Sunday, January 31, 2010

Saturday Edinburgh Walkabout - with pictures

We live in the crater of  a volcano.  Really.

Supposedly it is an extinct volcano but are volcanoes ever really extinct?

Thomas Jefferson said that Edinburgh is a city “that no place in the world can pretend to equal.”  On the southern shore of  the Firth of Forth where the estuary  meets the North Sea, Edinburgh sits on seven hills.

Castle rock is actually a volcanic plug at a such  height that you can use it to get your bearings almost anywhere you are in the city.

 Only 500,000 people live here but there are many more than that here all the time - university students, world financial leaders, members of the Scottish parliament, and tourists.  Oh, and people like us who wish the British government would let us live here full-time but must pass through as occasional ex.-pats when we can work it out. The crowds,  the accomplishments, the historical significance, the cultural maelstrom - books, comedy, plays, music, lectures - belie Edinburgh’s relatively small size.  It  is a place like no other on earth and its influence can be felt around the world. 

And fortunately not because the volcano is erupting.

 As I walked around the city with David  on Saturday afternoon I kept having a “pinch me, I really live here” experience again and again.

It started as we walked out our front door.  I looked down the street to the left.
And then as we turned right, crossed London Road and started up Calton Hill, I could see Arthur’s Seat, the largest remaing part of the volcano - right there.
Arthur’s Seat and Calton Hill are two of the seven hills in the city.  All are remnants of the volcano.

As we walked up the Hill past the beautiful Georgian Houses that line the streets of Calton Terrace and London Road Gardens,
I couldn’t help thinking how strange it was that I was climbing one part of what must have been a HUMONGOUSLY BIG volcano and looking over at another part.  When the top  blew off this one it must have been massive - a sort of Mt St Helens or Vesuvius on steroids. Fortunately, the last eruption was 325 million years ago.

But geologists can trace the development of  rock formations all around the city and pinpoint specific marks where the cone erupted.  Often, when you look down at where you are walking  it is obvious that it is volcanic rock beneath your feet.   Hardened lava.
From the top of Calton Hill looking over at Arthur’s Seat 823 feet in the air, you can see great distances in all directions.

Holyroodhouse - Queen of Scotland's official residence
Our Dynamic Earth

The new Scottish Parliament Building
Easter Rd Stadium - about 3 blocks from our flat - Go Hibs!

And just below you can see the beautiful streets of the city.
Looking down Princes Street

On top of the Hill there is an unfinished replica of the Parthenon called the Monument.  Begun during Edinburgh’s Age of Enlightenment construction was halted due to lack of funds.
There was a cute Scotsman standing there

Also, up on the Hill are the original Scottish Observatory, a monument to Lord Nelson and the city’s first park.

It is a steep climb but well worth the aching calves that result.

We walked up the side nearest our flat and then down on the other side ending on Princes Street.
 The Scottish National Archives with Wellington on Horseback standing guard
A few blocks further on we crossed the North Bridge to the center of the Royal Mile, Edinburgh’s most famous street.
 North Bridge
The street was crowded with tourists even on a bitterly cold Saturday afternoon as we walked down the mile to the tea shop.

No seats and a long wait - so we turned and walked back up the Mile, passing pub after pub with barely room for standing and eventually found a seat in Deacon Brodies, one of the oldest pubs in town.
It's always 5 o'clock in an Edinburgh pub!

After we had thawed out a bit over a pint, we walked around the corner and up the stairs for a light supper.  Bundled up again we decided to make the walk back across town to our flat rather than stand in the biting wind and wait for the bus.  We walked back across the bridge as darkness fell.

The amazing full moon was so low and large in the sky that it looked like you could reach out and touch it.

And it seemed to follow us home reappearing around every corner.

Our teeth were chattering so we stopped about half-way to warm up a bit in the Theatre Bar and while I watched all the people who had popped in for a drink before the evening performance David  has a swift pint.

Bundled up again we walked the remaining blocks down London Road in the moonlight under the Shadow of Calton Hill where just hours before we had stood looking down.

