Thursday, April 18, 2013

A Break

I'm taking a break from my blog for a while.  I've been under the weather and I'm worn out.

During my break I plan to evaluate whether to:  keep my blog as is; modify it in any way; or give it up.  I am growing tired of the one-sided dialogue but maybe after a break I can renew my former enthusiasm.

So, one way or another, you will hear from me in about two weeks!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Little Boy Loves to Eat

....and has not learned to be self conscious about it. He loves a variety of foods and is not afraid to let us know when he is hungry or wants something.

The other day, when we were on our driving holiday, he drifted off to sleep in the car. When he woke up he immediately asked "why I'm not eating?" I don't know if he was dreaming about eating or if he just woke up hungry but food is definitely on his mind.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Leaving Lewis

Today was our last day (half day really) on Lewis. We had our last breakfast and checked out of our accommodation. We headed out into the sunny morning and our first stop was the War Memorial.

We walked up the hill to the War Memorial and it stuck me that I found it more striking and "castlesque" than Lews Castle.

After our walk we took a drive out to take in the views on the Point before heading into town to shop for food supplies for our trip.

Then we visited to local playground where the kids had a good play and we ate our picnic lunch.

After lunch, Big Boy and I spent the last few minutes before we needed to go catch the ferry browsing in the chaos that is Lewis Loom. This shop sells Harris Tweed and many other random items and it looks as though it was set up by a whirlwind. There are things everywhere, surely no order can be found in the chaos!

With our shopping done, Big Boy and I headed back to the truck. My husband was entertaining the other boys by playing music. And he had the GPS plugged in. And the cooler. You can probably guess where this is going....when he turned the key in the ignition, the truck would not start. And it was only 20 minutes until we needed to queue for the ferry!

He called the service number and they were no help. Then he looked out the window and saw a garage across the road. After we looked at the sign further we saw that the garage services Land Rovers.

So my husband ran over and came back less than 2 minutes later with a man who brought a machine to boost our battery. He was quick and polite and refused to take payment!

We rushed over to the ferry after thanking him and boarded. The ferry trip was rough (literally). The boat listed and I felt very ill. Near the end the waters calmed and I started to feel better.

Then we had a 4 hour drive back home. We arrived at about 8:30 pm and everyone was exhausted!



Saturday, April 13, 2013

Baby Boy Goes to the Hospital

Baby Boy took his first trip to the hospital this past week.  He has been having some problems with eczema over the past weeks and after a bunch of appointments, phone calls and prescriptions, the family doctor sent me off to the Children's Hospital so that Baby Boy could see a dermatologist.  

He skin must have been pretty bad because many of the people who have (professionally) looked at him have noted that his skin is the worst they've seen on a baby.

We are still pfaffing around trying to get prescriptions for Baby Boy so that we can start his treatment, so we don't know if what the dermatologist prescribed will be a good solution at this point.  I have had a really difficult time with our surgery with regards to this matter, I may go into details in a future post, but, needless to say I think we could have had appropriate care a lot sooner if we had contact with different medical staff.

Carmen

This last Thursday I went to a performance of Carmen at His Majesty's Theatre here in Aberdeen.  The show was wonderful - the costumes were beautiful, the scenery pleasant and, of course, I love the score.  The Toreodor (Escamillo) stood out as the best performer by far.  He stole the show with his song and he had just the right look.  His costumes were magnificent.

The set was supposed to have been inspired by the paintings of Goya.  While I liked the scenery, I found the "Goya" influence a bit hard to see.  The scenery was bright and colourful, almost lending an air of gaiety to the passionate storyline.  To me, Goya is dark and moody.

The show featured a live donkey in the first act.

Before the show I had dinner at the Stage Door.  The staff knew we were to attend the opera and they were attentive and helped us finish in time.  I ordered from the set menu and had chicken wrapped with parma ham on risotto and a meringue dessert.  Both were very good.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Hal O' The Wynd Guest House (Stornoway, Isle of Lewis)


When we visited Lewis this past weekend we stayed in the Hal O' The Wynd B & B.

