Sunday, April 30, 2017

Z is for Zero

 It's here, the final post for the A to Z blogging challenge, the 26th post in the month of April and I've chosen the temperature we see way too often, Zero.

When we made the decision to move to Scotland in 2015 you would have thought we were moving to Outer Mongolia or the North Pole with the way people reacted. The one thing we can do in the highlands which you couldn't do very well in London, is breathe beautiful fresh air.

This photo is taken on boxing day 2015, three days after I arrived and we'd gone for a very bracing walk along the beach. Ken's hair is looking windswept and interesting - mine is as well but I'm hiding it under my (little red riding) hood.

I think our two kitty cats were the most shocked at the weather and took to sleeping in our bed which they'd never done before. We'd look for them in the daytime and find two lumps under our duvet - it was their go to spot on a cold day. Luckily they were indoor cats as I don't think we would have convinced them to go outside in winter.

Our neighbouring highland cow on a day that was very minus zero.

We've both got an assortment of hats for the weather and we've perfected the art of dressing with multiple layers. Interestingly, my beloved who grew up in the highlands, usually has more layers on than me, the girl from Australia.

We don't let the below zero temperatures stop us from doing anything, and the frost actually makes graveyards more atmospheric.

Frozen leaf and grass.

The coldest temperature ever recorded in the UK was in the highlands at a place called Altnaharra which is 82 miles from us - in 1995 it reached the low of -27.2 degrees celsius.

This picture was taken on Dornoch beach mid afternoon and there is still frost covering a lot of the sandd.

Princess Cookie Cat only occasionally sleeps under the duvet now, coming out to be sociable on a more regular occasion - we do make sure there are lots of snuggly beds around the house for her to hide in.

Muffin Monster sort of came out from under the duvet but she still slept on our bed most of the time and occasionally in it. She even slept on top of me during her last few months as I think I was her own personal hot water bottle. Our little monster even died in our bed with us beside her - soaking up that warmth till the last minute.

This is a picture of the garden at Maggie's Highlands where I work - the snow on the mounds always reminds me of icing sugar on a cake.

Strange as it may sound, but I actually quite like the cold weather - it's growing on me. As long as it's dry and we can still explore this gorgeous corner of the world, then we just layer up and go for it.

Bramble has grown to love the snow and constantly tries to eat it. We throw snowballs for her to chase and she can't understand why she can't find them once they hit the ground.

Family selfie in the minus zero weather (minus Cookie of course) - we really need to get Bramble Jelly a proper coat before next winter.

So there you have it. The last post of the 2017 A to Z blogging challenge - I feel like cracking open a bottle of champagne. Before you go, why don't you pop over to the A to Z challenge blog and see what my fellow bloggers have come up with for the letter Z - Click Here to visit.

Until next time, be good, stay safe, and thanks for visiting during the April blogathon.

Pamela & Ken

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Y is for Yes

Here we are with the penultimate post in the A to Z  blogging challenge and I've decided to do a post about the word Yes. A small word that consists of three letters and has the power to divide a nation.

In 2014 the people of Scotland went to the polls to vote in a referendum on whether or not they should get independence from the UK (mainly the English but we'll leave that debate for another day). We were living in England at the time so my beloved wasn't allowed to vote but I do know of people that deliberately moved back to Scotland so that they could have a say. The question was simple; Yes for independence, No to stay in the United Kingdom. So the word Yes became a symbol of Scottish patriotism and was seen everywhere. At the time the politicians declared it was a once in a generation opportunity to get independence - the result went with the No campaign and that was that, Scotland remaining a part of the UK.

Three years on and the independence debate is still high on the political agenda here in Scotland, so Yes is still plastered everywhere along with the words Indy 2 (Independence referendum 2). There is a sign on a farm near us that was just Yes, but now it has Still in front of it so that it reads, Still Yes.

There are stickers everywhere - so many cars have a Yes sticker but also people put the Yes on their homes and they wear it on t-shirts. It's a very passionate subject for people who want independence and I've even seen people with tattoos that talk about Scotland's Freedom. (I was going to put a clip of the freedom speech from Braveheart here but I don't think anyone needs to hear Mel Gibson's atrocious Scottish accent when I'm talking about Scottish pride).

The referendum was very close and had a huge turnout of voters - 84.95% compared to 66.1% at the last general election. The No vote received 55.30% of the vote and the Yes vote 44.70%. In the Highlands the percentage difference wasn't as much but it still went with No.

I found this anonymous quote that I think is quite fitting as my theme is the highlands:

Scottish by birth, British by law,
Highlander by the grace of God.

When we go to car shows we often see motorbikes and especially trikes with Scottish Nationalism plastered all over them. This purple trike (which I adored) is covered in Scottish flags, thistles, and it has the words from the declaration of Arbroath on the side.

This was a letter written to the Pope in 1320 in support of King Robert Bruce and an independant Scotland - you see, it's not just a modern need to be independent, it's something that is deep in the soul and has been passed down by generations.

On that very subject of history Robert Louis Stevenson wrote;

'For that is the mark of the Scots of all classes: that he stands in an attitude towards the past unthinkable to Englishmen, and remembers and cherishes the memory of his forebears, good or bad; and there burns alive in him a sense of identity with the dead even to the twentieth generation.'

So there you have it and I've managed to just present the facts and not descend into a political debate as that's a sure way to lose friends and start arguments. Before you go, why don't you pop over to the A to Z blog and see what my fellow bloggers have come up with for the letter Y - Click Here to visit.

Until next time, be good, stay safe, and enjoy your day.

