Sunday, December 16, 2007

Finals are over...back to blogging! First up...Louisville

Last weekend I took a road trip to see my friend Caren. We taught in Scotland together this past summer. It was hard to believe it had been six months since we hung out, so I took a much needed break from the chaos of the end-of-the-semester to see what Louisville, Kentucky, has to offer.
Our first stop was a store that supplies all manner of foodstuffs to local restaurants, but lucky for us, sells to the public as well. Many items come in bulk size quantities or are packaged into smaller (i.e., 1 lb) bags. Here I am posing with the largest bar of chocolate I have ever seen (or held!). No, I did not buy one -- I can show restraint! I did however buy two types of couscous (Israeli and Lebanese), kosher salt, peppercorns, tarragon mustard, red and white speckled beans, and maybe a few other things I cannot remember!

From there we did a little thrifting -- at some great charity shops -- and made a visit to the legendary Baer's fabric store -- with its three floors of all things sewing. All of this shopping gave me (and Caren!) an appetite. She took me to a local fave -- the Zen Garden -- a completely vegetarian asian restaurant that gives all proceeds to charity. It was so nice to peruse the menu and know that I could choose ANYthing, and not have to ask if there were any hidden animal products in it. Here is a review of the restaurant and they have the picture of the orange tofu, too!
Caren and her friend Julie ordered a cucumber salad to start -- I don't really remember too much about it, other than that it was delicious! We all ordered egg rolls -- so yummy!

Caren ordered her tofu (or a name similar to that). Wow! Next time I go there I am definitely ordering that. The tofu was just the way I like it: crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside, with a perfect coating of orange sauce -- not too sweet either. This is definitely a dish that could sway the staunchest of tofu-avoiders.

Now, I do not mean to diss my selection...for it was an unusual choice for me, and really yummy. I ordered the lunch special of the day, Lemongrass Soy Satay (or something similar to that!). This was a bowl full of warm rice noodles, marinated tofu, glazed tempeh, mushrooms, lettuce, cabbage, carrots, and cucumbers. A lemongrass dressing was served on the side (which I poured all over the bowl). It was more food than I could eat, and has inspired me to branch out in my menu selections.

Caren and I did some more thrifting in the afternoon then met back up with Julie to walk to the local coffee shop, Heine Brothers Coffee -- the Frankfort Ave. location.
We made stops at a really cool and well-stocked consignment shop, local bookstore (Carmichael's), and a fair trade store (Just Creations). I bought a gift for John (which I did was in the one bag I didn't check!), and a really pretty wool hat from Nepal for myself!

That night we went to the First Friday Gallery many good galleries, not nearly enough time! Our first stop was to purchase calendars from Sarah Lyon, a local photographer and friend of Caren's. She has published a 2008 calendar of all Female Mechanics from across the US (that is Sarah on the cover). She rode her motorcycle out west and back taking pictures and documenting her journey. The Atomic Saucer (or maybe that is its former name) hosted a calender party...and even Ms. September was there! I bought one for my mechanic hubby and had it autographed. It was great to meet the artist in person and tell her how cool her work is.

Dinner was at a Middle Eastern restaurant...grape leaves, hummus, baba ghanoush, falafel...all the goodies! I went to bed that night tired and full and ready for sleep.

Saturday morning was spent shopping and eating (of course!). We went to a Louisville establishment -- Lynn's Paradise Cafe. This is Cracker Barrell meets Eccentric Art Lover with yummy food. After a bit of a wait we were seated in the very eclectic dining room (with our own "Ugliest Lamp Contest" winner). The biscuits are amazing as are the potatoes.

From that point we headed back to Caren's and I packed up ALL my stuff (we calculated that I brought more for 2 days in L-ville than I did for 5 weeks in Europe!) and headed home ready to face the last week of the semester.

