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New Years 2016

New Years is always a whirlwind and a time of celebration for Wendy and me. This year was no different, and the holidays were stretched out more than normal for us.

New Year’s Eve was our 11th wedding anniversary. Wendy and I gathered here at VW Manor with a small group of friends. Last year was a bit of a blowout as we celebrated our 10th. This year was a low-key affair. We told everyone to wear sweats or pajamas if they wanted to do so. We snacked, we chatted, we played a few rounds of Head’s Up, and we laughed. It was a laid-back way to say good-bye to a very strange 2016 and welcome 2017 with all its possibilities.

Madison could not get home from South Carolina until late last week. So New Year’s Day was the first we got to see her since she joined us at the lake this past summer.  Wendy and I drove to Ankeny for a New Year’s Day gathering of the Hall clan. Taylor and Madison drove up from Des Moines to join us. It was a chance to see Becky, Court, and Lydia one more time before they flew back to Colorado and a chance for the girls to hang out with the family.

We returned to Pella in the afternoon and had our Christmas celebration with the four of us. It was fun to sit together in front of the fireplace ad enjoy opening gifts between the four of us. We then settled in for a relaxing evening together on the family room couch. Supper was a hodgepodge of leftovers on the counter to snack on. We watched the recorded Vikings/Bears game and then watched Cinderella together. It was really a lot of fun.

Yesterday was the only full day we had with Maddy Kate. Wendy made a fabulous breakfast for us. The entire morning was spent eating, drinking coffee, and great conversation around the dining room table. The afternoon was an equally laid-back affair. We opted for a Sherlock binge. We watched. Taylor knitted. Madison and I worked on editing a video for a little project she wanted to do together. Wendy scoured Pinterest and we discussed house ideas. And, in true family fashion, we baptized the living room rug with two spills that necessitated moving of the couch and cleaning up.

Wendy made a wonderful evening meal of tilapia, sweet potato wedges, and rice. We then capped our evening by planning our wardrobe for family pictures we’re taking this morning, and watching the newest episode of Sherlock which premiered on New Year’s Day.

It feels like a bit of a stretched out holiday this year. With Christmas and New Year’s on Sundays, it feels like we’ve stretched two two-day holidays into two four-day holidays. Today we take family pictures, say good-bye to Madison, and then settle back into routine.

Mom’s Valentine’s Day Present

We are blessed that the progression of my mother’s Alzheimer’s has been slowed by meds. We’re thankful for each day we’re able to continue to enjoy together. I’ve read that music and images are positive stimuli for those suffering with Alzheimer’s, triggering memories and hopefully lubricating the brain to continue remembering.

With that in mind, I put together a little video for mom (and dad) for Valentine’s Day this year. Some old family photos and music that hopefully gets the synapses firing in a positive way. The Dixieland jazz that accompanies photos of her as a little girl is from Bix Beiderbecke, an Iowa native. My mom’s dad loved Dixieland and attended the Bix festival in Davenport. My mom told me that when she was a teenager, the Crew-Cuts’ Sh-Boom was her favorite song. She repeatedly played it so much that it drove her father crazy (I remember having similar thoughts about N’Sync), so that’s what I chose for pictures of her as a teen. The Lord’s Prayer was sung at their wedding, and I can remember my mom listening to Whitney Huston’s CD a lot, especially after watching The Preacher’s Wife.

Our plan to take the folks out for Valentine’s dinner was scuttled by weather, but I had a chance to swing by their apartment this week and play them this video. It was fun to hear their memories, laughter, and to witness her tears as she watched. At the end of the video she wiped her tears and said, “God has been so good to us. We have been so blessed.

I hope she will enjoy watching this video over and over again. And, I hope it will continue to remind her of God’s faithfulness and blessings through the home stretch of her life journey.

Decorative Details

Scottish Decorative Messages

Sometimes photo opportunities come from paying attention to details. While in Edinburgh this past summer I began noticing that many of the old buildings contained small decorative flourishes with a message. They were often Bible verses or a moral reminder. Once I started noticing them I began to take photos of them. Themed photos can make for fascinating collages.

