Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year!

Wishing you and yours a wonderful New Year Eve celebration and a marvelous 2011!

Year for the Dogs

We are having a few dogs, er, friends over for the new year.... It seems that we have to have at least one extra dog for each major holiday. Tonight, we have Dali and Angus. Angus is just visiting for a few hours until his parents return from a 12-hour outing. Or so we are being told...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Royal Mile

It is Christmas in Edinburgh and on Christmas day, we decided that we wanted to walk the Royal Mile, from Edinburgh Castle down to Holyrood Palace. I have only been to Edinburgh during festival season and after one attempt of walking the mile with close 2 million other people, we avoided it. I wanted to see the castle without the standing for the Military Tattoo in front of the castle gates, and enjoy the view down the street, without getting hit for money or to see such-n-such play.

The snow was picking out all of the little details on the gates and the walls. There were surprisingly a lot of people also doing what we were doing.

The city itself was still covered with snow-- even though it hasn't snowed in several days. The view to the New City is blocked by construction (they are adding stands that will fold into the ground-- very hi-tech), so we looked out to the south of the city.

Towards Arthur's Seat and Salisbury Crag to the south east, with the Grassmarket in the foreground.

We walked down the mile towards St. Giles, which was letting out its last service. We went in to see the renovations that had occurred, and the church was still warm from the masses. They had done some extensive work since we were last there, namely on refurbing the windows, which as just incredible.

Edinburgh is famous for those Closes and Wynds and some alleys. Most have stairs that lead down, revealing that the houses on the Royal Mile are really 5-6 storeys tall in the back. I am standing in Advocate's Close, where Lord Advocate Sir James Stewart lived from 1692-1713. The street was also home to Sir John Scougal, the royal painter for William III and Queen Mary.

After about a 30 minute stroll down the hill, but not quite to the palace, we were frozen enough and couldn't feel our toes. We turned back to walk up the hill and went home to enjoy a nice cup of tea and some Stilton.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas, everyone! We woke up to the most enormous stocking I have ever seen!

Full of balloons, crackers, presents, and these:

A gag gift that goes back and forth and back-- this is at least the 12th time Will has received it in his stocking. It was a quiet celebration otherwise: a walk, a few more exchanged gifts, and then dinner in the dining room.

Sylvia made a goose and it has fantastic! She consulted not only Julia Child but her brother Tony and her friend Patty. Turns out, she had never made a goose before, but it is very similar to chicken in the cooking part. Go figure.

And after dinner, comes the Christmas Cake, otherwise known as fruit cake. The icing is marvelous-- a bit of lemon. The cake, well, is fruit cake. So, I am not a fan, but I did try a piece. Sylvia noted that this one was a rather young cake-- she only made it 6 weeks ago and it really hadn't had time to cure. But the decorations on top were very sweet: the Holy Family and then some Christmas Spirits. The Christmas Spirits were from Sylvia's childhood and she remembers them being on the Christmas cakes every year.

Hoping that you and yours have a wonderful Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Tree is Ready

We decorated the tree and now we just need Santa!
We were instructed that every single ornament had to go on the tree, as they hadn't seen the light of day for at least 5 years since Edward & Sylvia were usually traveling over Christmas--either to London or to the States. Will and I managed to do it-- but it took some doing. The tree itself is about 10 feet tall and there was one container that was reflective balls no bigger than a penny. Ahem. Will and I placed some sort of bauble on every branch-- sometimes more than one. We feel a bit guilty as Edward will have to remove them all when the tree is taken down on January 6th. But at least we refrained from adding tinsel.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Edinburgh Zoo's Penguins

We went to the Edinburgh Zoo today. Yes, to the zoo, even though it was about 5 degrees outside. (I have no idea what that means in Fahrenheit.) But the zoo was lovely with the snow. Several animals were (rightly) tucked inside their shelters, but not the zoo's signature animal: the penguin.

The zoo itself is rather young: opened in only 1917. It isn't very big and so a decision was made at some point to focus on endangered species, rather than a menagerie of creatures--hence no giraffes or elephants.
Apparently, it is also Scotland's second most tourist attraction, after Edinburgh Castle.

