Saturday, December 30, 2017

Lost and Found

    When traveling abroad, I try very hard not to shop too much.  Between baggage fees when flying and lugging bags around from place to place, I hate to add weight to the bags by shopping too much.  What I do like to find is something the place is known for, and if that is too big (or expensive) I find a little something that will simply be a good reminder of my trip.  When I traveled to Portugal I really wanted to come home with tile and pottery, but talk about weighing things down.  Instead I bought a handbag made of cork AND a Portuguese rooster.  The bag made it home safely, but the rooster somehow didn't.  I had packed it inside the zipper pouch of this neck pillow I had brought on the plane.  I brought the pillow for the flight to/from, but ended up never using it because the seats I sat in had adjustable headrests and were more comfortable without the pillow.  I found a some space inside the pillow to keep the little statue safe before tossing it in my suitcase. But upon returning home, unpacking, and returning to work it occurred to me about a month later that I didn't remember unpacking the pillow or the little rooster.  I figured the pillow never actually got packed, and must have been left in the room.  That was 2013.
   Flash forward to 2017 in Kona, Hawaii.  A couple of days into visiting my mom, I had taken her car for some last minute gift shopping after dropping her off at her physical therapy appointment (she had knee replacement surgery on her other knee this November and is on the mend).  I got done a bit early, so went back to the house to put things away.  As I was driving into the garage I noticed a yellow neck pillow sitting on the workbench area in the garage.  When my mom drives the car, whoever is in the passenger seat has to get out of the car before she drives in because she has to get too close to the workbench which is why I hadn't noticed it before.  It took me a moment, but then I did a double take.  "That looks just like my pillow," I said out loud as I got out of the car.
   Sure enough, my "lost in Portugal" pillow was sitting on a workbench in Hawaii.  And still inside the zipper pouch was the Portuguese rooster wrapped in tissue.  When I asked my mom about it she said that I had left it at her house the last time I had been there.  She had bought it for me for Christmas just before going to Portugal and had assumed I didn't like/want it after leaving it there. I'm not quite sure how it made it's way from Portugal to Hawaii without me knowing about it...maybe it fell out of a pocket I hadn't checked.  Who knows!  But now my rooster of luck and happiness is sitting on a bookshelf in California.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Mele Kalikimaka

It's been so long since I've written (I won't even bother explaining beyond being busy takes the writing right out of you sometimes).  Anyhow, I'm in Kona for the holidays this year.  Here are a few fun/random photos...
 Pololu Valley Look Out - Near the northern most tip of the Big Island (Hawaii)
The first two days of my visit had rain and more rain.  Once it cleared up, things were beautiful and left two of the volcanoes (Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa) with snow on them.  
It is just beautiful!
A cattle egret that visits my mom's backyard every so often.
 Sunsets from the house.
 The Hawaiians are such jokesters!
 Sunset at Rays on the Bay
 The hula girl hibiscus, which is my favorite of them all.

I hope everyone is well and had/is having a very Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, September 26, 2017


After spending a few days in the busy city of Edinburgh, our time on the Isle of Skye was quite a change.  What a beautiful place!
Once on the island, we stopped for a lovely view of the Cuillin which is a mountain range. The Red Cuillin are on the left of the road and the Black Cuillin are on the right.  The Black Cuillin are higher and rockier than the Red.
 The light wasn't ideal, but you can see how dark the mountains on the right are compared to those on the left.
 Home for our time in Skye was the town of Portree.  Portree is the largest town on the island (at around 900 people).  With a small harbor and colorful shops and homes, it is a pretty little town.
The dark clouds and blue sky kind of followed us around during these days.  At least they gave the pictures some color.
This was the view a few steps from our hotel.  I kept finding my way to this spot every time I walked out of the room.