Friday, January 29, 2010

What To Do With a Chicken When Not Throwing It At the TV

(Warning:  This post contains political statements that may offend your sensibilities.  Please do not let that stop you from reading all the way through where I think it may all come together )*

I was asleep during the State of the Union speech (it was 2AM in Scotland)  or I would definitely have been watching.  My father made a point of encouraging us to watch those sorts of things. Somehow I was always there listening to his editorial comments and making many of my own while my siblings managed to escape. I am glad he instilled in me an interest in how our democracy works.  As boring and self-serving as these speeches may seem they are an integral part of how our exceptional government works.  Please understand that by “exceptional government’ I mean by design not necessarily as executed at any time in our history.

And I think the wonderful back and forth, and sometimes even angered, posts I read on facebook that were written during and after the speech are as important a part of the current process as those ridiculous television broadcast pundits.  It is actually nice to know that some people care enough to get angry. 

I grew up in a small Southern town where everyone I knew was a Democrat - even my ranting father.  After all, Republicans were the party of Lincoln and hadn’t he defeated the South in the Civil War? And then suddenly there was Ronald Reagan and the Democrats of my youth were transformed into die-hard, flag waving born-again Republicans.  Wow, that actor knew how to win over an audience.

 Never mind that his policies and those of many of subsequent Republicans generally  are harmful to the working person and put more money in the hands of the rich -where I am sorry it does not go to create more jobs but goes to buy more houses, cars and vacations for them and into the trust funds and inheritances of children who will have an immediate leg up over any of our kids - and wouldn’t you like for your friends to tell  you what  stocks to buy when they have the inside track on which ones are going up.

Reagan told us that “Gub-ment” is bad and “bid-ness” is good.  Somehow we were convinced that a government which we can vote in our out is worse than an employer that determines how and even where we live by controlling our income, health care, work hours, leisure time, vacation - in short, our lives - and over whom we exert absolutely no control ( and to whom the Supreme Court has now granted the right to control the government as well,)   Am I cynical about this -yes.  Do I believe what I just wrote - absolutely!  I firmly believe that the single worst thing that has happened and continues to happen in the US is  the concentration of wealth and power into the hands of fewer and fewer people.

In the FB posts, e-mails and even op-ed pieces that I read, it was clear that as Obama spoke people came down harder and firmer on whichever side they were on at the start of the speech.

  No one was really listening to what was said or in any way evaluating the overall impact of his proposed policies.  Everyone was either self-congratulating or just throwing tomatoes or rubber chickens at the TV (or words at the computer screen) in a symbolic gesture of disgust.

And what of that rubber chicken? Well aside from the one that is handed down in my family to mark significant birthdays (definitely worthy of a future post) according to “’Chicken in Every Pot’” is a quotation that is perhaps one of the most misassigned in American political history. Variously attributed to each of four presidents serving between 1920 and 1936, it is most often associated with Herbert Hoover. In fact, the phrase has its origins in seventeenth century France; Henry IV reputedly wished that each of his peasants would enjoy "a chicken in his pot every Sunday." Although Hoover never uttered the phrase, the Republican Party did use it in a 1928 campaign advertisement touting a period of "Republican prosperity" that had provided a ‘chicken in every pot. And a car in every backyard, to boot.’   Hmmm. Prosperity a la Herbert Hoover? Equality as touted by Henry IV?  I don’t think so. But isn’t it interesting that we are still arguing over who supplies the  chicken and how we pay for the cars - both their manufacture and their purchase in the current case.

But I ramble -
Let’s get back to that chicken - and I sincerely hope it does not turn out rubbery.  As I scrolled through the political banter I was pleased to see dear Andrea discussing the wonderful goodness of homemade chicken broth.  Mmmmm.  Can’t you just smell it on the stove now?