Flood Waters Rising at Lake of the Ozarks

In the 20+ years we’ve been coming down to the Lake of the Ozarks, we’ve never seen the water as high as it has risen in the past two days. Torrential rains pushed the water over the gangway to our dock in the middle of the night. More rain is expected the next few days. They opened the flood gates at Bagnall Dam yesterday morning, but obviously the waters are rising fast than they can let it out. Here are some photos I took this morning along Ambrosia Lane on Buccaneer Bay at the 34.5 mile marker.

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 7

I am publishing my travel journal from our trip to Edinburgh which  took place June 1-8, 2015. I am posting my journal entry and pictures from each day in chronological order.

Our last full day in Edinburgh was sunny and relatively warm. It would turn out to be the nicest day of our entire trip and a wonderful way to end our time in Scotland. Wendy and I got up and, while Wendy showered, I walked up Victoria Street to the La Barantine Patisserie for an Americano. We got ready for the day and grabbed the bus to the Royal Botanic Gardens, which was the same route we’d taken the day before to Taylor’s flat, but just a few stops before.

Wendy and I walked down Arboritum Road toward the entrance to the gardens and enjoyed the sunshine. It felt absolutely wonderful as we walked. It was about 4-5 blocks to the main entrance of the Gardens and we entered the visitor’s center to find Taylor browsing through the gift shop.

We entered the gardens and immediately walked to Inverleith House, an old mansion in the middle of the gardens which contains a contemporary art gallery. Taylor had done an internship there this year, helping them investigate opportunities to build patron support. There was a show by Nicholas Party in the galleries called “Boys and Pastel” which Taylor had helped install. Not only did it have the artist’s works, but the artist had chosen colors and designs for the walls of each room, which Taylor had helped paint. We walked through the exhibit and took pictures. The gallery was nice with big airy rooms and a lot of gorgeous sunlight.

We then began a tour of the grounds. The Botanic Gardens were wonderful and it was such a lovely day. The flowers, the smells, and the landscape were breathtaking and we took our time leisurely walking about. After a while Wendy plopped down on a stretch of grass, stretched out her arms, and basked in the sunlight. Taylor and I joined her and we began a trend as several more visitors eventually joined us nearby. We lay on the lawn, took in the sun, and enjoyed conversation together. I think we all could have sat there all day, but there were other things on our agenda.

Taylor wanted to take us to a small outdoor market that was a hike of several blocks from the Botanic Gardens. During her year in Edinburgh, Taylor has worked two days a week at Steampunk Coffee, a coffee roaster and coffee bar in North Berwick. Steampunk has a mobile coffee stand housed out of a VW van that is a regular at this particular outdoor market. We enjoyed walking through the market and seeing all of the vendors. I especially liked the vendor who makes different sauces with Scotch whiskey.  We bought some Scottish made chocolate and a chocolate fudge muffin before heading for the bus stop.

Taylor had planned a girls date of high tea with Wendy. They got off the bus near the shop, Eteaket, where they had a 2:00 reservation. It is on a lower level with a small outdoor patio where they had tea in the sunshine. Wendy had a fabulous “girls” time with Taylor and she marveled at the huge selections of teas from which she could choose.

Meanwhile, I rode the bus a few more stops. Taylor had told me to get off when I saw the Royal Mile, but I realized that we were passing St. John’s Church on the opposite side of Edinburgh Castle. A quick check of the bus route told me that this was as close as I was going to get since the Royal Mile starts at the castle, so I hopped off and began a long trek up castle hill to the Royal Mile.

As mentioned in yesterday’s entry, I had wanted to do a Scotch Whiskey tasting while in Scotland and knew that neither of the ladies would have any interest. By luck, Jon De Haan and Gabe Spencer had arrived the previous night and when I mentioned doing a tasting they both eagerly agreed to join me. We met at Rabbie Burns Pub on the Royal Mile which had been recommended by a friend of Taylor’s.  Jon and Gabe had just arrived and were looking at the menu as I walked in the pub and we switched to a larger table. We figured we wouldn’t want to do a whiskey tasting on an empty stomache, so we ordered lunch. I had a burger and an ale called Caldonia Best. The boys each joined me in the Caldonia Best, but ordered bangers and mash.