We had a great stay. Our family of 5 slept comfortably in Room #2 and we had a private bath. The room was just as a guest house room should be (in my opinion). It was festooned with local decor - tartan carpet; Harris Tweed pillow cover; Scottie dog pillow cover and a large tweed bed decoration.  Someone must enjoy building model ships because the B & B was full of them. Our room had 2!  Little Boy found these fascinating - the ones in the dining room often distracted him from his breakfast!  The walls of the house were appropriately cluttered with local and marine-themed art.

The breakfast was lovely and each morning my eggs were poached just right.  The system for breakfast is unique at Hal. They have you fill in a breakfast request form in the evening for each guest for the next morning.  That way each guest gets what they want...perfect for our family because we all prefer a slightly different version of a full Scottish.  In my opinion there were plenty of delicious breakfast choices on the form. I was surprised when one morning a guest made a point of asking for off menu items. It seemed incredibly rude!

The location of the guest house is prime. It is  literally right at the end of the drive leading off of the ferry.  It is beside a Tesco and walking distance from the shops and restaurants in town. We easily found street parking each day (although the first night someone drew a choice cartoon on our dusty car window).

The staff at Hal are pleasant and helpful.  They have loads of local knowledge and were quick with suggestions for activities. They have a cute dog that looks just like Hairy Mclarey.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Isle of Lewis: Great Bernera Island; Carloway Broch; Lews Castle; and Callanish Standing Stones at Sunset

Today was a sunny day with a bright blue sky. Unfortunately it was freezing cold outside! But we are Canadian and we persevere in arctic temperatures so we headed out for some sight seeing.

First we tried to stop at Tesco and we were surprised to find that nearly everything on Lewis and Harris is close on Sundays. We had a bunch of snacks and milk so we were fine but we did run short on water. And of course as soon as I knew we were short on water I became unbelievably thirsty.

This morning we drove over to the Island of Great Bernera. A small bridge takes you from Lewis to Bernera. We drove across the island to see an Iron Age House, a structure that was a precursor to the Blackhouses we saw a couple of days ago.

We parked near a small graveyard and walked through the bitter wind to a small beach. My husband commented that the beach looked like it could be in Hawaii. He was right the sand was golden, the sky was blue and the water was the perfect blue-green "ocean" colour. Unfortunately we were all freezing our bottoms off even though we are dressed in our warmest clothes!

At the back of the beach was the Iron Age House. It was closed but we could walk around the outside an get a feel for what it was like.

We warmed up in the car and then drove on to see Carloway Broch, an igloo-shaped man made structure that was a partial ruin. The kids had fun running around for a bit.

Next we made our way back to Stornoway to search for lunch. We drove around a bit and discovered that the only food store open was a gas station that sold food. The lines were incredibly long in the store with people stocking up for the day. I picked up some sandwiches and water and we headed back to our accommodation to eat. Surprisingly lunch only cost about £1 more overall than it would have at Tesco. It wasn't as good though.

Then we all had a nap in anticipation of staying up later.

After our nap we headed out to see Lews Castle. We parked and took a short walk to see the disappointing castle. It was small, closely surrounded by trees and under construction.

We had a dinner reservation at HS-1 for 6:00 so we had to rush over for a lovely dinner. I had a local fish and it was perfectly cooked. I also had homemade blueberry ice cream - yum! My husband had a delicious steak pie and a really smooth pale ale....I was jealous of the beer.

We had a better view of Lews Castle during our supper than we did when we walked right up to it.

After supper we drove out to Callanish to see the Standing Stones at sunset. Unfortunately it was a cloudy sunset so it was not particularly special to see them. The kids got o run around a bit more before we headed back to go to bed.

Here are some pictures:





















Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Isle of Harris

Today dawned sunny and warm, so we decided to take advantage of the good weather by driving south to the Isle of Harris.

North Harris is actually completely connected to the Isle of Lewis while South Harris is connected via a narrow piece of land at Tarbert. We drove all the way down to Tarbert on the A859 and then we left the "big" highway (comparatively) for the small road which winds out to the coast and through tiny villages on South Harris. The views on this road are unbelievable and the towns are a haphazard smattering of houses, sheep and home based businesses. The road is shockingly narrow and for the most part there are no guard rails even though there are extreme drops. The road twists and turns and is very hilly. Being a passenger felt a lot like riding a roller coaster.