 And it reminded me of something I read before - probably an outgrowth of the misattributed comment and certainly a reaction to our strained economy- that every family/household should roast a large chicken every Sunday and it would feed them all through the rest of the week. With apologies to my vegetarian friends I must say that the idea intrigued me and in the current economic environment, suggesting that there be a chicken in every oven might be a really good idea.  Chicken is inexpensive relative to a lot of other things.  It is delicious, generally low in fat so healthier than much of what we eat in the west, and easy to prepare for even a novice cook.

Not to say that there aren’t lots of things that can go wrong in the process - a too fast oven can produce a dry bird (that sounds like the end of some fable), an underdone chicken can make all who eat it really sick and so forth.  But there are wonderful kosher chickens, organic chickens, free-range chickens all bred for deliciousness and healthy eating.

 I once saw Julia Child and Jacques Pepin argue over the proper technique for chicken roasting.  It basically came down to this - if you set the temperature  correctly, take the cooked bird out of the oven in time and let it set for 15 minutes before carving it really doesn’t matter if you rub a mustard garlic mash under the skin or slather it with butter, it is gonna taste good.

So, I decided to do an experiment -  Is it really possible to feed a family all week from a chicken well-roasted on Sunday? One caveat. There were only two of us eating chicken during my experiment but I started with a rather small pre-roasted bird so I feel comfortable extrapolating my results to a family of four with a large roaster - perhaps one of Perdue’s “Oven Stuffers.”

While we were living in Mexico we often purchased wonderful roasted chickens for a few dollars.  They came with tortillas, pickled onions and a choice of homemade red or green salsa.  To start my experiment I purchased one of these chickens and had the clerk cut it into four  pieces with the cleaver.

Back at the apartment, I put two of the chicken pieces in bags in the freezer. Likewise, I stored the salsa and onions for later in the week.  I deboned the  third piece of chicken and stored the meat in the refrigerator.  I sliced the meat off the fourth piece for nicer presentation and then filled a roasting pan with vegetables - potatoes, turnips, chayote, peeled garlic, carrots and onions - drizzled some olive oil over all of them and put the pan in a hot oven. In a second pan I put a lot of broccoli florets that I had tossed in olive oil, some more onions and a few more cloves of garlic on one side and on the other side  I placed a lot of cherry tomatoes and that all went on the other rack in the oven.

While the veggies roasted I put the chicken bones in a bag and tossed it in the freezer.  Didn’t want to risk encouraging the growth of bacteria that has given chicken a bad name with some people.  I tossed big salad with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper and arranged the sliced chicken  on  a platter,  When the veggies were done I mounded ½  of them beside the chicken and dinner 1 was served.  David likes a little good homemade mayo or Hellmann’s on the side.
The broccoli, tomatoes and remaining veggies were stored in separate containers in the frig.

Monday/Dinner 2 - Using the tortillas that came with the chicken ( you would probably hav eto buy yours - I recommend corn tortillas) I moistened them in a little hot oil (you can use water but it is not as good) wrapped some of the deboned chicken , black beans, roasted onions, some green chiles and cheese in each and placed them in a baking dish.  I poured the salsa over everything and sprinkled some more cheese on top and baked until it was bubbly and brown.  I served the enchiladas with rice (cook twice as much rice as you need and store the extra in the frig for later) and sour cream and sprinkled sliced olives and jalapenos on top.  There was a big salad too.

Tuesday/Dinner 3 -  I thawed one of the chicken pieces from the freezer and deboned it, putting the bones back in the frig (can’t refreeze!)  I mixed the chicken with the leftover roasted veggies from Sunday and made a gravy  ( easy - sauté  sliced onions in butter until translucent, sprinkle with herbs de Provence and flour and cook until the roux starts to brown, pour in some canned vegetable or chicken stock and cook until gravy forms) Stir the chicken and veg into the gravy and add a small can of green peas, well drained. Line a deep dish pie plate with crust (purchased or homemade) and fill with chicken veggie mixture.  Top with second crust and bake until browned and bubbly.  Serve with salad. Good with a little HP sauce on the side.

