Archive for October, 2009

happy halloween!

I love Halloween.  I think it might be my favorite holiday.  Why? Well, for a lot of reasons:

1) Getting to dress up in costume.  Even when you’re an adult.

( aside – It amazes me the difference between how adults in the USA handle Halloween differently than adults in the UK.  Back in Ohio it seemed if you were over the age of 13 and dressing up in costume the general idea was to be something scary.  A zombie or a vampire or the Loch Ness Monster (hey, it could happen!).  Here in the UK the general idea (for ladies, at least) is to go out in public wearing as little clothes as possible.  And how!  You can be a skanky nurse or lusty devil or bad police woman or any number of super heros, etc.  I can not get on board with this idea.  Sorry. )

2) Anything to do with pumpkins.  I love to carve them and bake them and make them into pies and even eat their seeds.  I ❤ pumpkins. I even like films about pumpkins. (“Films about pumpkins?” you ask. Yes. It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, for instance.)

pumpkin 1

my pumpkin!

3) Scary movies.  I use Halloween and its inherent ghosty-ness to watch scary movies that I normally wouldn’t watch.  Because I don’t like them.  They don’t have to be horror films and/or blood and guts films.  My favorite Scary Movie Night title is actually The Shining.  This year I think I will watch The Shining, The Orphanage and Blair Witch.

4) Chocolate.  (I don’t feel this needs an explanation)

5) Ghosts.  I’ve always had a strange fascination with ghosts and Halloween is the best time to celebrate my fascination.  I love all things ghostie.  I love things shaped like ghosts, talking about ghosts and yes, even films about ghosts.

6) Seeing kiddies all dressed up in their costumes.  In the UK they actually have to sing a song or recite a poem to get chocolate or candies from you.  It’s adorable.  This year I am not handing out chocolate to anyone because a) I hate my stupid neighbors and their stupid children b) I’ll be home on my own and don’t fancy answering the door to strangers.

7) Halloween food.  I think Halloween might be the one holiday of the year where people go totally crazy with their treats and food in general.  Yeah, OK, at Christmas you get cookies shaped like trees and angels, but what holiday other than Halloween lets you serve things like “eyeballs” and “severed fingers” to your guests?  I remember when I was little Mom & I used to spend ages food coloring and shaping Rice Krispie Treats for my school classes.  We made ghosts (yay!) and pumpkins (yay!!) and witches’ hats.  It was great fun and maybe that’s where the fascination began.  Go the the Food Network site and look for their page of Halloween goodies.  It’s inspiring.  Maybe not as cool as these vampire cupcakes, but still awesome.


S's first EVER pumpkin!

I guess I could go on, but I am sure you have all got the point by now.  I LOVE Halloween. I urge you to go out and celebrate this fantastic holiday in fashion! xo A

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S and I took a trip to Gothenburg for our anniversary this year. We actually went a week before our anniversary, but that still counts.

We had a fantastic time. The city was amazing. Everyone was so kind and helpful – in fact, I have to say that every single person we spoke to in a shop or otherwise was a pleasure to talk to. Also, the entire city was clean. It was fantastic.

We spent most of the weekend wandering around without a plan looking at the various sights throughout the city. On Saturday we walked through the old town, called Haga, which is now a very trendy section of the city filled with street side cafes and second-hand stores. The streets are laid out on a grid and most look like the one below:


We had dinner that night at a restaurant called Smaka which had traditional Swedish cuisine. S had elk but we were both unsure whether that would be enjoyable so I got plan beef just in case. The elk was wonderful and the beef was delicious. All in all a lovely meal, although for two main dishes and two beverages to cost nearly £50, the food had better have been good!!

Kristine Kyrka

There are two canals that run through the city, although being winter time I don’t think there were many boats on them. We didn’t see any, anyway.

Goteborgs Stadsmuset – Gothenburg City Museum

On Saturday as well we climbed a million stairs (read: 200) to get to the top of a hill located in the Haga district. On top of this hill was an old fortress, although it never got to fulfill its fortress destiny and is now a sort of military museum. We didn’t go in, but we did bask in the views looking over the red-tile roofs of the city. The weather was glorious so you could see quite far. It would have helped if we’d have had any idea what we were looking at or for, but we enjoyed it anyway!

Oscar Fredriks Kyrka

On Sunday we walked the length of the Kungsportsavenyn (King’s Gate Avenue) down to the where there is a horribly ugly statue of Poseidon wrestling a fanged fish in the centre of the Gotaplatsen square. Then S came with me to the Goteborgs Konstumseum (art museum) even though I don’t think he really wanted to go. It was nice but not spectacular – I think my favorite piece of art in the museum was Haystacks by Johan Fredrik Krouthen.