Thanks Caren and Julie for showing me your favorite spots! I am looking forward to bringing John back to all of these haunts.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Mardis Gras in November

Yes, I do realize that this is the month where Turkey reigns supreme (while my sister may cook one in my kitchen for the "big day," it is still all about the sides -- always has been). However, I was a co-hostess for a baby shower this past weekend. We racked our brains and quickly discarded any "archaeology" themed showers (Bones and Babies? Somehow, it didn't seem appropriate! :) )

So, "A Mardis Gras Baby Shower" was born. The guest of honor spent a number of years living and schooling in the Big Easy and loves all things New Orleans. The colors were of course green, gold, and purple. We found a feather boa in just those colors for the mommy-to-be. That, along with a crown of jewels, plenty of beads, balloons, and streamers, not to mention food(!) and we were set for a party.
A request had gone out for no "traditional" baby shower games, so we provided blank masks, markers, glitter, and feathers and made Mardis Gras masks!

Here we are showing off our creations!

Each co-host had a separate food assignment, which was wonderful! One hostess brought appetizers and the cake -- let me just say that the hummus was amazing (and store bought!), and the cake....well it was from Publix, so of course it was good!

We had tried for a King Cake, but as they are seasonal and nearly impossible to get in Middle Tennessee, we opted for a yellow cake with vanilla custard filling, topped off with buttercream icing in fantastic shades of purple, green, and gold. A plastic baby was inserted in the side and covered up by extra icing. We were sure to give this piece to our guest of honor.

Our friend who hosted all of us made a salad and a Po' Boy station -- complete with all the fixin's. There were choices of roast beef, shrimp, and roasted veggies (eggplant and orange bell pepper). A few loaves of Publix French bread and we were set.

My contributions were vegetarian red beans and rice (thanks Jack Bishop!), a trio of hot sauces, garlic cheese toast, and my Dreamy Punch (my recipe). The red beans were absolutely amazing. My sister is amused that I get so excited over beans, but hey, these are special! I started with a rice cooker, a one pound bag of dried small red beans and a fantastic recipe from Jack Bishop's A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen.

New Orleans Red Beans and Rice
Jack Bishop -- A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen (pg. 373)

**Note -- I doubled the recipe.**
(My changes/additions are in parentheses.)

2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 medium carrot, finely chopped (I used 2)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium celery stalk, finely chopped (I used 3)
4 medium garlic cloves, minced (I used 6 on the large side)
2 tsp. minced fresh oregano leaves (didn't measure, just kept chopping)
1/2 tsp. Tabasco sauce, or more to taste
2 cups vegetable broth (I only used a bit of veggie broth b/c I kept the liquid the beans were cooked in.)
2 15-0unce cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained (one 1-lb. bag dried small red)
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes (omitted these in favor of 2 Tbsp. tomato paste)
1 bay leaf (I used 3 in the initial cooking of the beans and left them in.)
(one green bell pepper, sliced into long thin strips)
Cooked Rice

My first step was to sort the beans into a large (5 qt.) chili pot. I then added enough cold water to cover by 1-2 inches. I added 3 bay leaves, put the lid on, and turned the heat up. Once it came to a boil, I turned it down to simmer. This will take about 2 hours or so (the no soak method is highly preferred -- another nod to Jack Bishop here [pg. 369]). I do not salt my beans very much (maybe 1 or 2 tsp.) and definitely wait until near the end -- the salt can make the beans impenetrable to the water.

In a separate skillet I sauteed the onions, celery, carrots in the canola oil. After about 5-7 mins. I added the garlic. To this I added the tomato paste and a Tbsp. of veggie broth, seeral dashes of garlic Tabasco, and a dash of cumin. I sauteed this until it was "sofrito" consistency. I added this mixture straight into the bean pot, and continued simmering. As the beans thickened I added a bit more veggie broth. I also added the sliced green bell peppers at this time. I let the whole thing cook for another 20 mins. -- then I had to have some! The scent of onions and cumin, garlic and celery was too much! I whipped up a quick bit of rice (actually the rice cooker did that), and some garlic cheese toast, set out a bottle of garlic Tabasco, and dinner was served!

I stored the beans in the crock pot (in the fridge) overnight, pulled them out in the morning, and reheated via the crock pot for two hours. Our guest of honor said they were quite authentic and tasty. And lucky me, there were enough left over that I had lunch yesterday!