There were three different levels of whiskey tasting that each included four different types of Scotch. Jon and I both chose the same one (the lower priced flight), but Gabe went for broke and ordered the highest price. He was, however, happy to share so we each got to try eight different types of Scotch. It was a lot of fun and I was amazed at the differences in color, aroma, and flavor. There were a couple of varieties that were similar, but for the most part each was quite distinctive. It was fun to have a couple of other guys to share the experience and I enjoyed Jon and Gabe’s company immensely as we chatted away and compared our impressions of the whiskey. I preferred the smokey, peat tinged whiskeys from Islay myself.

Before all of the Scotch was consumed, Taylor and Wendy arrived and joined us. There followed an hour or so of pleasant conversation. Jon and Wendy got into a spirited debate centered on Harry Potter, and whether it was Harry’s mother or father who first appeared out of his wand at the end of the fourth book. The answer would prove whether Rowling had made a mistake or not in the logic of the book. It was fun to watch them spar. Eventually, they put their argument aside. We decided it was time to go. Hugs all around and both of the lads agreed to come visit Vander Well Pub next time they were in Pella.

Wendy had to grab a requested scarf for our friend, Becky, before we left the Royal Mile. We left Taylor to hang with her friends while we hit a few more shops. Wendy and I then headed back to the hotel to freshen up.

Taylor joined us about an hour later after escorting Jon and Gabe to The Elephant House. We left the hotel and trekked to Central Methodist Hall which is now home to Central Church where Taylor has worshipped this year. Wendy and I really enjoyed experiencing worship with her and meeting her friends there. I thought it the perfect way to end our week. Wendy and I loved the mostly younger crowd who gathered there and the Spirited worship. The pastor, Carl, gave a great message on Revelation 5 and then the congregation split into various prayer stations for prayer and meditation.

We left a little early before the service concluded and were greeted at the exit by Pastor Carl, who seemed a nice gentleman. Taylor led us to a restaurant, Nando’s, which she had been telling us about all week. It’s a Portugese chicken restaurant and we had our last meal together in Scotland before walking back to the hotel.

Taylor hung out with us for a few minutes as she had a wee bit of a wait for her next bus home. We hugged and said our good-byes, which was certainly bittersweet. It had been so good to see her after eight months, but we took solace in the fact that she will be home with us in seven weeks. After Taylor left, Wendy and I began the process of packing for our trip home as we watched “Bridesmaids” on the telly. I pulled up the Cubs vs. Nationals game on my iPad and as we climbed into bed we watched the Cubs take the four game series 3-1 with a 6-3 victory. It would be a short night before our long journey home.

The flight out of Edinburgh went without a hitch and we arrived at Chicago-O’hare a few minutes early about 12:40 on Monday afternoon. Our 5:30 flight to Des Moines, however, was cancelled and we scrambled to get rebooked on the 7:10 flight. That flight was also delayed. Wendy and I ended up hanging out at the airport and watching the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup from the Berghof in Concourse B. Our flight eventually took off for Des Moines at 11:45 p.m. and we landed in Des Moines at 12:40 a.m. Tuesday morning. After our drive back to Pella it was about 2:15 a.m. when we finally got to bed. We’d been up for 26 hours straight. The second 24+ hour day we’d had in 8 days.

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Days 1-2
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 3
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 4
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 5
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 6
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 7

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 6

I am publishing my travel journal from our trip to Edinburgh which  took place June 1-8, 2015. I am posting my journal entry and pictures from each day in chronological order.

It’s ART DAY! Wherever we go, Wendy and I love to take in a little art and culture. Taylor is studying Arts and Event Management, so its only natural that we devote at least a little time to see what artistic treasures Edinburgh had for us.