Pamela & Ken

Friday, April 28, 2017

X is for Xanthic

We're up to the horror letter of X in the A to Z blogging challenge and I have a new word for you to add to your vocabulary - Xanthic, which means 'of or relating to a yellow or yellowish colour' (

At this time of year there are carpets of yellow around the highlands with gorse growing wild. It creates a sea of bright yellow that when hit by the sun is so bright you need to wear sunglasses. These pictures are taken at Hopeman which is 23 miles east of us.

Bramble Jelly loves running along the walking tracks but wasn't loving that she couldn't go into the bushes. She could if she really wanted, but the spikes on gorse bushes are very evil to the point that when you walk through we had to keep our hands clear of the plants.

Selfie of us with the beautiful xanthic flowers behind us (see, so easy to use in a sentence, it just rolls off the tongue).

Hopeman is a really lovely area and there are great walks along the seafront and sandy beaches to explore. There are also really pretty beach huts that are painted in all sorts of bright colours.

This photo shows two slightly different colours of the gorse - I'm not sure if this means that they're different breeds.

Now for a different xanthic flower, rapeseed - fields of sunny yellow flowers that produce the oil that is actually fairly good for you. I should say good for you when you're cooking/baking with it, not so good for me and my hay fever - just know I suffered for my art by getting these pictures.

Ken and Bramble patiently waiting for me whilst I take photos.

This is my arty shot to finish as it's got both gorse and rapeseed in it - a multitude of xanthic flowers for you to enjoy.

There we go, I hope you enjoyed learning a new word and seeing all the beautiful xanthic flowers that cover the highlands in the spring time. Before you go, why don't you pop over to the A to Z blog to see what my fellow bloggers have come up with - Click Here to visit.

Until next time, be good, stay safe, and enjoy all the beautiful flowers where you live.

Pamela & Ken

Thursday, April 27, 2017

W is for Whiskey

I can finally see the light at the end of the very long tunnel that is the A to Z blogging challenge and here we are at the letter W and living in Scotland it had to be Whiskey. People seem to associate whiskey with the Scots and I keep getting told that the reason I don't like whiskey is that I haven't tried the right one yet. Raymond Chandler famously said, "There is no bad whiskey. There are only some whiskeys that aren't as good as others

Whiskey was brought to Scotland by the Monks in the 4th Century and has become practically the national drink. The clear water in the Scottish streams is used to make the whiskey and there are plenty of rivers for them to use.

Walk into any pub in the highlands and you'll have way too much choice when it comes to this drink - whiskey is very popular.

There are over forty distilleries in the highlands and islands, so you can't drive very far without seeing one. Dufftown, which is 41 miles from us and is quite a small town, has nine distilleries around it. One of the most famous is the Glenfiddich family run distillery whose stills are pictured below.

Whiskey is a big business and not only is the alcohol sold but also lots of crystal tumblers and decanters for serving the precious golden liquid in.

Whiskey can be very expensive, the longer it has been distilled the higher the price. This bottle below that was for sale in the Glenfiddich shop had been distilled for 50 years and was £26750!! The other picture shows the whiskey behind the bar in the Glenfiddich restaurant.

 All around the highlands you'll see things that represent the whiskey industry - lots of whiskey barrels for planters and mini stills dotted around the place.

The other important thing to have in whiskey country is a cooperage to make the barrels. This one is not far from Dufftown.

All through the grounds of the cooperage they have interesting things made of whiskey barrels including this interesting fellow that Ken was making friends with.

In their cafe they also had fabulous furniture made out of different sized barrels.

I love some of the names that whiskey is given, with these three being ones that have slightly unappetising names; Stag's Breath, Monkey Shoulder, and Sheep Dip.

 I think that now is an appropriate time to mention that Tasmania has a thriving whiskey industry and has even won best single malt in the world, beating all the Scottish whiskeys that entered in that year.

In the post I did about Ullapool there was a Christmas tree made out of lobster creels, well here we have Rudolph and a Christmas tree made out of whiskey barrels.

I really don't like whiskey but a lot of people all over the world seem to so I think the industry will continue to grow. Before you go, why don't you pop over to the A to Z blog to see what my fellow bloggers have come up with for W - Click Here to visit.

Until next time, be good, stay safe, and have a fabulous weekend.

Pamela & Ken

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

V is for View

Okay, we're up to the fifth last letter in the A to Z blogging challenge and I've totally gone with the easy option. There are not a lot of Scottish Highland related things starting with the letter V - my friends at work thought I should do Valhalla, the ultimate aim for vikings, as a lot of the highlands was settled by vikings, but instead I'm going with View.

As an Australian it is my responsibility to point out that the best views in the world are in Australia, but the Scottish Highlands run a close second. The one thing that I can't take a photo of with my phone that is fabulous is the stars - in London, due to light pollution, it was sometimes easy to forget that there were stars in the sky, but here we can see them.

Here's a selection of views that I think are beautiful.

Nairn beach on new years eve.

Cairngorm mountains taken from the train.

The ruins of Urquhart castle on the banks of Loch Ness.

Glen Coe.

Glen Coe (it's just so stunning, that's why there's two pictures).

A loch on the way to Ullapool - so still, so perfect.

Sunset from Nairn beach.

There's my contribution for the letter V but before you go, why don't you pop over to the A to Z blog and see what my fellow bloggers have come up with for the letter V - Click Here to visit.

Until next time, be good, stay safe, and think about what your favourite view in the world is.

Pamela & Ken

P.S: This is my very most favourite view in the entire world.