Wednesday/Dinner 4 - Take the last piece of chicken and the bones out of the freezer and allow to thaw in the refrigerator.  Debone the chicken, and put ½  of the meat back in the frig. Cook your favorite pasta, drain and reserve some cooking liquid.  Put some olive oil in a large skillet, stir in the roasted broccoli, onions, garlic and tomatoes, sprinkle liberally with Italian herbs, stir in the chicken and cook until heated through. (If you prefer a creamy sauce  - remove from heat and stir in some butter, cream and a pinch of nutmeg)  Toss the sauce with the pasta and add a little cooking liquid if needed to moisten.  Serve with garlic bread and salad.

Thursday/ Dinner 5 - Make the chicken stock!  Put all the bones (hope you saved any skin too), several stalks of celery, some carrots, a few onions and a bouquet garni in a large soup pot.  Cover with water and cook until a wonderful rich broth results. Add some butter to enrich if you want. Strain and reserve any bits of chicken and the veggies.  Discard bones and cartilage.  Put half the broth back in the pot and store the other half in the frig.  Slice up the vegetables and add them to the broth.  In a skillet, cook whatever vegetables you  like for soup in some butter until tender.  Add everything with chicken and leftover rice to the  pot.  Taste and adjust the seasonings.  Enrich with butter if needed.  Serve with crispy bread and salad.

Friday/Dinner 6 - Now it starts to get a little tricky.  You’ve got some broth and a little chicken left.  Make a creamy mushroom soup using the broth (recipes are everywhere) or a really good French Onion Soup and serve it with chicken nachos - warm  tortilla chips (homemade preferably), chicken, refried beans, olives, jalapenos, cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream and anything else you like.

Saturday/Dinner 7 -  I didn’t make our chicken last a whole week but if I had thought about it I could have done something like grilled pimento cheese with Friday night’s soup and made a huge pile of nachos** with a salad on Saturday.  Maybe next time.

** dear Andrea “has decided that making chicken broth is the most fulfilling task a non-child-having-person can do.”
In addition, she made “a mole sauce, added some chicken, put it on top of some homemade corn tortilla chips and topped with cheese! (She)called them Enchilada Nachos. They were pretty much awesome!”
“I don't know how to make a "real" mole I guess.” She says. “That's just what I call it. I start with a little oil in a pot, add some flour (a running roux) pour in a can of tomato sauce stir then add cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, chili powder and coco to taste. Oh and a bit of salt to bring it together. It's simple, takes about 15 minutes (of course the longer you let it simmer the better) and yummy!”
Sounds like a real mole to Ciel and with a lot less work than the day long project I undertook while in San Miguel.

* This post is dedicated to Papa Rose who must be throwing rubber chickens down at any of  his progeny who trash his beloved Democrats and who loved a good roasted chicken -  usually after he had rung the chicken's neck himself.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Sing along with Neil Sedaka

Getting dressed is hard to do… Well, maybe those aren’t Sedaka’s words exactly but they work with the tune and are just as true as what he had to say. 

Now that I think of it “breaking up” is easier than getting dressed.   To break up all that’s required is a phone call which you could make in your pajamas, without even brushing your teeth.  But getting dressed requires changing out of those same comfortable pajamas, taking a shower - which includes washing hair, body, face (each with something different), shaving, drying, moisturizing, brushing and flossing teeth and putting on makeup.

Now depending on your personal style this makeup thing can be a snap or take up to 45 minutes.  When you go to the Trish counter, before they sell you anything they determine your makeup style.  I am a 10-minute or less type but on most days that still means a little foundation or concealer (hmmm, forgot that this morning, better go check for dark circles - BRB),

OK I’m back and FYI concealer was required. - damn those new martini glasses

….some carefully applied blush or bronzer, eyebrow color and combing, a little eyeshadow, eyeliner, eyelash curler, mascara, lip balm, lip stick and liner.  Whew!  When I write it all down like that it seems ridiculous!

