spent many hours of the day boning up on Greek mythology with a new book from her aunt:

and with her dad’s Classical Studies notebook from grade school:

At night she dreamt about Greek mythology:

There were some serious ping pong matches:

Frolicking in the garden:

On the day we left, Granddad indulged the kids by taking them on a pilgrimage to see the home stadium of their favorite team:

And finally, it was time to bid a fond farewell to our family:

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne.

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup of kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

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Scotland, Pt. 4 – The British Open

We went to the first day of the British Open. We parked ourselves at the 17th hole and enjoyed the spectacular views at Muirfield:

Here’s Phil Mickelson on his way to his eventual win:

Others did not fare so well. Colin deemed the next day’s sports headline “typically British”!

The real competition began later that week, of course:

“Pitch and Putt”

Hope your weekend is wonderful!

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Scotland, Pt. 3 – My husband’s first home

My husband has always loved Scotland, where he was born and spent the first twelve years of his life.

He and his dad took a hike around Ben Ledi, the first hike they had done together when he was a little boy. When they first walked the trail decades ago, these trees had just been planted and were knee-high:

Although it’s a little grainy, I was so glad they were able to mark this occasion by taking this photo at the top:

That evening he humored me by taking me to this church we kept passing en route to the cottage, so I could get some photos:

Like the trees, the gravestones dramatically showed the passage of time. On some stones the elements had completely erased the engraving, which once marked the day someone who had been loved and cherished was born and the day they died:

The next day we took a day trip to Dollar. We parked our cars on the beautiful street bisected by a babbling burn, right next to the house where my husband first lived:

We walked to Mill Green and the kids played in the icy cold stream where my husband and his brother used to play as children:

We trekked up Dollar Glen to Castle Campbell, once known as Castle Gloom:

By the time we got there, the kids were exhausted:

They revived with a game of roly poly:

…which was fabulous, until Someone-Who-Shall-Remain-Unnamed rolled right into a pile of dog poop.

We continued our tour by stopping to see the church where my husband had been baptized as an infant:

And then it was back to the cottage, and to an early birthday celebration for both my husband and daughter:

We can only capture these fleeting moments of our “one wild and precious life” imperfectly in photos, in stone, in our memories…but by God we try.

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Scotland, Pt. 2

The next day the kids visited Stirling Castle:

In the afternoon, we took the Sir Walter Scott steamer, first launched in 1899, around Loch Katrine:

Back at the cottage, the kids happily took advantage of the long hours of daylight to kick around a soccer ball:

Look, my photography trick still works like a charm! To get this:

…let the kids do this first:

or this nonsense:

Happy Birthday to my one and only:

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The morning after we arrived at my in-laws house in England, we took the train to Scotland. Colin had been in Edinburgh all week singing with his choir at St. Mary’s Cathedral and we were going to meet up with him there.

Colin met us at the station and we walked through West Princes Street Gardens to St. Mary’s.

We walked past the Floral Clock:

Edinburgh Castle perched high on a hill top:

And this statue:

The kids and I cooled our heels at a nearby store while Colin’s group rehearsed for their final Evensong:

“Impressive!” I said when we finally walked into the cathedral.

“Really?” Colin sniffed, “It’s not as if it’s an original medieval church or anything. It might date to the Victorian age.”


The boys had just bought a Tintin Cuthbert keychain and were delighted to discover that their kneeler cushion happened to feature St. Cuthbert.

After the Evensong, we made a pit stop at Tesco to stock up. Colin was excited to find:

And then it was off to meet the rest of the family at the cottage we’d rented for the week in Aberfoyle:

View from the cottage:

Flowers in the garden:

The countryside around the cottage:

We’ll be starting our trip back to the states tomorrow and I’ll start posting again when I can. More adventures ahead…This Saturday we will be celebrating my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary and then we’ll head to the beach with my whole clan – all seventeen of us!

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We made it!