**Best non-baby baby shower ever!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

In need of some comfort food

I spent the better part of this past week at a conference, which is always hectic and fun and exhausting. Eating out for several days wears on me, even when the food is really good. Add to that the perfect weather we are having (blue skies, all the leaves are changing, temps around 70 degrees, and one exhausted girl, well, I want some comfort food.

Since the food is still cooking, I realize I run the risk of posting a recipe that might turn out icky, but it is either blog or mow the yard.....well, you can see which one I picked!

First up is a lovely golden corn and potato chowder that I modified from Corn and Sweet-Potato Chowder by Didi Emmons (Vegetarian Planet). Not a sweet potato or cup of milk in the house, so a little improvisation is turning into Golden C & P Chowder (and it is lactose-intolerant friendly).

Golden P & C Chowder

1-2 Tbsp. butter (you can omit this and use all olive oil)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil (Next time I will cut the fat/oils down to 2 Tbsp. TOTAL)
2 cups chopped vidalia onion
3 minced garlic cloves
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. paprika
2 1/2 Tbsp. flour (I used unbleached AP)
2 cups water
4 cups vegetable stock/broth
3 corn tortillas, cut into small pieces
2 1/2 cups frozen corn kernels
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes, diced (size is a matter of personal preference)
1 jalapeno or other hot pepper.
S & P to taste

Heat the oil and butter in a chili pot, and when hot, add the onions. Saute for 5 mins. until tender, then add the garlic, cumin, and paprika. Cook an additional 3-5 mins.

Add the flour, but keep stirring (this is akin to making gravy), so the flour starts to brown, but doesn't get all lumpy. Add the water while stirring. Stir to all is combined. Add the broth/stock, stirring constantly. Once all of the liquid is combined with the flour/onion mixture, add the tortilla pieces, corn, and potatoes -- stir to combine.

Add the hot pepper -- I pierced it with a knife so it would sink a little (and not bob around on the surface). Simmer for 30 mins. or until potatoes are tender. Discard hot pepper. If the broth is too thin, puree one cup of the soup (with corn and potato bits), and add back to soup. The tortillas melt away and act as a thickener. Add S & P to taste.

I will be serving this with a Potato and Squash Pot Pie and Cornmeal Scones.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

I'm a photographer!?!??!?!?!

One of my pictures was chosen for inclusion in an on-line city guide of Edinburgh. The cool part is I did not submit it to a competition, they found me on Flickr.

I am going to try to add the widget, but I have no clue what I am doing so I hope it works out.

Update -- it did work out -- the link to the map is on the right.
Here is a link to my picture of Arthur's Seat.

Monday, October 22, 2007


Sweet Potato Pizza -- Thanks Angela!

One of my good friends moved recently to Boston and went through a major purge -- seriously between her and her partner all of their worldly possessions fit in the back of a small Toyota pick-up. (Oh, I wish I could be so brave, but that is the topic for another day!). You know the saying, "One woman's junk is another woman's treasure," yep, I made out like a bandit (quoting my g-ma here!).

Angela entrusted all of her vegetarian cookbooks to my care -- and I am honored. My favorite to date is one unassuming 1,001 Low-Fat Vegetarian Recipes, by Sue Spitler. This book contains over 800 pages of recipes (yes pure recipes!) in easy-to-follow text. There are no pictures, which is usually a deterrent for me b/c I like pretty pictures, but the recipes can stand no there own. I have been flipping through this book, earmarking yummy sounding dishes, and have found that most of the recipes are made with common ingredients (no weird vegan stuff!) and are straightforward to assemble.

Which brings me to the Sage-Scented Sweet Potato Pizza -- one of two pizzas I made on Saturday for Oktoberfest. The ingredient list was rather unassuming, but this is definitely one of those that falls in the "the sum is greater than the parts" category! I was amazed at how yummy this was. I modified it to fit our tastes and kitchen practices.

Sage-Scented Sweet Potato Pizza

2 cups evenly sliced sweet potatoes
1 cup thinly sliced onion (I used Vidalia -- my favorite onion!)
1 tsp. dried sage leaves
olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 cup shredded reduced-fat Colby Jack-cheese (I used one of those pre-shredded Mexican blends)
Salt and pepper
pizza dough (I used my old standby from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
Parmesan cheese

I am deviating a bit from her directions b/c I cook my pizzas on a stone, so no need to prep the pan!

