Bagpipes, Thistles, and a Wee Dram, Part Three

For the final leg of our adventure, we headed south to the coastal village of Oban and finished with a few days in Edinburgh. Oban (which means “The Little Bay” in Scottish Gaelic) offers miles of gorgeous shoreline to explore and a foodie’s choice of seafood shacks for delicious meals.

After checking into our B&B, we walked up the hill to McCaig’s Tower. The tower, commissioned and designed by John McCaig in 1897, looks like a Colosseum on the hill overlooking Oban Harbor. The tower was never finished. At the time of McCaig’s death in 1902, only the outer walls were complete. However, the tower remains a popular site where visitors can walk within the structure and enjoy the public garden and stunning views of the bay.

From McCaig’s Tower

For dinner that evening, we enjoyed one of the famous seafood shacks on the docks. Here, travelers can enjoy fresh seafood, often taken right from the fishing boats and cooked to order. We enjoyed a giant basket of fresh mussels, sautéed in garlic, onions, and butter. Meals were enjoyed on picnic tables on the docks, where ships constantly come and go in the busy harbor (and travelers can take the public ferry to the outer islands).

We also toured Oban Distillery, still located in the heart of the city where founded in 1794. In addition to a whisky tasting, the tour includes a whisky glass to take home. Of the three distilleries we toured, I think this was Chad’s favorite!

After a few days in Oban, we headed to our final destination, Edinburgh. First, we drove a few miles south of the city to tour Rosslyn Chapel. Built in the 15th century, the unique chapel, covered with ornate stone carvings, took four decades to complete. The many intricate carvings and symbolism served as inspiration for Dan Brown’s “The Davinci Code.” Visitors can attend Mass, hear presentations, and even descend into the oldest part of the chapel, the crypt.

Our final two days were spent exploring Old Town in Edinburgh. Our hotel was a few blocks from Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. This site was made popular by J.K. Rowling, as she spent much time here writing. In fact, some of the names on the gravestones served as inspiration for characters in the Harry Potter Series.

Greyfriar’s Kirk

Creepy Stone “Non Omnis Moriar” (Not all of me will die)-Perhaps this is where J.K. Rowling came up with the idea of horcruxes.

Edinburgh also offers a variety of Ghost Tours, including several in Greyfriar’s Kirkyard. Instead, we took the Edinburgh Haunted Underground Tour (Mercat Tours), exploring the Blair Street Underground Vaults. While quite an unsettling experience, we enjoyed all the history in the vaults beneath South Bridge: A tavern, wine cellar, body snatching, smuggling, and housing for Edinburgh’s poorest.

Just down the block is the Greyfriar’s Bobby statue and pub.

Across the street is the National Museum of Scotland. A popular (and free) museum in the UK, visitors would require days to see all the displays and reach the top, where tourists have the opportunity walk out on the roof and see a unique view of Edinburgh!

Dolly, the sheep

The Lewis Chessmen (Did you hear a family in Edinburgh recently discovered one of the missing Lewis chess pieces in a drawer at home?)

As with so many trips, we ran out of time to see everything on our list, the perfect excuse to visit this lovely country at a later date.

Thanks for reading!

Bagpipes, Thistles, and a Wee Dram, Part One

Bagpipes, Thistles and a Wee Dram, Part Two

Farmers’ Market Season has begun for Cairn Hill Farms! Below is my Summer Newsletter, including a coupon. Can’t make it to the market? Use my On-line store. Interested in a custom product? Please message me!

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Bagpipes, Thistles, and a Wee Dram, Part Two

After our adventures in Stirling and Inverness, we headed to the Isle of Skye for a few days. The drive south took us through Loch Ness. Driving Road A82 south along the Loch reminded me of the Pacific North West with the many moss covered trees, stones, thick woods, and rocky shoreline.

The Isle of Skye is among the largest of the main islands in the Inner Hebrides. To access the island, travelers must drive to Kyle of Lochalsh and cross Skye Bridge (or use a car ferry). The winding roads through Skye offer beautiful views, scenic pull offs, and frequent locations to stop and “wet your whistle.” I was surprised to see so many campers and campgrounds. Skye offers the ideal locale for camping and hiking.

Speaking of hiking, we had the opportunity to visit The Fairy Pools, a picturesque series of falls in Glen Brittle. Hikers must traverse rocks across streams and climb a rocky, moderate incline to reach the top. The views are worth the effort!! Hikers will also find many areas to stop, take photos, and wander the water carved rocks.

We also visited the city of Portree, the capital of Skye and its largest town. We enjoyed browsing the many shops and wandering the quaint streets, including lovely paths along the waterfront.