By the time we were about to leave for England, I felt like I had spent half a lifetime doing load after load of laundry, sorting through clothes, creating piles of things to pack, editing and re-editing those piles, writing up a hefty instruction manual for the small army of people taking care of our dogs, cleaning the house…I thought I was handling it all pretty well, but I must have been emitting serious stress vibes. As I was going about my business tying up loose ends before we actually headed to the airport, my son came to me and said in the soothing tones one would use when talking to a child about to have a tantrum, or a lunatic holding a lit stick of dynamite, “Mom…I know packing stresses you out, but could you please, please try to stay calm?”

It would have been a lot easier to, were it not for the incessant questions:

“So, when are we going to leave?”

“What time is our flight?”

“Are we almost ready to go?”

When my daughter started drumming her little hands on the kitchen counter, I lost it just a teensy tiny little bit:

“Please go sit quietly in the living room while I finish getting ready to go and don’t ask me any more questions!”

Other than running into the President at Dulles and getting my kidneys thrashed all the way across the Atlantic by the antsy toddler behind me kicking my seat, the trip was uneventful.

We made it to Hall Bank…

The boys were reunited at last:

Can you hear the swelling of the violins?

Seconds later…

The cousins were there waiting!

That first day the boys initiated their little sister into a sacred rite of passage that the children in our family undergo at the age of seven:

She was discouraged and exhausted:

But a week later:

She is now our third child to learn how to ride a bike at Granny and Granddad’s house.

The last time we were in England was four summers ago. This was the day my son learned how to ride on the very same bike:

It’s been wonderful to reconnect with family here, but I’m missing my family in the U.S. Yesterday was my father’s birthday and today is my mother’s. Sending happy birthday wishes from across the pond for the two very best parents and finest human beings I know. xoxoxo

Leaving today…

We are finally heading out to rejoin my husband and son in England today. My oldest son and daughter have been mooning around the house for more than a week missing their brother. My son, in particular, has surprised me by the depths of his melancholy. He keeps asking to see my phone so he can look at the photos of his brother my husband sent by text. I am reminded of when my oldest sister left for college. All that first year my mother would stare out the window as she washed the dishes, sighing mournfully with large tears trickling down her face.

“Is he missing me as much as I’m missing him?” he broods as he stares at the photos. Just in case, the other day he handed back my phone and said, “Here, take a picture of me to send to him.”

On Saturday after gazing wistfully once again at the photos we’d received so far, he started laboriously pecking away at the minuscule keyboard.

I’ve learned my lesson. Our time together is too short. We will never travel separately again, if we can help it.

And now, at long last, we are on our way! I’m looking forward to having the time to write at reasonable hours while we are away. (I winced a little when I realized the photo would reveal the embarrassing hours I tend to keep). I hope I’ll be able to send dispatches from England and Scotland. Until then, I hope every single day is wonderful!

Queen Anne’s Lace

This is my “garden” at this time of the year:

The Weedaretum in all its glory.

The Weed-oretum in all its glory.

Clearly, I have long surrendered to the malevolent forces of summer in Virginia.

My kids always ask me why there aren’t any flowers in my garden in the summer. Here’s my answer:

This. This is what happens when you venture outdoors in mid-July in Virginia.

Why put yourself through the misery of being poached alive in the heavy, sticky, humid air when instead you can swan around enjoying landscapes from the the air-conditioned comfort of your very own chariot of fire?

My sweet pimped out ride. See that Albemarle County Schools magnet on the gas cap? Custom, Baby.

My sweet pimped out ride. See that Albemarle County Schools magnet on the gas cap? Custom, Baby. I’m thinking about having flames painted along the sides next…

This is the best time of the year to enjoy the weedy splendor of roadside displays espied from my car windows. My favorite? Queen Anne’s Lace – the essence of summer.

Even better in combination with its constant companion, the cornflower:

Bad picture...Didn't want to get out of the car to take it!

Bad picture…Didn’t want to get out of the car to take it!

Strewn by the invisible, artful hand of a master gardener, these lovely weeds are all the flowers I need to get me through the summer.

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