1. Mix sweet potatoes and onion with sage, salt, pepper, a bit of olive oil (which is not in the original ingredient list) in a baking pan. Wrap unpeeled garlic cloves in aluminum foil. Roast at 425 degrees until tender -- 10-15 minutes (I overdid mine, but they were still good).

2. Pre-bake crust on stone for 8 minutes. Remove with pizza peel and brush on a mixture of olive oil, salt, pepper, italian seasoning, and red pepper flakes. Arrange roasted potatoes and onions evenly on crust, sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 420 degrees for an additional 18 minutes, until desired browning on cheese. Remove from oven, sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese ad serve.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Cookies for the Co-Workers

My dear husband started a new job last week, and this week requested I make some yummy cookies for him to take to his new co-workers. While it seems that these new people in our lives might be on the adventurous side (I considered my Cocoa Picantes), I decided to wow them with a more "normal" but delicious recipe.
I had saved this recipe from Southern Living, first published in May 2004.

Let me just say, these cookies looked JUST LIKE the picture (well, mine were a tad bigger), and were the perfect combo of crunchy-on-the-outside-yet-chewy/moist-on-the-inside, and salty and sweet.
Here is the recipe, with my changes in ( ).


1/2 cup butter, softened
1/2 cup shortening (I used SmartBalance shortening)
1 cup chunky peanut butter (I used fresh ground nothing added)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I used whole-wheat and probably ended up adding a total of 3 cups)
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I LOVE cinnamon in my choc. chip cookies, so I doubled

(1 1/2 tsp. vanilla)
1 cup unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
1 (11.5-ounce) bag chocolate chunks (I used 1/2 bag mini-semi-sweet choc. chips)


Beat butter and shortening at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; add chunky peanut butter and sugars, beating well. Add eggs, beating until blended.

Combine flour and next 4 ingredients. Add to butter mixture, beating well.

Stir in peanuts and chocolate chunks.

Shape dough into 2-inch balls (about 2 tablespoons for each cookie). Flatten slightly, and place on ungreased baking sheets.

Bake at 375° for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned. Cool on pan 1 to 2 minutes; remove to wire rack to cool completely.

Double Chocolate Chunk-Peanut Cookies: Reduce flour to 2 cups; add 1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa, sifted. Proceed as directed.


Makes 28 cookies

Marsha Johnson, Montgomery, Alabama , Southern Living, MAY 2004

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Attention all cherry lovers!

Let me introduce you to an easy and quick way to pit cherries. Publix has cherries on sale for $1.99/lb. So, I bought a couple of pounds of cherries this morning and wanted to freeze some for smoothies. My sister and I were just discussing what a pain pitting cherries is. Neither of us own cherry pitters -- just one more gadget to find a home for.

After pitting on with a knife, and mangling the sweet flesh, I did a Google search, and found this fabulous tip.

How to pit a cherry with a paperclip -- believe me it really does work (and no need to waste valuable drawer space to store it)!

Here is a post from 2006, scroll down to see my first ever Cherry Clafouti!

No, go pit some cherries!

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Dog (and cat) days of summer

The hot and humid weather that is typical of southern summers has been hard to adjust to after spending June and 1/2 of July in cool (50-60's in Scotland) and pleasant (70s-80s in London and Italy) conditions in Europe.

The animals are feeling the effects, too. This picture was taken yesterday afternoon. Rosco and Fatty McL were (im)patiently waiting for dinner.

Sunday sunrise as viewed from our backyard. One of the adjustments I have not made is sleeping in. I am up by 5:30 every morning and trying to harness the extra time.

Our coneflowers are going gangbusters. Can you believe these are the offspring of two small plants that a colleague gave me Easter weekend of 2006?