Now it’s time to style your hair - comb, brush, blow dryer, styling products if you use them, perhaps a curling iron, straightener or a curler or two, and then maybe even some hairspray.  Check it all out in the mirror.

Check your mani and pedi and make any necessary repairs. This mean removing any chipped polish and scheduling an appointment for a re-paint if necessary.  Absolutely no touching up that one big toe or pointer finger. (Some leeway here is you will be wearing closed toed shoes .)

Now It’s on to choosing something to wear (which could take hours - you know the process so I don‘t have to spell it out.  When I was working I used to choose my clothes the night before and then the next day I would not feel like wearing what I had selected so might as well have waited until the morning anyway, and I have a question.  Does anyone iron anymore? Because I always seem to need to iron whatever I choose to wear even if it was unwrinkled when I put it away but there are no ironing boards in any of the places we live)

…and then you have to get into whatever you’ve chosen (and hopefully that doesn’t require that you stuff yourself into tights in addition to bra and panties because that is a really bad way to have to start a day and please oh please tell me you‘re not still wearing controltop pantyhose. I‘m not even discussing Spanx and the like - used to call them girdles until women got smart - and now Oprah has dummed us down again like it really makes any difference for her anyhow), now choose jewelry to go with what you are wearing, and then, of course, decide that different earrings will work better so change those.

Hopefully, you can just slip on your shoes and maybe buckle and ankle strap because at those times when I have to actually bend down and tie them, well, I figure that is enough exercise right there.

And speaking of exercise, because usually if you are tying shoes they are sneakers and unless you like the look of large white shoes sticking out from beneath the hem of your jeans (which I personally think is a look that requires a citation from the fashion police)*, if you are tying shoe laces you are probably heading out to exercise and you wouldn’t have gone through all the steps above in preparation.  Well, if you are headed to a gym you may have put on  makeup because some of the women there look like they have dressed for a date - which I assume they are at least attempting to attract.  Personally, I prefer to sweat barefaced and I don’t really pay a lot of attention to what I wear since my exercise of preference is yoga.  I just care that I am comfortable and since you take off your shoes anyway there is generally no tying involved as I wear flip-flops to class.  But what I can’t stand is that usually I have gone through the dressing thing earlier in the day and then after yoga class I have to do it all again.  There is something totally wrong with that!

But I ramble…

Time to check out the total package in a full-length mirror  (and, Please, turn around and check out your backside - a change of clothing may be required) because you do not want to go out of the house looking like those people at WalMart who obviously do not own a full-length mirror because if they do and they went out looking like that anyway they should be shot.  So if you don’t own a full length mirror then get thee to WalMart and buy one - NOW!

I mean since you are going out anyway.  At least I assume you are going out or else why would you be getting dressed since you were wearing comfortable pajamas when all this started and no one in their right mind would change out of pajamas just to stay at home - unless of course you are expecting guests but  even then there are pajamas designed for wearing while entertaining and since it’s your house you don’t have to get dressed unless you want to.

After dinner each night, my grandfather would undress down to his boxers and t-shirt - which were probably his pajamas -and sit in his favorite chair to watch TV.  He smoked and on the side table were always an ashtray, a lighter and a box of chocolates (no real connection to the story just an interesting tidbit about the chocolates I think) Anyway, if someone called to say they were coming over he would usually just go to bed to keep from having to get dressed again (smart man!) but if you dropped by without calling he would just sit there in his “pajamas” because it was his house and he could wear what he wanted particularly in front of someone too ill-mannered to call before coming over.

Which brings me to the political point of my story.  I think Mao was right, well  actually he was left but he was a very smart man.

Anyone who knows me knows that my politics tend to be far left however I do take issue with some of the points in the Little Red Book but that is not what I am talking about here.

The man wore his pajamas.  All the time. 

And he mandated that everyone else do the same.  I say, what is wrong with that?  

We don’t have to think just communist gray, black or khaki.  We could wear colors or stripes or paisley or foulard.  On casual Friday maybe even break out our favorite cartoon character jim-jams and hit the street.  Think of the time savings - and all that improved morale - not to mention the energy available to put to the task at hand rather than wasted on that ridiculous dressing routine. (But wear shoes peeps)

                                                                    Real shoes!