On the corner of Parkgatan & Kungsportsavenyn

From the Gotaplatsen we walked back through the city to the harbour and along the waterfront to the maritime museum which was a mistake. Worst. Aquarium. Ever. Then we walked back into town and wandered about for the rest of the afternoon. If you ask me we must have walked about 7 miles. If you ask S it’s more like 3. I think I am right.

Gustavi Domkyrka

The main transport for locals in a system of trams which runs throughout the city and can take you anywhere you want to go. We were too scared to try to get on them. Otherwise most people use bicycles. There was an alarming lack of vehicular traffic – you could basically cross any street anywhere you wanted to without having to worry too much about being run down by a car. It was wonderful.

On Monday before our plane left we walked around the northern part of the city. We visited the Kronhuset which is the oldest secular building in Gothenburg, built in the 1600s I think. It was beautiful, and much more stunning in real life than in the photograph below. We also found an antiques hall and wandered there a bit, but it was quite frightening, so we didn’t stay long.


So, in summary, I am glad we went but we probably won’t go back. It was just too expensive. Perhaps we’ll make it to Sweden again, but not to Gothenburg. I feel like we’ve seen everything we wanted to see. We walked the walks, saw the sights, had a few luke-warm “hot” chocolates in a few cafes, sampled their local cuisine and genuinely enjoyed ourselves.

I can recommend it to anyone wanting a quick city break, but pack your solid gold bars because everything is expensive.

I think that about does it!


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galloway forest in the fall

I’m just going to let these speak for themselves:


It was glorious.

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cafe koko

There’s a new café just opened in Kilmarnock named Café Koko and it’s fantastic.  It’s located at 4 Nelson Street, just off John Finnie Street.

So far I’ve been for just a coffee, for breakfast and for lunch and each and every time I am pleasantly surprised.  Not only is their food delicious and reasonably priced, but their coffee is wonderful and the staff is friendly and helpful.

If you’re planning to for lunch during the week you may be in for a bit of a wait as they are extremely busy during this time, although I’ve never had to wait long.

There’s rumour of a Costa Coffee opening in Kilmarnock and I hope this isn’t true for a few reasons: 1) I honestly don’t like Costa Coffee at all! 2) it may draw customers away from Café Koko.  Although, with products of such a superior quality and always an exclamation of “have a super day!” at the till, I can’t imagine anyone who wouldn’t return to Café Koko again and again.

Café Koko, 4 Nelson Street, Kilmarnock.

Go, check it out. Try the coffe, it’s fantastic!



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Galloway Forest

I’m so pleased.  Very pleased.

Why, you ask?  Well,  on Monday I sent an e-mail to the Forestry Commission asking about leaves.  Laugh, if you will, but I am serious.  I asked whether their leaves had started changing yet – I didn’t want to miss them in all their glory and I am planning to take an afternoon off work to photograph the trees in Galloway Forest Park.

I was unsure whether I would recieve a response or not, but receive one I certainly did.  I was highly impressed the next day when I got a lovely e-mail from one of their staff:

” I have spoken to a couple of my colleagues and they say that the leaves are just starting to turn but are not in their full glory yet.  The area around Kirroughtree Visitors Centre and the Bruntis Trail is starting to go but many other areas are still quite green.  I have mentioned to [L. H.] who does our blog and she will mention the colours in future postings.  However, she does ony do this about once a week.  If you could tell me which area you are intending to visit and if you want to e-mail us again I will try to keep you posted and hopefully you can get here before the trees are bare!”

How kind, how informative, how helpful.  I have yet to respond to this e-mail but I can assure you that it will be a glowing and effusive e-mail applauding them.

Then their blog post.  I am not going to copy the whole thing, but please go to their website to read it.  Below is an excerpt:

Galloway Forest Park

“Whilst the full [throes] of Autumn hasn’t quite happened in this wood yet, the warm light from the late afternoon sun filters through the trees and provides anticipation and a subtle glimpse of great things to come.”

So I am very pleased.  I was expecting a sentence or two quickly letting me know the status of the leaves, if I received any response at all, but the staff of the Forestry Commission have gone above and beyond in this instance helping me out more than I ever hoped they would.

Perhaps I am not the only person to enquire about the autumn leaves, I am sure with such a large park and such beautiful landscapes many others like myself are planning trips to the park this fall, however to have a response so tailored to my enquiry totally blew me away.