While we have plenty of cucumbers and tomatoes in our garden, I have been yearning to make some of the dishes we had in Italy. Rosco and I made a trip to the Farmer's Market this morning. I was surprised and pleased to see that the market is as big, if not bigger, than last year, and the ethnic diversity of those selling has increased. My favorite Mexican family was there...they have the best produce at oh so reasonable prices. I bought the okra and squash from them, and had to stand in a bit of line to buy from them. I am glad business is going! I bought the potatoes from an older nearly toothless gentleman. He had several varieties, all freshly dug within 24 hours. They are not organic, though. The fella' that sells the organic potatoes only had tomatoes and cukes for sale, and well, I have plenty of them! I bought all of this for less than $7, I even came home with money in my pocket!

I will be back there on Friday, and hopefully will make a venture to get some peaches from Garrad's. Love them peaches!

Monday, July 16, 2007

Cucumber Recipes

My sister found this website that has lots of cucumber recipes. I haven't tried any, but am intrigued by:

"Chicken in Cucumber and Lemons Sauce"...of course I would sub tofu for the chicken
Ginger Peanut Pasta Salad
Cucumber Granita
Cucumber Limeade

amongst others.

If anyone tries out any of the recipes from the website I want to hear your reviews!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

We're back and they are huge!

We returned on Wed. July 11th, in the evening. We were exhausted as we had been up and moving for almost 21 hours. Needless to say, I could barely put two words together and was ready for a shower and bed. However, we did take a quick peek at the garden. Our friends and neighbors did a nice job of picking tomatoes and keeping them under control, however, some cucumbers were overlooked and now we have these mammoth english cucumbers. The picture on the left shows them alongside regular-sized salad cucumbers and a variety of tomatoes.

This picture at left shows the two biggest with the pepper grinder for scale.

What am I supposed to do with all of these cucumbers? I have cut up one big one and it was okay, drier than a regular sized one. I have been searching for recipes that use cukes in baking, much like zucchinis or green tomatoes. No luck. So, if anyone out there has a recipe using cucumbers in something other than cold soup, tzatziki, or any version of marinated salad, please direct me to it!

I am going to make a cold cucumber soup...the weather is perfect for that. I wonder how a cucumber gelato would taste?

Look for a link to our trip photos soon!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Vacation is finally here.....

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I woke up really early this morning to head back to the dorm and finish grading student papers, return student papers, eat breakfast, pack all of my stuff, and say good-bye to my students and colleagues, all before 10:30 AM!
John was still in bed when I got back to Rebecca's flat, but we were soon headed out the door to explore the city. We began by walking up the Royal Mile, to our first stop, Edinburgh Castle (my second trip, but I didn't see it all the first time).

Here is a shot of some of the inner buildings of the castle.

This is the Great Hall, with its huge fireplace and impressive display of weapons and battle armor. We were able to view the Scottish Crown Jewels and the Stone of Destiny -- both very impressive and no photos allowed. The Scottish crown jewels have a long history, and were hidden several times to protect them from being destroyed. The self-appointed protectors were quite successful. Read more about the Honours of Scotland here.

Our second stop was a tour of Mary King's Close. This place is billed as a "city beneath the city" and is a bit on the touristy side, but it was a pretty neat experience. You are not allowed to take pictures, and honestly it is not a picturesque kinda' place. One really has to go down into the houses where the lower classes of society lived over 400 years ago to be thankful for indoor plumbing, modern medicine and hygiene, and food preservation.

After this we met up with Rebecca and headed to dinner at her favorite vegetarian restaurant. More on that in the next post.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

John's Here!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

John soaking up some rare Scottish sunshine in the garden at the new Scottish Parliament building.

John admiring the bike rack/sheds outside the dorms, Edinburgh University.

In honor of our youngest nephew.

A Daily Dose of Castle

June 21 – Summer Solstice

We had two castles on today’s agenda, so off we went to catch the train at Waverly Station (Platform 15). A quick 20 minute train ride brought us to the hamlet of Linlithgow, famous for Linlithgow Palace and St. Michael's Parish Church. Our first stop was the tourist information center…which didn’t open until 10:00 am (even thought the website said 9:30am, which I think is kinda’ late since many tourists like to get an early start…but I guess that is just the mulit-tasking, agenda-setting American in me!). We decided to skip on up to the Palace, the earliest construction dates to the 1400s (left -- entering the palace; right -- turret in northwest corner of palace, there are four in all). This castle was different from the other two in that it was square and contained an open courtyard with a large fountain (erected in the mid 1500s, the unicorn and mermaid are sculptures on the fountain). The views of the loch were breathtaking, even with cloud coverage.