Just a few miles out of town, we stayed in an 1800s Crofter’s House. This cozy cottage provided an ideal place for the two of us to relax, cook some seafood, and explore the island.

Sheep traffic jam on the road in front of our house…

Exploring the beach near the cottage…

Finally, I had the opportunity to perform at a local pub! The folks at Seuma’s Bar in Sligachan were a pleasure to work with, special thanks to Afreka. The crowd was attentive and lively, and we were delighted to visit with a few of the locals afterward and enjoyed a bowl of Cullen Skink (a tasty cream based fish chowder, served with crusty bread).

I prepared an hour of American folk music mixed with bits of history: Sharing stories from my home state of Michigan and singing a tune about “The Mighty Mac,” telling of the lively times in Colorado and Kentucky mining towns (and the story of Great-Grandpa Stewart in Leadville, CO), and including a few Scottish tunes in honor of our hosts.

Come back next month to hear about our final leg of the journey in Oban and Edinburgh! Thanks for reading!

Bagpipes, Thistles, and a Wee Dram, Part One

Chad and I recently returned from a grand Scottish adventure! The Scottish countryside was some of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. We also met interesting people and enjoyed delicious meals.

Our first stop was Stirling. After being up most of the night, we rested during the afternoon at our B&B but enjoyed a walk in the evening and explored the city. The Old Tram House was a short drive from The Wallace Monument. Unfortunately, the Monument was closed for renovation, but we were able to hike up to the immense building and explore the grounds.

We also found a unique bit of Scotland, The Devil’s Pulpit. The name refers to a particular stone that usually remains uncovered as the stream runs through Finnich Gorge. The name may also refer to the eerily red tinted water (the effects of the red sandstone).

To explore the gorge, travelers must descend steep, slippery steps (with no hand rail). Chad braved the mossy, overgrown descent and was rewarded by spectacular views. I, on the other hand, have enough trouble balancing on flat, dry land and opted to take pictures from above.

We also stopped in Stirling’s oldest pub, the Settle Inn, founded in 1733. We cozied up by the fire for a pint of Guinness and were surprised when the bartender sent us to the back room, which was a cave carved into the hill!

Later, we headed north to Inverness, the Capital of The Highlands. Ever since we started saving for this trip seven years ago, one of my top destinations was Culloden Battlefield (located a few miles from Inverness). Growing up in a family of history majors (and being of Scottish descent), I heard many stories of the Jacobite uprising and their defeat (and end of the Scottish Clan System) in 1746 on Culloden Moor.

This history major also learned a thing our two when touring Culloden! Many assume the battle was only Scottish Highlanders vs. the British. However, the Battle at Culloden was actually a Civil War with soldiers from Scotland, Ireland, Wales, France, and even English, fighting for freedom from England.

The day we visited was the one time the Scottish rain got the better of us. We spent most of our time touring the extensive visitor’s center and took a brief excursion on the battlefield.

We found the line of stones honoring the individual clans, headstones marking mass graves of Jacobite soldiers.

The Memorial Cairn (1881)

Leanach Cottage where injured Jacobite soldiers took refuge after the battle (and were later executed)

After warming up, drying off, and enjoying a wee dram at Leanach Farms, a working sheep farm and B&B, I gave a welcome home concert for the father of our host (He had just come home after a lengthy stay in the hospital).

Finally, we explored Clava Cairn, a short distance from the B&B. Clava Cairn is a series of Bronze Age stone circles with entrances pointing toward the south west. I was amazed how peaceful the stones were! We spent quite some time slowly wandering the grounds. The location would be ideal to meditate, write, or spend time in deep thought.

Next month, please come back and read about our time on the Isle of Skye.

Thanks for reading!

A Passion for Philanthropy

I recently came across a memorable post on LinkedIn:

Want to be happy for a day, take a nap.

Want to be happy for a year, collect an inheritance.

Want to be happy for a lifetime, find a way to help others.

Do you enjoy giving your time to help others? While volunteering is a fantastic way to begin, have you ever thought of donating your talent? Perhaps you are an avid runner and enjoy donating time to local family fun runs or hosting a chapter of Girls on the Run. Have a talent working with animals? Perhaps you donate time at a local shelter or raise a PAWS with a cause puppy. I challenge you to do more than volunteer, combine philanthropy with your passion!

Many of you know I love my music. For the past year and a half, I have been working with a talented pair of ladies, crafting music, a mixture of Irish, Scottish, and Americana. Each member brings special talents:

Colleen-Our fearless leader, whose talents include lead and back-up vocals, guitar, cajon and percussion

Paula-Sharing her skill with lead and back-up vocals, guitar, cajon, and percussion

Maggie-Sharing lead and back-up vocals, Strumstick, viola, and tin whistle

As a result of the Celtic influence in our music, March remains a busy month. However, we found time to help a local charity dear to my heart, Kyomi’s Gift. This organization was created after the loss of my dear niece, Kyomi, at only 4 months of age. The Murphy Family wanted to give back, so Kyomi’s Gift was formed. For the past 14 years, we have raised money to help parents with sick children, so they can spend more time together.