It was Saturday morning and Wendy and I grabbed the bus to Taylor’s flat. It was about a 20 minute bus ride from the top of Victoria Street to her stop on Pilton and she was there to meet us. Taylor has a hike of several blocks from the bus stop to her apartment building on Pilton Farm Crescent. She lived in the student residences of Queen Margaret University during the school year but moved to this three bedroom flat at the end of the semester where she lives with some lovely young ladies. We had a chance to see the place and meet one of her flat mates. It was a nice flat on the fourth floor with lots of light and Taylor has a gorgeous view of the area and the North Sea out her bedroom window.

We hiked another mile or so to a bus stop and grabbed a bus towards the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art. There are actually two museums across the street from one another. We started at Two but there was only one gallery open with a collection of surrealist art. We enjoyed the exhibit but it didn’t take long to get through it. We then walked across the street to museum One which had an exhibition of Roy Lichtenstein along with their permanent collection, largely of contemporary Scottish artists. We enjoyed the museum and, afterwards, we grabbed a taxi to the City Art Centre which offered four more floors of Scottish artists, though the gallery on each floor was rather small and it didn’t take too long to get through it.

Our souls refreshed and our minds inspired, we began the short hike back to the hotel. All week long we had been passing a unique little eatery on Victoria Street called Oink. They roast an entire hog each day, stick it in the window for passers by to see, and then serve pork sandwiches until it’s all gone. The shop could close early or late depending on the hunger of Edinburgh. It looked and smelled so good all week that I was determined to try it before we left. So, I grabbed a pork sandwich (absolutely delicious!) and Taylor stopped at Hula for a snack bar before we journeyed on to our hotel room for a bite and a bit of rest.

We walked to The Jazz Bar after our rest. It’s a small, basement bar where Taylor spent many evenings this past year. When I asked Taylor how often she’d been to the Jazz Bar she laughed and dismissively admitted, “Oh, more times than I can count.” I was shocked to find the venue packed at 3:00 in the afternoon, and the average age of the crowd was older than I expected, but then again the talented trio playing was of a similar age. We eventually got a table and spent over three hours talking and drinking as we listened to the music. It was a wonderful way to spend the afternoon.

The jazz trio gave way to a solo pianist and the crowd remained large though there was a constant coming and going. There were a lot of people avidly listening to the jazz, and I was surprised to see a number of people there by themselves sitting transfixed by the music. At one point, Taylor, Wendy and I were in a wonderful  and intense conversation that clearly annoyed an elderly old Scot sitting and a nearby table (I tend to be a loud talker, sorry). He turned while I was talking and chewed me out in his thick Scottish accent basically telling me to shut up and listen to the music. We all kind of laughed and chose to speak in quieter tones, but we were all a bit taken aback. “It’s a bar, not a concert hall,” Wendy grumbled.

It was about 6:30 by the time we left and we walked to Pizza Express. We had eaten there a couple of nights before and both Wendy and I loved it. Earlier in the week Taylor told us that two of her friends from high school were flying into Edinburgh for a week of sightseeing in Scotland, and wanted to see her. We were excited at the opportunity to visit with both Jon De Haan and Gabe Spencer. Jon had been a regular visitor to our home back when they were in high school and Taylor had gone to prom with Gabe one year. The lads had flown in earlier that day and agreed to meet us at Pizza Express for dinner. They were a bit jet lagged but arrived on time and we had a wonderful meal together, catching up on their lives since leaving Pella.

One of the items on my Scottish bucket list was a whiskey tasting, but I had to admit that I’d not looked forward to experiencing it on my own. I knew that neither Wendy nor Taylor would want to join me. Taylor had scheduled an appointment with Wendy for British high tea on Sunday afternoon and so I thought it fortuitous that Jon and Gabe had arrived just in time to save me from a lonely afternoon of Scotch sampling. I had simply uttered, “So, I was thinking about doing a whiskey tasting tomorrow…” when the lads cut in with an enthusiastic “Yes!” in unison. The date was set.

We figured the kids would want some time to themselves after dinner. Taylor cajoled a passer-by to take a group photo outside the restaurant and then they headed for The Queen’s Arms Pub. Wendy and I headed back to the hotel where we relaxed with a movie, did a little reading, and drifted off to sleep.