We drove on the small road all the way down to Rodel on the southernmost tip of South Harris. We stopped at the picturesque St. Clements Church for our morning snack and the drove a bit further south for views of the nearby islands.

We drove north on the A859. We decided to bypass the Seallam Visitor Crntre based only on its outside appearance. (Perhaps this wasn't fair - kind of like judging a book by it's cover?)

Then we drove on to Macleod's Stone near Borve. It is a single standing stone, so as you might imagine it was not as spectacular as the Callanish Stanidng Stones we saw yesterday. We stopped and walked through a sheep pasture to see the stone.

Nearby we saw the massive Luskentyre Beach. The white sands stretch inland to meet a rocky terrain that our travel guidebooks described quite accurately as "lunar."

We drove back to Tarbert and then left the main highway to drive over a bridge to the Island of Scalpay. At this point (about 2:30 pm) the weather turned quickly from sunny and warm to raining and frigid. We ate our picnic lunch in Scalpay and drove back to Stornoway, where we took a walk and headed to a local Chinese restaurant for supper. When we walked home from our dinner, it was snowing!

Here are some pictures from today.















Friday, April 5, 2013

The Isle of Lewis - Callanish Standing Stones; Blackhouses; Butt of Lewis; Stornoway

We had spectacular weather today. It was around 8-9 degrees Celsius all day and sunny with a few fluffy clouds in a bright blue sky. We took advantage of this lovely day by heading out to see the Callanish Standing Stones.

There are 3 sets of Callanish Standing Stones and they are all very close together (within about 2 miles). We started (logically) at Callanish I. It was amazing - it is a circular formation with rocks standing in rows forming a cross and radiating out from the circle. The formation is somewhat like Stonehenge if you are looking for a point of reference. The Callanish stones are said to be the inspiration for the ones in the movie "Brave."

We were the only people looking at the stones and the kids could run about as they pleased. I took loads of pictures, the shadows of the stones and the bright blue sky were particularly striking.

After seeing Callanish I we went to the visitor centre. We decided not pay the admission to see the visitor centre so I can't comment on it.

We had a healthy snack (bananas from Tesco) and moved on to Callanish II (I have to admit I did not know about Callanish II and III until we saw a sign about them at the visitor centre). Callanish II was comparatively small - only 4 or 5 stones but Callanish III was pretty spectacular.

Next we drove up A858 (a tiny highway) to and visited the Blackhouses at Gearrannan near Carloway. Here we paid a family admission to visit the "living museum" and I was disappointed that I had spent £6.50. These Blackhouses are a holiday accommodation and were supposed to be open with working crofters. Unfortunately the only crofters we saw were construction workers and none of the houses were open to tour. The ones that we could see into were outfitted in modern decor for the guests. (I was expecting something like Fort Edmonton and my expectations were not met - not even close).

The Blackhouse town is located in an idyllic setting near the sea, so we ate our picnic lunch (sandwiches from Tesco) before moving on. We did see piles of peat like the peat used to heat the houses in historic times.

We kept driving up the west coast on A858 after our lunch. When we passed the Blackhouse at Arnol, I thought that perhaps our admission would have been better spent there, but the kids were sleeping so we did not stop.

We drove all the way up the coast to the Butt of Lewis, where we watched the sea and the many sea birds.

Then we drove back to Stornoway via the A857. We spent a bit of time wandering in town and then we went out for supper to An Lanntair, the restaurant in the arts centre in Stornoway. The meal was lovely - the baby slept through; the big kids ate well; my food (a piece of cod and prawns) was delicious; and it was a good price - what more can you ask for?

We had a nice dessert of locally made fudge in our accommodation room before sending the kids off to sleep. We bought three flavours of fudge: chocolate brownie; maple walnut; and lemon meringue. My favourite was the lemon meringue. It was odd but delicious!

I really enjoyed today. Here are some photos.















Thursday, April 4, 2013

Aberdeen to the Isle of Lewis

Today we travelled from Aberdeen to the Isle of Lewis. Lewis is in the Outer Hebrides, west of mainland Scotland.