Thank you Forestry Commission for making me even more excited about the prospects of autumn.  Thank you for taking me seriously and thank you for taking the time to respond so kindly.

The rest of you, watch this space because you can be sure there will be photos posted in the next few weeks chronicling the autumnal glory and vicious beauty of a forest in full seasonal change.



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an apology

I feel the need to apologize to Scotland.

I am sorry I said all those terrible things about your season of fall.  If every day is as lovely as today I’ll have to take them back completely. 

It’s warm, sunny and clear with a cool breeze carrying the smell of dry-leaf fires. From my window at work I can see the sun glinting off the ocean and the Isle of Arran hulking proud in the distance.  The farmers’ fields are impossibly green, spotted with sheep and interspersed with the crew-cut honey brown of the recent harvest.

If only the leaves would cooperate and change color majestically this year, I would be set.

Except I am still pining for an orchard to pick my own apples…but you can’t always have everything you ask for.

So, thank you for proving me wrong.



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It’s officially autumn which is my favourite season of the year. Don’t get me wrong, there are things about winter that I love and there are certainly things about spring and summer that I love as well, but nothing compares to the leaf-crunching, crisp air, hot chocolate and a good book, smell of distant smoke, perfect weather for baking loveliness of autumn.

And, boy, am I ever excited!

One thing, though, autumn here is just not as good as autumn in Ohio. The leaves on the tress change colours differently (it seems to happen overnight here…) and the air is more damp than crisp (read: constant rain). There aren’t (as far as I can find) any orchards nearby where I can go apple-picking. There are no choose-your-own pumpkin patches. No haunted houses. No trick-or-treating (unless you’re under the age of 7). I can’t find any non-alcoholic apple cider and there’s no anticipation of deep winter with feet and feet of snow. Not to mention their screaming lack of THANKSGIVING.

But I have resolved to make the most of it.

Attempt number one was my baking of Smitten Kitchen’s Jewish Apple Cake whish has to be my favorite First Thing To Bake in Fall. This would have worked wonderfully, I had visions of myself seated on the stairs of our deck drinking hot coffee and enjoying this cake in the mist of a chilly Sunday morning, however this was not to be. Why? Because after the cake was in the oven for nearly 3 hours and still liquid I had to admit to myself that the oven just isn’t working. So. Until we figure out what is wrong with our new oven I’m afraid my enjoyment of fall has been thwarted.

There will be no delicious apple cake, no dense and sticky gingerbread, no Christmas Morning Muffins fresh and hot from the oven. The way of tackling this problem is three fold. First I am going to ask my In-Laws if I can bake cake at their house (understanding I’ll surrender half shares in all baked goods), second I am going to plead with my husband to figure out how to fix our oven (thermostat? auto-shut off? who knows!) and if we can’t get it fixed I am going to beg my sister and brother in-laws (hi Alan!) to give us their old oven when they get their new oven installed during their kitchen renovation. Although the broken oven in our kitchen right now is the result of one such charitable donation and I’m wondering if it’s just a bad idea to begin with.

So, to take my mind off the broken oven and the startling lack of sweet cinnamon and apple smelling kitchen, S and I are redecorating our lounge. This is an ongoing task which is sapping my will to live. First the wallpaper had to come down which took forever, then we had to wash the wallpaper residue off the walls, which took forever. Since then we have painted two coats of white paint over the (lovely, ha) teal blue paint which had been hiding beneath the wallpaper (and I thought it couldn’t get worse than peach!). Now all that remains is gloss paint on the woodwork (loads of it!) and two coats of our chosen color on the walls.

We’ve been taking our time with this task so as not to wear ourselves out, however now we have a deadline in the form of S’s flat-screen television purchase which will be delivered a week from tomorrow. A race to finish the lounge so we can hang a television on our wall. Apparently it’s 3.8cm wide which is, apparently, amazing.

So this weekend will be spent not baking, but painting. My trip down to Galloway Forest Park will have to wait another week, although the leaves are still green so there’s no point in going until they start to change. I just hope they don’t do their spectacular changing colour in one evening and then falling off the trees in one fell swoop all over the course of 24 hours trick (see the Whomping Willow in Harry Potter 3), like they usually do. Because if I miss the leaves falling off their trees I might just cry until spring time.

Do yourselves a favor, though, and bake that apple cake.  It’s delicious and the perfect treat to have ready when returning into the house after raking a metric tonne of leaves off the lawn in the backyard.  And go to an orchard and pick-your-own apples to make it with.

Happy Fall.



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