After touring the castle for about an hour, I asked the castle staff about getting to our next destination, Blackness Castle. Contrary to the directions in the Historic Scotland pamphlets, traveling to this castle was not going to be straightforward, quick, or practical. The very nice staff at the Palace called around to taxi and bus services, but they were quickly eliminated as possibilities (too expensive, erratic service). We gave the class an hour to tour around the hamlet of Linlithgow and meet us back at the train station. The archaeology class had an afternoon appointment at the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland that we could not be late for. Caren and I did a little shopping, a quick stop at a bakery (with prices a third of those in Edinburgh), and then back to the train station (which was not so easy to find, apparently in a typical British fashion -- although the Scots say they are Scottish, not British, and you would be wise not to confuse the two).

Once we got back to Edinburgh, my class and I headed off to the Elephants and Bagels for lunch. I chose this place because I thought it was where J. K. Rowling liked to hang out, but was informed by the very nice bagel mistress that she actually hung out at the Elephant House, their sister shop, in a different part of town. After eating my $6 bagel sandwich (3 GBP = $6 US, ouch!), we headed for the Royal Commission.

We were on time for our appointment at the RCAHMS (pictured at left in the John Sinclair House) and the staff there gave us a great tour of the facilities, their archives, maps, databases, what they do, why they do it, and how we can access their information. We were even given goodie bags of brochures and post cards. The students were impressed with the old and antique books that are available for research, and we were able to see unique photos of ancient monuments and archaeological sites. I can’t speak highly enough of the welcoming and enthusiastic attitude of the RCHAM staff.

Back at Turner House we all headed off for naps…we needed to be rested for the longest day of the year, which in Scotland is pretty darn long!

Caren and I decided to have a picnic dinner at the Royal Botanic Gardens because they were staying open late and having traditional Scottish music until 11:00 pm. It is really hard to feel sleepy when the sun doesn’t set until 10:30 pm, and then there is still a faint glow in the sky; it never truly gets dark.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Craigmillar Castle

On Wednesday (June 20), I had plans to take my class to the small village/Edinburgh suburb of Cramond with is on the shores of the Forth of Firth. However, we woke up to rain (surprise), and plans quickly changed. Caren planned to take her class to see Edinburgh Castle, so we decided to join them (see previous posts). By lunch time the sun had come out and the sky was filled with puffy white clouds. My class waited for the one o’clock cannon, then sought out lunch, to be followed by a trip to Holyrood Abbey.

Lunch was at a burger place on the Royal Mile called Wannaburger. The décor was simple modern and the burger options were numerous. Vegetarians (and our numbers are growing on this trip) were able to get a veggie burger fixed in any of 13 ways. I stuck with veggie burger with cheese, and it was HUGE! We were able to eat at the sidewalk tables, a rare treat in rainy Edinburgh.

After lunch we walked the entire Royal Mile until the terminus at the new Parliament Building and Holyrood Palace. There was some confusion on the abbey entrance, and plans once again changed. To get the most out of our newly purchased Explorer’s Passes (bought at Edinburgh Castle through Historic Scotland), we searched the maps for acceptable and nearby alternatives. Thus, we jumped a bus (several actually) to head out to Craigmillar Castle, which is located near the Royal Infirmary, in a not so nice part of town (which we didn’t find out until the next day, and that was fine with me – although the abrupt end of the sidewalk should have been a clue!).

Craigmillar Castle is quite different from Edinburgh Castle – the former is in ruins, the latter is a major tourist attraction. Craigmillar was more of a residence, where as Edinburgh was more of a fortress with numerous levels and cannons, and it still houses an active military unit (with quirky red feathers in their caps). Craigmillar is in the countryside with sweeping views of mountains to the west and south, Arthur’s Seat to the northwest, and the North Sea, to the north. Queen Mary of Scots sought peace and solitude here after witnessing the violent murder of her closest confidante and secretary. From the pictures you can see why she would come here. Edinburgh Castle is a powerful symbol of royal and military authority, with numerous levels and buildings, all seeming to have grown out of the extinct volcano they are sitting atop. Impressive.