The best part of the zoo is its penguins. They have more than 210! The majority are the gentoo (the typical black and white ones), but they have 10 king penguins--distinguishable by the yellow on their chests and heads, though they are about 20 cm shorter than the emperor penguins, and the rockhoppers--the smaller ones with fluffy. yellow eyebrows.

The exhibit itself is quite something: you have plenty of ways to see the penguins swimming, resting, walking, diving, underwater, and at eye level.

And of course at 2:15 pm every day, there is the Penguin Parade! Every day at the appointed time, the keepers open a gate and see how many penguins are going out for a walk. Sometimes it is the whole lot of them, and sometimes it is only one.

We had all ten king penguins parading today. It was quite something. They waddled and called their way down the path, from the one door to the other. Some even stopped to pose for photos.

Bringing up the rear of the parade was Sir Nils Olav, the honorary colonel-in-chief of the Kings Guard in the Norwegian army. He is this particular unit's mascot. He started off as a corporal and when the Norwegian army would visit for the Military Tattoo in August every few years, Nils would be promoted. In 2008, he was knighted-- the only knight in Norway! The zoo itself has a long history with Norway as that country was the first to present the zoo with the gift of king penguins.

Sir Nils was kind enough to pose with Will after the parade, but no autographs, as that would be undignified.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Drive to Edinburgh

We made the drive! All the doubters out there saying that it shouldn't be done! The trains were the better choice! Why are we risking life and limb in terrible weather! And yes, I admit, I was one of the doubters.

But the roads were clear and no snow came down. We were able to get to Edinburgh from London in about 7 hours, with minimum stops, including one to unfreeze the windshield sprayers.

And what awaited us? A lovely stone house with a snowy garden and icicles dangling from the front gutter. It is going to be a white Christmas here, folks.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Christmas in London

We get to have at least two Christmas celebrations this year: one in London and one in Edinburgh. The one in London will definitely be more exciting, as two little boys will have lots of things to open from us. The big thing: a machine that projects the constellations onto the ceiling. It is very cool and very NatGeo. Andrew got, among other things, a reindeer that poops jelly beans. You know that you want one too...

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Back in London

We made it back to London in a 2 hour drive--about what it should take--even though the M25 was closed for most of the day (not sure why it was closed, as there was no snow or ice) and it required a deviation from the usually route. All was well, until Will warned us to watch out as the sidewalks were slippery. And as if on cue, I slipped and fell, bruising badly my left knee, wrist, and hip. It was almost as if he jinxed me. Nothing too serious and I get to sit by Andrew & Lori's Christmas tree and have hot tea and advil brought to me.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Talk of the Wedding: Footwear

With the snow and a garden reception, footwear was much discussed. Heels or Wellies. Flats or boots... And then is what Sylvia wore:
I think that they are made of goat hair.

But, she did change of them (finally) for a spin around the floor.

The Harrys Get Married

On Saturday, after the snow had stopped and the 4x4s had managed to get everyone to the church, the Harrys were married: Harry Cunningham to Harriett Calaghan in a lovely ceremony. Their little nieces and nephews served as bride's maids and groom's men. The vicar referenced grafting of plants together-- he is a gardener and she a florist after all. The hymns were Christmas carols. And at the end of it, the bells rung out to say that indeed the wedding, despite the weather, had gone off. And a landrover lift back to King John's Lodge (where our wedding was) for a winter wonderland. The marquee was straight out of Narnia and the theme: a partridge in a pear tree. We were at Table 9 ladies dancing, appropriate since Will and Andrew were in skirts, I mean, kilts. Dinner was locally-shot partridge with a pear dessert following.

And though the wedding was at 3:30 and the reception immediately afterward, the sky was dark.
King John's Lodge at 12 noon
The bride with one of her maids, Annabelle
King John's Lodge, 4:30 pm.

The marquee--it was really quite something.


our table

There is now an 8th Mrs. Cunningham

Lori, Edward, and I

Andrew and William

Showing some leg and shaking a tail feather

The first dance

At the reception (and yes, I had long underwear on underneath as it was -15 Celsius.)