Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

We welcomed 2009 in fabulous style. Cory and Natalie and their parents invited us back out to Balloch, to the same restaurant where the wedding reception took place, for the Hogmanay (New Years Eve) celebrations. There was a buffet dinner and a boatload of desserts. I had some delicious haggis (seriously, it's good. It just tastes like sausage. And yes, I know it's sheeps liver stuffed in an intestine, but at least I know what's in it. Lord knows what's in the hotdogs I order from Tomy Burger in Santa Monica.) And of course, tried one of every dessert option.

The evening featured a great band. They had a bagpiper who played for some songs, and then they also did more modern songs. We learned a couple of fun traditional Scottish dances, including the Gay Gordons (my favorite), a dance that involved a lot of swinging your partner by the arm, and one that involved clapping, stomping and circling under two people making an arch. I think we did okay and fit in pretty well. We also rocked out with the Scots to the 5000 Miles by the Proclaimers, which seems to be a favorite.

At midnight (which they call the Bells) they shot off streamer cannons from the bars, and we all blew off little poppers. There was plenty of kissing - and not just with your boyfriend or girlfriend - everyone goes around the bar and wishes everyone a Happy New Year with a kiss on the cheek. Another Hogmanay tradition is that "the first footing." The first person who comes over your doorstep at New Years is supposed to bring you luck for the next year. They do so, of course, by bringing you a gift (whiskey!) Cory was actually the first over the threshold at the restaurant. He went out with the bagpiper and then re-entered the restaurant bearing a nip of whiskey for people. It was very sweet of the management to ask him to be the first footing (first footer?) of the year. Hopefully he will bring them luck. Then everyone sang Auld Lang Syne, which was written by a Scot (Tim and I studied the words last night so we could sing along, even with the parts written in "Scottish" English, instead of "American" English.)

We did more dancing afterwards, and headed out around 2am. Our taxi driver back into Glasgow had actually driven Rocco and Tim C. home after their first "boys night" in Balloch. Thankfully, he said they were well behaved. Cory's wedding has now become notorious throughout the land.

Tomorrow we are sleeping in, and then going back out to Balloch to spend more time with our wonderful hosts. I cannot say enough kind things about the hospitality that Natalie and Cory's parents have shown us. They are wonderful folks and have made this wedding/vacation one of the best we've ever had. This was certainly one of the best New Years Eve's celebrations I've ever been to.

Click on the photos to enlarge.

The band and the bagpiper.

Us with Natalie's dad Alex, who is an absolutely fabulous host.

The kids booging down.

Tim doing the spin your partner dance. You can also see my fabulous pink tartan skirt that I bought for the occasion. I did not wear a dagger in my tights like the men wear in their socks.

Natalie, about to get her feet stomped on doing the Gay Gordons with Jacob.

Tim and I during the Gay Gordons. As you can see, my future clan is definitely going to involve a lot of hot pink in the tartan. We were pretty good at this dance by the end of the night, though Cory spent this particular jig trying to kick Tim in the butt whenever possible. He gets the Ugly American award for the day.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Well, day three, of course!

Another great day on our fabulous vacation.

This morning everyone was suitably recovered to meet up to go out to Edinburgh today. Other than Rocco, who had to head back to London, it was the entire American crew - Cory's family, the Fords, and Rob and Nancy and Cory's military buddies. Natalie and her dad also came along. The more I hang out with Natalie, the more I like her, and her dad is a really great guy. He is Mr. Tourguide, Mr. Helpful... Mr. Scotland! We got out to Edinburgh around one and headed straight to the castle. In Stirling, we'd bought these passes for all of the "local" castles, which saved us some money, and over an hour wait time to purchase tickets. It was a sweet deal.

The weather was a little chillier up on the hill (if that's possible) but the views were absolutely beautiful. We only had a few hours, but we hit most of the high points - the little chapel was very sweet, the Crown Jewels were suitably impressive, and the history of the castle is amazing. As we walked into one of the courtyards I remembered standing there with grandma ten years ago (Grandma, we are old) asking someone to take our photo. In the picture, we're both smiling, even though we were freezing cold and wet on that rainy day (and the umbrella I'd brought had broken.)

We met up with the rest of the group around three for some beers and some pub food. I did a little shopping while the boys were drinking. I bought a fuchsia cashmere scarf, which is soft like a hot pink baby (the best kind of baby!)

We caught the 6:15 train back to Glasgow - we had to stand the whole ride, which was slightly unpleasant, but when we got back into town, Cory's parents treated us all to a lovely dinner at a local Italian place. It was kind of an after the fact rehearsal dinner, which was very sweet. Tim didn't want to try the toffee pie, so I split a piece with Bob. As soon as he smelled the delicious toffee-ness, Tim instantly regretted his decision. I (begrudgingly) let him have a bite.

Tomorrow we are off to another castle, on the bonny, bonny banks of Loch Ness. This one is mostly a ruin. Then, Alex has generously invited us/demanded we joined them all for Hogemanay (NYE) in Baloch. He says there will be lots of dancing, which I am thrilled about. I didn't bring any other fancy clothes, other than my red dress, so I am hoping to buy a girlish kilt tomorrow. And new tights. And of course, anything else that strikes my pretty little fancy. All of our California pals are heading home tomorrow, so it will just be the Fords. We obviously are Cory's biggest fans.

Pictures, of course.

View of the castle.

Amazing view from the camera.

Now I know what I'm named after. A giant, angry cannon.

The California/UCLA crew.

"Hey brudder, how far do you think this thing can shoot?" "I don't know brudder... I love guns and cannons." "I love you, brudder." "I love you, brudder. And I love our matching outfits!"

Rawr! My skin is as white as my gloves... kind of sad.

View down the high street.