We spent two evenings in Portree.  Each morning we woke and met the driver/tour guide at the van and left the town for the day.
One of the highlights of our time on Skye was to visit the Neist Point Lighthouse which is at the westernmost point of the island.  It was a beautiful drive across the island (Portree is on the east side) and the weather mostly held up.  We stopped at a few photo ops along the way.
It was very green and there were a lot of sheep!  The weather was iffy on the drive.  Some rain, a lot of clouds, and some sun.  It seemed to change every few miles.
Once we arrived at Neist Point, the blue sky started to peak out.  We climbed out of the van, pulled on our jackets and headed off for a hike down to the point.
You can see the walkway hand railing in the left of this picture and then the path to the lighthouse towards the sea.  The wind kicked up a bit as we walk away from the van.  By the time we got to the walkway, it was whipping.  It was blowing so hard it literally pulled my jacket off of my body and my camera strap away from my neck.  As I had mentioned, I was still have a tough time with my allergies and was not able to breathe through my nose. The wind was blowing into my mouth, and I couldn't breathe.  I tried several times to keep going, but kept having to turn away from it.  I was never able to make it down to the bottom, which is my only regret on the trip.  Those who kept going said that once they got to the path and changed directions, the wind was much easier to take.  I was so afraid that it would be bad the whole way down and back up again and didn't want to risk having to move into the lighthouse if I wasn't able to get back up the hill.
I spent the time wandering around and taking pictures of the view.  Unfortunately, my time unsupervised found me involved in some shenanigans...which I will share in the next post.

Monday, September 11, 2017

A Coach Tour

Are you sick of my, "I'm sooooo busy" excuse for not writing yet?  I am, but school is really kicking my butt this year.  It always does during the first few weeks of a new year, but the change in grade and room (I can't find anything) have made it more challenging than usual.  Just to get something down on "paper", I wanted to share some more pictures from my Scotland trip.  There's not much writing to go with it, but it's better than nothing I guess.  Enjoy!  I sure did.  :)
When we booked our two week trip, everything we had heard said that when visiting Scotland, the Isle of Skye was a must see.  That wasn't so close to Edinburgh and we just weren't sure about the time it would take to get there.  Then we found a 3-day round trip small coach trip tour that would pick us up and drop us off in Edinburgh.  I am not really a tour bus kind of traveler because I don't like the drive by, seeing things through the window, stopping only for a few moments for a photo op kind of tour.  But our options were limited so we signed up.  The trip was definitely a drive by type tour, but once I got over that we actually had a nice trip.  We saw A LOT of sights on our way to and from Skye, which considering it was only 3 days, was impressive.
Day 1 - This was our drive to Skye...
 Only got to see this hairy cow, but at least I saw one.
 Loch Lubnaig
 There were so many little waterfalls just trickling down the mountains during so much of our trip.
Just before the bridge to Skye is the village of Dornie and the Eilean Donan Island and Castle.  Currently used for special events and tour visits, the castle's origins start in the 1200s.  It was all but demolished in early 1900s and then refurbished in 1914 to mostly what it is today.  The entertainment industry uses it for movie and TV.
 The castle actually sits in the water where three sea Lochs meet - Loch Duich, Loch Long, and Lock Alsh.
You can see the Isle of Skye from here.  We drove over the bridge to the island shortly after our visit here.  More pictures to come...

Saturday, August 19, 2017

I started my 18th year of teaching on Thursday.  With a new grade level (3rd) and a new classroom, the end of July and all of August have been spent moving (again), setting up the classroom, learning all new standards and curriculum (again).  The to-do list is never-ending.
We just had two days with kids, and I can't get out of bed.  The only thing that is motivating me about going back on Monday is I got to loop with most of my 2nd grade class from last year.  They were a great group, so I look forward to spending another year with them.
I posted this last year, but it still makes me chuckle, especially March - June.
And so it begins...again.