There used to be a restaurant in Chicago where the waiters served brunch in their pajamas every Sunday and the customers were invited to wear theirs as well.   What a concept! Why save it only for Sunday? 

Mao was onto something and I think we would all be well-served to follow suit (pun intended).

And now that I am dressed and exhausted, I need a nap to recover from the effort.  Where did I put those PJs.

* Clearly the description of dressing is directed to my female friends but guys have their own routine as well -  although when they decide to forego all that effort, and not shower or shave for instance, we just chalk it up to being male and don’t seem to worry about it.  And as for the white sneakers - a guy can look really good in a nice fitting pair of jeans and clean white sneakers.   Clean is the operative word here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tallying up my life

As 2010 starts a new decade I thought it might be interesting to take a count of my life.

5 grandparents (2 grandfathers and 3 grandmothers)
2 parents, 1 sister and 1 brother
2 spouses
4 brothers-in-law and 5 sisters-in-law
2 children
3 nieces and 8 nephews
1 great-nephew
7 uncles, 9 aunts
14 first cousins,  35 spouses or partners between us
(My aunt Dot always wanted to have a party with all the spouses, partners and ex’s)
To many other relatives, greats, grands, once or twice removed to count

Pets: 8 (6 dogs - 2 Cocker Spaniels, 1 Cairn Terrier, 3 Maltese -  2 cats)
Lady, Buffy, Pfefferneuse, Tribble, Tasha, Madison, Marmalade, Mrs. Dorothy Parker

Schools, colleges or universities:
5 in 2 states  - 1 diploma, 1 degree
Maiden Elementary, Maiden High,  Pfeiffer College, Wake Forest, Syracuse

Jobs : 19 with 12 employers (if you count NCNB/NationsBank/Bank of America as one) - not including wife/mother or the fabulous one I have now

Addresses: 31 in 16 cities, 11 states, 5 countries and 1 cruise ship
Cars: 11 ( including 7 Hondas, 2 Volkswagens, and MG and an RX-7)

Piercings: 7
Tattoos: 0
Haircolors: 5
Surgeries: 13,  including Plastic surgery: 7
Diseases - 5 (non-contagious)

Travel : 46 states ( not Washington, North Dakota, Alaska, Hawaii or Puerto Rico)
             8 countries
Friends:  Fortunately too many to count all over the world

Any questions?  How  do you tally up?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Gie her a Haggis - even if she toasts the President

Some hae meat and cannot eat.
Some cannot eat that want it:
But we hae meat and we can eat,
Sae let the Lord be thankit.

         - Traditional Selfkirk Grace

Today, January 25, is the 251st anniversary of the birth of Scotland’s national Bard, Robert Burns, or Rabbie as he is affectionately called and Scots are celebrating.  A few years after Burns death in 1796 the ritual of the Burns Supper was started by a few of his close friends as a tribute to his memory and tonight (or perhaps this past Saturday night)  all over the world wherever the Scottish diaspora has landed, ex-patriate Scots, simple admirers of the famous “Ploughman’s Poet” and the many who just wish they were Scottish because they know that Scots really know how to party will be celebrating.  Of course, nowhere will there be more Burns Suppers, ceilidhs and similar celebrations than in Scotland itself and in Edinburgh, in particular

 The kilt-hire shops will do a roaring trade, haggis will take center stage and speeches will be made as all the celebrations, no matter where they are, follow a standard. Some Suppers will be quite formal, some simple family affairs, many will be held in hotels and restaurants and will certainly be loud, bawdy and drunken.

 The basic format has remained relatively unchanged since the end of the 18th century. It begins with a  few welcoming words from the host and the Selkirk Grace (see above).

 Then the participants are invited to stand to receive the haggis.