Edinburgh is pretty awesome.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Scotland, Day 2

So, today was Cory and Natalie's BEAUTIFUL wedding. We headed out to Baloch, the wedding site, around noonish. The wedding wasn't until 2:30. The church's keeper let us sit in the vestry and warm up for a bit, which was nice. The church was over 100 years old, very small and darling.

Cory looked wonderful in his Marine dress uniform and Natalie's dress was absolutely gorgeous. The wedding had about 65 guests, and we were proud to make up approximately half of the American guest list. However, we learned that Cory and Natalie had actually been married in a private ceremony a month before in the States, for legal reasons. Had I known they were already hitched, we would not have come! (kidding.) Cory monster got very teary during his vows, and I started bawling. They said very sweet things to one another, and their sentiment was wonderfully offset by the humor of the pastor.

A bus took us to the reception hall, which was on the bonny bonny banks of Loch Lomond. The food for dinner was fantastic, and the father of the bride and the two best men gave some great speeches, talking about how Cory and Natalie met, and the fact that most of the Americans had never met Natalie before either today or two days ago. However, in the time we were able to spend with her tonight, it was easy to see why Cory is so head over heels. She's a great girl. Tim C. gave the best man speech, and when he talked about Cory going to UCLA, Jake, Tim and I cheered, and when he mentioned USC, we hissed. It was a good cultural lesson for the Scots. Trojans, bad. Bruins, good.

The Scots throw a great party. There was plenty to eat, lots to drink and some good dancing. They played a traditional Scottish gig and I got a gentleman named Steven to take me for a spin. I was not the worst dancer out there, but there was a lot of hysterical laughing when I screwed up. Which was often.

At the end of the night, the crowd held hands around Cory and Natalie and sang along to Loch Lomond. I cried.

Cory will find out next month where he will be deployed - he is hoping for California or Japan. It was a very emotional night for her family because Natalie is not only getting married, but she is leaving to become a Marine wife in a matter of days. The song at the end of the night was a wonderful send off.

We took a long cab ride home, and are up early tomorrow morning to meet the bride, groom and their families for a trip out to Edinburgh. It's our last morning with the other two military boys, Rocco and Tim C. Rocco is off to Afghanistan in a week, so we're all happy to have had these past few days to spend time with him. He's another fine dancer, though he did not do the electric worm.

Another few photos.

The wee kirk in Dunhill.

The very sweet and obviously much in love bride and groom.

Some serious smooching.

Me and Medieval man at the reception.

Did I mention Cory changed into a kilt halfway through the night?

Tim, Jake, Rocco and two of the Scotsman. Steven is on the left - he's a pretty fabulous dancer. I am now ready to kick up my heels in any pub in the land!

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Scotland, Day 1

So we are here, and despite most of our party waking up around 4am, we were up and ready at the 10am meet up time. We wandered through a mostly shuttered Glasgow looking for someplace to have breakfast - eventually we found a little deli-type place off the high street. I had a "toastie," which is like a panini. If it has melty cheese on the inside, who cares what it's called!

We met up with Rocco and Tim C. around noonish and then headed out to Stirling to see the castle there. It was nice to get out and see the beautiful countryside. We spent a few hours wandering through the castle, and then stopped into a couple of pubs. Once we got back to Glasgow, it was a couple more pubs, and a few more drinks. Tomorrow is Cory and Natalie's blessed nuptials (aka the reason for our trip) so we are hoping to get some better rest. We actually ran into Cory's family and Natalie's dad and brother in law in Stirling (they were leaving the castle as we were heading in.) Her dad told us to be ready for dancing. Obviously, he has not met me before, because if there is anything I am ready for at any time, it is DANCING.

We just finished some burgers from room service (look, we are on vacation... we indulge a little here and there!) and are off to bed. Here are a few photos from my FABULOUS new camera (thanks mom and dad!)

Click to enlarge!

The view from our hotel room. It only took us three tries last night to find a suitable room for us (we had the wrong key... the room we had wasn't cleaned... I said I wouldn't sleep in a nonsmoking room...)

Jake and Tim outside the castle. Check out their matching jackets!

Kicking it in the great hall of Stirling Castle.

Back view of the castle.

View of a cemetery and church on the way down from the castle.

Heading to dinner in Stirling. At the restaurant, I ordered the starter plate of haggis with neeps and tatties. Haggis was decent - salty and meaty. Tatties are mashed potatoes - how can you go wrong? The neeps are turnips, which were the only downside. I made Jake eat them, of course. But see dad? It's not all the Edinburgh Hard Rock this time (they grows up, and they grows up!)

Saturday, December 27, 2008

We're Here!

After a good 15 hours of traveling and 27 hours with no sleep (for the boys... I got an hour here and there on the flight) we are in our little hotel room in Glasgow, with free internet, no less! We were able to Skype and talk to the groom-to-be... no real plans for tomorrow other than doing a little sleeping and hopefully meeting up with the rest of our party in the morning. We'll figure out the adventure as we go along.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Treats.

In addition to landing a $90,000 grant today, I also made caramels. They will go alongside my nanaimo bars and snowball cookies in our upcoming holiday tour of Southern California. Treats on parade!

Here are the cats, checking out the action:

Our next blog post will see the two of us (and Jacob) in Scotland. We cannot WAIT! I am going to do so many crosswords on the 10 hour plane ride!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Well hello there!

As we've been bragging this holiday season, Tim and I have a number of fabulous vacations scheduled during the next year or so... and after the success of our China blog, we thought setting up a blog that shares info about our travels, and about our life would be a fun thing to do. So welcome to Meg and Tim's excellent adventures!

The two of us basking in the pre-Kevin Craft beauty of UCLA beating USC in 2006! And thanks to my friend Fluffy, we were only a few rows back off the field!