This year, Kyomi’s Gift is hosting an afternoon of Irish fun in Hastings! There’s something for everyone: Irish trivia, Silent Auction, Irish jig competition, Corned beef and cabbage supper, Cash bar, and…

Kilkenny Corker’s in Concert!

Here are a few tunes from a recent practice:

See you on March 16!

Thanks for reading!

Can’t make it? Interested in donating to Kyomi’s Gift?

Kilkenny Corker’s on Facebook

It’s Fast, Easy, and What’s for Dinner!

In the midst of all the snow days, I hoped for more time to write. Alas, “Life got in the way!” However, after listening to friends and family discuss home food delivery services and the time constraints to prepare weekly dinners, I decided to share this older post from 2013. Hopefully, this quick and easy recipe will become a tradition and time saver in your weeknight repertoire:

While I enjoy cooking, the weeknight rush is a challenge for me. Here is a quick meal that is among my kids’ favorites. Special thanks to “The Godfather” for sharing!

Baked Chicken in Cranberry Sauce

1-2 lbs. chicken (legs, breasts, thighs, boneless or bone-in, pretty much whatever is in the freezer)
1 bottle Catalina salad dressing (8 oz)
1 can whole cranberry sauce
1 envelope dry onion soup mix

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Mix together cranberry sauce, dressing and onion soup mix
Cover 9×13 pan with some of the mix
Lay chicken pieces in pan and cover with remaining mixture
Bake at 350 degrees for 60 min (less if boneless, cooking times based on thawed chicken)

I usually serve this with a salad and either baked sweet potatoes or rice.

Enjoy!

Thanks for reading!

Ouch, My Aching Back!!!

My lower back issues began in 1991 when two friends and I decided to skip Senior Prom and enjoy an adventure in northern Michigan. Unfortunately, my adventure ended with a horse back riding accident at the Caple’s Ranch. Ever since, I struggle with regular lower back issues, at times requiring over a week of bed rest. Over the years, I have tried many remedies, some helpful, some not so much. Below are a few regular treatments/life habits with which I found success:

A Relaxing Night’s Sleep: How many times have you started the day with a sore back? Is your bed the cause? 1/3 of your life is spent in bed. Make an investment in a supportive mattress and pillow. Sleeping with a pillow between the knees also takes pressure off the lower back.

Hourly Movement: Do you spend most of the day sitting? Does standing up cause pain? If so, commit to getting up every hour during the day and walking for a few minutes. We aren’t meant to sit all day (Yes, that includes sitting at home watching TV). Hourly movement can reduce soreness.

Acupuncture: I’ve received acupuncture for over 15 years. A traditional 45 minute treatment relaxes and refreshes the entire body. I also found relief in placebo needle placement. Several times, my acupuncturist inserted needles where I had pain, greatly relieving the tenderness.

Ice/Heat: 20 minutes of icing the lower back, immediately followed by 20 minutes on the heating pad works wonders.

Flexibility and Core Work: Commit several times per week to leg and back stretches and core strengthening. You may find this website a helpful start.

Donut Pillow: While a bit embarrassing at first, the donut pillow places extra pressure on the glutes, relieving lower back tension. I keep one in my car and at home. Here’s a more discreet covered pillow.

Massage: Massage can ease tight muscles. Request extra work on the IT Band. Many lower back issues can be linked to tight or weak hips.

Resistance Bands: Speaking of hip issues, utilizing resistance bands can calm the IT Band and strengthen the hips. An appointment with a physical therapist often includes resistance bands to take home and a set of hip strengthening exercises. Make those exercises part of your regular routine!

Remember to use caution and keep in contact with your health care provider when adding a new activity into your regimen.

Thanks for reading!

The Parting Glass for Year’s End

The new year approaches quickly! A few months ago, a co-worker suggested instead of New Year’s Resolutions, we should begin a challenge in November. We started a walking goal to complete by Christmas. Many students and instructors offered encouragement as we walked laps around the parking lot or strolled the halls on our breaks. We were excited to reach our goal on the last day before vacation! After we return from break, a new challenge begins!

What are your goals for 2019? I’m focusing on activities that improve the mind, body, and spirit: Exercise challenges, meditation, reading (starting with Lewis’ Mere Christianity), singing at the Commission on Aging, and performing with Kilkenny Corkers.

Below is a New Year’s Gift for our fans-Slainte!

Happy New Year and thanks for reading!

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