A piper leads the chef, carrying the haggis to a head table, followed by a sword carrier and a whisky carrier (David’s favorite role),  the hosts and honored guests.  As they process the other guests accompany them with a slow handclap.

 Then, the highlight of the evening as someone recites recites Burns' famous poem To a Haggis. When the brave speaker reaches the line "an cut you up wi' ready slight", he cuts open the haggis with a sharp knife.  Steam escapes, the poem is finished, the company applauds and  the host stands.  Using a small silver cup, the name of which escapes me, he will“Pay the Piper” with a wee dram and then lead the group in a  toast to the haggis with a glass of whisky. Participants take their seats and prepare to enjoy the feast.  The menu will likely consist of  cock-a-leekie soup and cranachan before and after the showpiece main course of haggis, neeps and tatties, and there's nothing much wrong with that. 

As the food is served, the toasts and speeches begin.  An invited guest gives a toast to The Immortal Memory of Burns. It may be light and fun or literary and historical, but the purpose is the same - to describe the greatness and relevance of Burns today.

The Immortal Memory speech is followed by a more light-hearted toast to the women in the room generally made by an invited make guest.   Originally this was a thank you to the ladies for preparing the food and a toast to all the 'lasses' in Burns' life. The tone is witty, but never offensive, and always ends on a conciliatory note.  In response,  a lass takes a turn detailing men's foibles in a humorous fashion and the women all stand for a Toast to the Laddies.

There is a Toast to the Queen (or King as the case may be) for which David and others believe a good Scot should never stand until there is once again a Scottish monarch.  I could argue that as the daughter of such a beloved Scot as Mary, the Queen Mum,  Elizabeth II deserves a bit of leeway.

A Toast to the President follows which can get a bit sticky depending on the pervading political climate and the general red or blue alliance of the guests.

Before each toast of the evening, all the guests are asked to “Charge you glasses and be upstanding.”  After so many charged glasses, the  upstanding part can become difficult!
But the formal program always ends with everyone standing (and swaying), linking hands and singing Auld Lang Syne.
As the plates are cleared there is usually some form of entertainment and then dancing, especially Scottish country dancing.

When we lived in N.C. we celebrated each year along with other members of the Robert Burns Society of Charlotte on the Saturday night closest to the 25th.  I hope our dear friends had a wonderful time Saturday night.  How better to party than in a room filled with men in skirts! (And why do their knees always look more bonnie than women’s as they age?)

The year David was president of the Charlotte Burns group Bill and Monica had been called out for doing whatever it was they were doing with a cigar in the oval office.  Now, given that at that time the average age of the participants in Burns Night was over 55 (we were always the young’uns of the group) and  we were in NC where the likelihood of finding someone over 50 who had voted for Clinton was just a little less than ‘nil, finding someone to give the traditional Toast to the President was rather difficult.  Being both a loyal Democrat and a Bill Clinton fan (still am), and never one to pass up a chance to be in the spotlight, I volunteered.

 I worked for days on the short speech trying hard to make it a toast to the OFFICE of the President rather than the person holding the office in hopes that at least a few people would stand and clink their glasses.  It all went off OK until all the speeches were over and I was cornered by one of the Grand Dames of the society who told me in very explicit, and very loud, terms that I was not only an embarrassment to the group but should be ashamed to show  my face in public.  And here I was, the First Lady of the Society dressed in a fabulous formal Alexander McQueen frock of black velvet and silk satin Brody tartan, the tartan of my grandmother’s family.  Off- the- shoulder with a  boned bodice - I looked good peeps! Who was this badly-dressed matronly woman with gray helmet hair to tell me when to shut up?

(BTW, we had a full table of friends at the dinner who applauded my  speech.  Gotta love my peeps!)

Our now deceased good friend Donald Piver delivered the ode To a Haggis. I can’t imagine it ever sounding better than when delivered in Scots Gaelic with Don’s thick Southern drawl as he waived his Claymore over the warm reekin‘ rich glorious site. A real treat. 