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Days 1-2
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 3
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 4
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 5
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 6
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 7

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 5

I am publishing my travel journal from our trip to Edinburgh which  took place June 1-8, 2015. I am posting my journal entry and pictures from each day in chronological order.

The weather on this Friday morning was predicted to be better than usual, so we chose it to hike up Arthur’s Seat. Arthur’s Seat is a prominent hill in Holyrood (translated “Holy Cross” park that was a fortress in ancient times. The summit provides a breathtaking 360 degree view of Edinburgh, the North Sea and the surrounding region.

Taylor arrived at our hotel about 8:30. We hiked a few blocks to Elephant House, a coffee shop now famous for being the place J.K. Rowling sat and wrote Harry Potter. Taylor told us we had to visit the loo while we were there. The bathrooms were scrawled with Harry Potter graffiti (I regret now that I did not take a picture).  We grabbed the bus to Holyrood park. When Wendy saw what we were climbing she had a small heart attack. From the east there is a   smooth incline to the summit, but on the west, the direction from which we approached, there is a long, winding stone stair. It took us about 30-35 minutes to make the climb with a few brief stops to catch breath and look around. The summit was very windy and a bit chilly, but the view was incredible and we took plenty of time for photos and to enjoy the view.

We descended along the eastern slope and found ourselves in the picturesque, ancient village of Dudingston with a gorgeous little church that has been there since the 1200s. There is a pub here, the Sheep’s Heid that claims to be the oldest establishment in Scotland, dating from the 1300s. We had intended to pop in for a pint but they didn’t open until 11:30 and we didn’t feel like sitting around for an hour.

Taylor checked the bus schedule and figured in the 20 minutes we would wait for the next bus we could hike most of the way back. We trekked back towards the city on a road that wound around the bottom of Arthur’s Seat. It was a good couple of miles before we got to the buss top back to the hotel. Wendy’s Up Band said that we walked 9.2 miles that day!

At the hotel we freshened up and headed back out for a bite of lunch. Along the way we learned about the small triangle shopped city block that houses strip clubs known to locals as the “pubic triangle.” Taylor also took us into one of her favorite little used book stores. It was a hole in the wall labyrinth with books shelved from floor to tall ceiling. We really enjoyed looking around and could have spent a lot more time there if we weren’t so hungry. Taylor took us to the Red Squirrel, a nice little pub a mile or so from the hotel. We had traditional pub fare served on thick, cutting board type planks, and enjoyed our on-going conversation.

After lunch we walked to St. John’s Church, an old Scottish Episcopal church that felt more like a Catholic cathedral. Taylor said that she would often come to this church for quiet, prayer and meditation. There is a cafe in the lower level that emptied out into a beautiful garden and cemetery. She said that she was at the cafe this past year when she got my message that Grandpa Dean was diagnosed with cancer and she immediately walked up to the sanctuary to light a candle for him and to pray. I’m glad she was there when she heard the news. We walked around the gorgeous sanctuary and enjoyed a nice chat with an older woman who was one of the volunteer guides. We then took a stroll through the ancient cemetery.

Taylor had an appointment with her advisor that afternoon, so we gave Taylor a hug and she headed back to her flat. Wendy and I strolled back to Grassmarket via King’s Stable Row which winds around the base of Edinburgh Castle. We spent a few quiet hours in the hotel watching the French Open and relaxing.

We headed to the Royal Mile in the late afternoon to do souvenier shopping. The sun came out while we were doing so and it became a lovely afternoon. It took a while to gather everything and then we headed back to Grassmarket, strolling down the long row of pubs and restaurants to get a feel for where we’d like to eat that evening. Taylor was having dinner with her flatmates so Wendy and I were on our own. We went to Maggie Dickinson’s Pub, named for a famous (or infamous) survivor of public execution,  and got a table in the back where we could eat and watch Andy Murray and Novak Djokovich in the French Open semi-final. Wendy ordered fish n chips and got an absolutely huge filet. I had a burger and, of course, a pint.