The journey to Craigmillar was just as much fun as being at the ruins. I used the directions as described in the Historic Scotland brochure…”take any bus to the Royal Infirmary. Follow footpath to the castle.” Sounds straightforward, but I have learned on this trip that Scots give directions like American countryfolk (although I think we use more landmarks…turn right at the big oak, go aways…etc.). I choose to get us off at a stop on the #33 (bus that is) because I happened to see a sign that read “Craigmillar Castle ½) with an arrow. I thought “Good. Signage.” This is where the sidewalk ended and I must say it didn’t resemble Shel Silverstein’s musings at all!

We (which includes myself and 10 students) walked up the road (a slightly dangerous proposition considering that pedestrians do not have the right-of-way in Scotland), when I saw a signpost for the castle, and a small break in the fence…and the fabled footpath. So, off we go, climbing several stretches of increasingly steep hillside. Beautiful, yes, but I couldn’t help thinking “this better be worth it.” At one point, with no castle in sight, I was afraid my class might mutiny. At least the weather was perfect!

Anyway, here is our first glimpse of the castle, and we quickly realized we were in for a treat. Glimpsing the castle was one thing, getting into the castle was quite another. There was a fence surrounding the entire thing (along with near-waist high grass and cows), and no real entrance that we could see. One student went on a recon mission to the fence, but didn’t have too much information. So we all trooped through the tall grass (luckily Scotland has few snakes, only one that is poisonous which lives in the Highlands, far, far away from where we were), and climbed the fence (I like to think of this as “storming the castle”). We more or less had the place to ourselves on a day when the sky could not have been bluer, the breeze softer, and the mood happy and peaceful. This is one outing the eleven of us will not forget anytime soon.

Courtyard of the castle

More castle pics

My colleague, Caren, took some pretty fun pictures at Edinburgh Castle to share. Consider her a guest blogger!

The first three pictures are from Edinburgh Castle.

Edinburgh friends (from left to right):
Rebecca (friend from UK)

at the Meadow Bar

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Long days = full schedule!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

We woke up to rain and thunder (apparently a rarity here, but I have heard it on two different occasions now!), which put a damper on out plans to visit a quaint fishing village on the coast. We reorganized and decided to visit the Edinburgh Castle with the photojournalism class. Here is a mix of students (not all of them) waiting to go in the castle.

An immortal knight guarding the castle entry.

The castle houses a small city within its walls. These next two pictures are of the buildings w/in the castle.

Stained glass window in Royal apartments showing royal symbols. The Scottish version of the Royal coat of arms shows the lion of Scotland in the first and fourth quarters, with the French fleur de lis in the second (today the English lion is in the second). The harp of Ireland is in the third quarter. The shield is under the crown, and they are surrounded by a circle of thistles (the flower of Scotland).

Here is the modern coat of arms of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II:

Queen Mary (of Scots) chapel. This is now a shrine to her.

Stained glass window commemorating William Wallace in Queen Mary's Chapel.

A cannon's view of the city. This is a working castle, there are active military troops here, although I saw few of them. They fire a modern "cannon" off everyday at noon, and the Scots set their watches by this....we all did yesterday since we have spent the last week or so being +/- 10 minutes off from one another!

The castle was packed with people and the weather turned sunny and warm. It was a nice day to be out and about. I didn't even see all there was to see at the castle, it was too big and I wanted to take my class to another site...the ruins of Holyrood Abbey where Queen Mary of Scots was married (one of the times she was married). That didn't work out as planned, so I took my students on a jaunt around the city and ended up at a nearly left alone castle, Craigmillar Castle. But, more on that later. (it is now Thursday morning) I have to get to breakfast because we have to catch a train to see a palace and a castle this morning before a tour of the Royal Commission on Ancient and Historic Mounments this afternoon!

Happy Longest Day of Summer!!!!!!!