Monday, August 7, 2017

One O'Clock Gun

We got very lucky with the weather in Scotland as far as rain goes, but many days were quite overcast.  I love me a good cool and cloudy day, but they are not ideal for photographs.  Unfortunately, our visit to Edinburgh Castle was on one such morning when the clouds were exceptionally thick.
Crowds on this trip were light overall, but the castle was quite busy the day we visited.  The Royal Tattoo takes place in August, and they had already begun to prepare for that as well (blue seating on the left) so the amount of people there was more than we encountered on the rest of the trip.
 The views of the city from the castle are fantastic...again not as good with the cloud cover, but you get the gist.
We did get some rain during the visit, so ducked inside the Scottish National War Memorial.
The Scottish National War Museum is housed at the castle.  In addition to the history of Scotland's military involvement, their soldiers who have died while serving are part of the Roll of Honour.  The names of the soldiers are in books, placed around the museum, so many books.  
Photographs were not allowed inside the memorial, but you can see inside here.  
The main entrance to the Memorial is flanked by these beautiful life-sized statues of a unicorn and a lion.  They were sculpted by Phyllis Bone in 1927.  She was one of many female artists who consulted and created for the Memorial.
The animals are heraldic symbols of Scotland (unicorn) and England (lion).  There's something charming about the unicorn being their national animal, magical even.
One O'Clock was an important time for the Scottish sailors in the 1800s.  Watches were not yet reliable so sailors used chronometers and needed to reset them midday.  The time ball was invented as a visual to those on the water.  When the ball dropped they knew it was 1:00 and could set the chronometer.  
However, with it being Scotland, those on the ships couldn't always see the ball, so it was decided a cannon at the castle would be fired at 1:00 as well.  Because the speed of sound is quite slow, sailors were given maps to show what time it would be when they heard the sound on the water.  Of course, the time ball and the One O'Clock Gun are no longer needed, but they are both still used as a matter of ceremony.  
A little before 1:00, the crowds surrounded the North Face of the castle to watch the 1:00.  Thank goodness it was early in the trip and lugging both camera lenses hadn't tired me out yet.  We were quite far away, but the long lens helped with that.  (The photos are better enlarged.)
 The "new" gun is a Howitzer light gun.
 About 5 minutes before 1:00 the process began.  The gunner came out, showed the blank cartridge, marched back to the gun and put the cartridge in.
 Then he stood aside for a bit and watched the time just before marching back to the gun, still watching the time.
 At 1:00, the gun was fired.
 The blank was then removed and he showed the crowd.
While I'm not usually one for ceremony, I did enjoy this one, no matter how touristy it was.  

Friday, August 4, 2017

Edinburgh 1

Mike and I met up in London and then jumped on the train to Edinburgh the next day.  As much as I enjoy London, I've been a few times so it was just our starting and stopping point - easy to get a direct flight from and to Los Angeles.  The train ride to Edinburgh was quite pleasant.  It took about 4 hours and we got into town midday.  After checking into our room, which was just outside the city center, we found a city bus and rode around for a couple of hours just to get the lay of the land.  While I'm not a big fan of bus-type tours, I do like an overview of new cities to get a better understanding of where I am.  For this trip, I don't know how much it helped though, as I was pretty much directionally challenged the entire time in Edinburgh.  That's unlike me, but it was strange to not quite have my bearings.
Although it's quite touristy, I did really enjoy the Royal Mile.  The Royal Mile is made up of the main roads in the Old Town.  It starts at the top of the hill at Edinburgh Castle and runs down to Holyrood Palace (Queen Elizabeth's official Scottish residence).  This is the view of the area from the train station down below.  I liked the Victorian architecture.
Holyrood Palace

On one of our stops that day, we had this great view of Arthur's Seat which is a tall, flat peak in the hills of Edinburgh.  We climbed up to Arthur's Seat the following day, but the sky was so pretty during our first day.
 The Scottish Parliament moved into this new Parliament Building in 2004. While it opened to mixed reviews and some controversy, I quite liked it.  It's different, but quite calming. It was designed to demonstrate a link between Scotland, its people, and its culture.
The offices of the MSP include "contemplation spaces" or big pop-out bay windows.
Because we got a late start, dusk came quickly that first day.  The city was quite pretty when the sun went down.  

As I mentioned in the past post, the sky stayed light (even after the sun went down) until about 10:30/11PM.  It was on odd feeling, especially that first night as it was some what of surprise.  We went back to the hotel earlier that first night as traveling takes it out of you.  With light peeking through the curtains it made us chuckle that it didn't feel like bed time.  
Two more days in Edinburgh to share next time.