But I ramble…

Tonight we will sup on both original and vegetarian haggis and partake of some good whisky.  We will miss Don’s wonderful toast but I have downloaded one so we won’t miss the tradition.

Address to a Haggis
Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!
Aboon them a' yet tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o'a grace
As lang's my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin was help to mend a mill
In time o'need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dight,
An' cut you up wi' ready sleight,
Trenching your gushing entrails bright,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sight,
Warm-reekin', rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmost! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
Bethankit! hums.

Is there that owre his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad make her spew
Wi' perfect sconner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him owre his trash,
As feckles as wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash;
His nieve a nit;
Thro' blody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis-fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his walie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whissle;
An' legs an' arms, an' hands will sned,
Like taps o' trissle.

Ye Pow'rs, wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinking ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer
Gie her a haggis!

Friday, January 22, 2010

It's Harvey Nichols I'm talking about...

I have been to the mountain ( and I am gong back.)   Actually I have been there before and had a truly religious experience but David, due to his ridiculous level of Scottish frugality, has managed to steer me away since we arrived in Edinburgh this time.

I am talking about Harvey Nichols.

Harvey Nicks can put even Neiman-Marcus to shame.  This is shopping heaven - or hell if you are someone like me who has committed to living with only 100 things.

Just to walk into the place is bliss.  Need a personal shopper?  Want to have a facial?  How about a five-star lunch on the fourth floor?  I am convinced that if you can ask for it, they can make it happen.

I first visited here just after they opened in Scotland.  I am a true devotee of Trish McEvoy cosmetics and when we were living in Aberdeen in 2002-2003 she was not represented in Scotland anywhere.  When Harvey Nichols opened, with the Trish counter just inside on the right as you come in the door, I planned a trip.  Good ol’ Scottish Dr. Dave almost choked at the damage.  I loved it!!

I looked at every sample, tried all the new colors and checked out the new packaging.  I sat for a full makeover - a level of beauty I have never been able to recreate -and I bought lots of new goodies to put in my planner.

If you have never had the Trish experience I highly recommend that you throw out all your current cosmetics, put at least $300 in your wallet and hurry to the nearest Saks, Nordstrom, Neimans or Harvey Nicks and get your fix.  (In Charlotte, the best source used to be Coplon’s) Every woman I have ever introduced to her has been transfixed.

I first learned of Trish McEvoy in Phoenix when my BFF Tina took me and her soon to be 8th grade graduate, Cate, to Sax for a makeover just a few hours before the graduation ceremony.  The sales person was an artist, as they all are, trained by Trish in NY to use the stuff she makes and sells to best advantage.  Here we were, a teen, and two 40-somethings on different ends of the decade and we each came out looking right on the mark, not too much, not too little.

I was a  Trish virgin at the time.   It was here that I learned the secret of the “windshield wiper brush” ( and bought my first.) I learned how to apply eyeliner in a touch, move, touch manner that looks so natural I was amazed. ( It is a little difficult when my hands have the MS shake, but I am working on getting David to learn how to do it!  Hey, he gives me a weekly shot, why not learn to line my eyes?  No matter how infirm, I will never go out without eyeliner, lipstick and perfume!)

 I bought my  first planner and filled it up at Coplon’s the next week after an internet search  to find out where I could buy Trish in the hinterlands of NC ( It really was the hinterlands back then - no Nordstrom)

And so I have been looking forward to Harvey Nichol’s  ever since we crossed the pond.
After making your way through cosmetics heaven, just travel to any of the floors above for a fashion experience par excellance.  You can browse, try and compare. The salespeople seem to care less if you are buying than that you are having a good experience. (I am! Iam!) I never buy at retail so I even take notes and no one questions me.  But it’s January, and EVERYTHING is on sale.  Like a Marc Jacobs skirt that fits perfectly for, are you sitting down, $20 on the last chance rack!  Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your perspective or in my case the time of day as I change my mind hourly about keeping more than 100 things ,there are equivalent bargains all around.   And if you are shopping till you drop, you can always take out a loan from the strategically placed Bank of Scotland next door.