We packed the kids into the truck and left Aberdeen at 10:00 am. The baby fell asleep immediately so we decided to drive until he woke up. He slept through to Ullapool (where we caught our ferry) so we the whole trip without stopping. It took about 3.5 hours to drive from Aberdeen to Ullapool. Part of the trip is a miserable drive on a horribly nauseating road through the Cairngorms - we've done this drive a few times and I hate it! That being said, the entire drive looks like it should be a National Park. This is a gorgeous country. (We also saw a lot of valleys that looked just like the Scottish estate in "Skyfall").

We arrived in Ullapool very early for our ferry so we ate our picnic lunch and we let the kids play at the playground. After play time we wandered by the waterfront for a while. We still had lots of time to kill so we went for a bit of a drive and filled diesel into the truck. The weather was nice so we had a fun wander in Ullapool.

We had to line up the car for the ferry and drive on and both of these went very smoothly, although the kids got impatient. I really hate boats so the ferry ride felt long to me. I only got sea sick during one little bit of the ride and I credit my pressure wrist bands for that (they were a gift from a most thoughtful friend). The ride was nearly 3 hours.

Once we docked in Stornaway we quickly found our accommodation and got the kids tucked in for the night. Big Boy is excited because he is sleeping on the top bunk for the first time!

Here are some pictures of Ullapool. The signs here are Gaelic and English and it reminds me of the French and English signs in Canada. That's what that picture is about.









Wednesday, April 3, 2013

1906 Restaurant at HMT Aberdeen

Before taking in Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat last weekend, Big Boy and I met friends for lunch at 1906, the restaurant located within His Majesty's Theatre.  Here is the website for the restaurant:  http://www.boxofficeaberdeen.com/1906-restaurant

I made reservations for 12:30 and the show started at 2:00.  This turned out to be excellent timing.  The children were able to finish their meals and desserts and we had plenty of time to get to our seats for the show.

The kids both had sausage and mash with black current cordial and ice cream.  The cost for this was £5 each off the kids menu.  My friend and I each had a salad (mine chicken and hers goats cheese), a non-alcoholic drink and a coffee.  The total for my meal was about £7.  The food was tasty, quick and good value.  It was a great pre-theatre meal, although I would recommend reservations.

My only complaint about 1906 is the noise level.  It was difficult to carry on a conversation in a regular volume voice once the restaurant got busy.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Hair Cut

Yesterday I took Little Boy for his first hair cut.  His hair was not long but it was unruly, and besides, he is 2 years and 4 months old and it was probably about time.  It was my second haircut attempt - I took him last week along with Big Boy and he would not get into the chair.  Yesterday I took him without Big Boy and he hopped up into the chair and co-operated.

The lady barber gave him a lolly and when he finished it during the haircut she gave him another.  This pleased him so much that he sat well through the whole cut, even the part with the electric trimmers.  I was fairly disgusted by the hairy lolly (the tiny hairs that she was cutting off were landing right on it!) but it did not seem to bother him.

He is very proud of his new "-aircut" and I think there will be no issue taking him back for the next one.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat

On Saturday I took Big Boy to see a matinee performance of Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat at His Majesty's Theatre here in Aberdeen.  The tickets for the show were a birthday present for Big Boy and we had a great time!  

The show was wonderful.  Big Boy enjoyed all of it except for the "Elvis" sequences.  He was also a bit scared during some of the prison scenes, but they were dark and ominous so I could understand why.  

The performance we saw had a live sign language interpreter, which was really cool to watch.

Our tickets were in the first row of the Balcony - a controversial set of seats in His Majesty's Theatre.  You see, these seats have almost no leg room, making them appropriate for me (with short legs) and Big Boy (with child-sized legs).  Here are pictures to illustrate the lack of leg room.  These seats are very inexpensive, but you should really consider the leg room issue if you are thinking of purchasing them.  I knew for this show, for me and Big Boy it would not matter, but for people with "standard sized" legs there could be issues.  It really is quite comical:

These are my knees - a tight squeeze!

Big Boy had plenty of room.