It was Friday evening and you could tell that the weekend crowd had begun. The pubs were brimming with people from all over. There were a number of large groups of very loud young men who had already had too much to drink. Taylor told us that Edinburgh is a favorite destination for bachelor and bachelorette parties and we saw a number of these. The bride or groom to be are generally dressed up in silly costumes so they are easy to spot.

We wandered down to the White Hart Inn Pub after dinner to have another pint and watch what was left of the tennis match, which got called for rain. We then headed back to the hotel and got to bed early.

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Days 1-2
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 3
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 4
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 5
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 6
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 7

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Days 1-2

Over the next week I will be publishing my travel journal from our trip to Edinburgh which  took place this past week, June 1-8, 2015. I am posting my journal entry and pictures from each day in chronological order.

Days 1-2

Wendy and I left Iowa on a gorgeous, cool, early summer afternoon. We flew United out of  Des Moines to Chicago O’Hare at 2:20 p.m. Had a 2.5 hour layover in Chicago before boarding a United 757-200 for our 6:00 p.m. flight to Edinburgh. We were in the next to last row of seats but thanks to a snafu there was no third traveler in our row so we were able to spread out a bit!

We both watched movies on the way over. Wendy watched “Still Alice” and I watched “Fury.” We tried to get some sleep but were largely unsuccessful. The result was that we landed in Edinburgh and our bodies were experiencing 12:30 a.m. ready for sleep but it was 7:30 a.m. in Edinburgh and we had a full day ahead. Hoo-boy! Here we go.

It was rainy, very windy and chilly when we arrived. The airline pilot in his final comments at descent said, “If you are golfing today I hope your tee time is in the late afternoon. Otherwise, it’s going to be a very windy round!”

Wendy and I collected our luggage and took turns cleaning up a bit in the airport loo. Per the excellent, detailed instructions Taylor sent us, we grabbed a tram from the airport to St. Andrews Square. Taylor texted that she might not beat us there and to hang out in the square to wait for her. It was very windy and chilly so we took up standing behind the square’s small cafe building for a wind break. It was only a couple of minutes before we spotted Taylor running towards us. Big hugs all around. It was so good to be hugging her.

We made a generous, up-hill hike towards our hotel. We stopped at the bus terminal to get a week “ride card” but there was a long line and the computers crashed, so we opted to stop later. We walked up castle hill against the wind pulling our suitcases. It was the best workout we’d had in a long time! Dropped our suitcases off at Apex City Hotel. The hotel is on Grassmarket, an old street at the base Edinburgh Castle known for being the site where people were executed. It’s not a gorgeous street lined with pubs and restaurants. Once our bags were dropped off for safekeeping we ventured out into Edinburgh for the first time.

We were both extremely impressed with Taylor’s knowledge of the city. She was an amazing guide and seemed to know every shortcut and back alley in the city. She said that most of her friends from Edinburgh laugh at her as she knows the city better than they do. Later in the week Wendy, Taylor and I were musing about the way we travel. I tend to be given to simple exploration rather than lots of detailed preparation. Taylor said that was how she learned the city. For weeks she simply walked, and walked, and walked everywhere and explored every nook and cranny. She obviously found a lot of cool things.

Our first unexpected stop was Armstrong’s, a vintage clothing store just down the street from our Hotel. It was like a crazy, huge costume shop filled with all sorts of historic and vintage clothing from different periods. We were stunned by all that they had and had a lot of fun exploring the shop.

Our next stop was a hike through Greyfriar’s graveyard. Taylor at first was going to walk past it, and then remembered that a couple of the graves in Greyfriar’s were how J.K. Rowling named a few characters in the Harry Potter books. We went looking for them and didn’t find them, but we enjoyed walking through the graveyard. It was so interesting to look at the different gravestones. At the top of the hill outside Greyfriar’s is a statue of a small dog known as Greyfriar’s Bobby. The story goes that the dog guarded the grave of his master for 14 years until his death and the locals would feed and care for him. His statue is a popular tourist attraction now.

We walked some more and Taylor led us to Dovecot Studios which is an old bathhouse now home to one of the world’s foremost tapestry studios. Master weavers at Dovecot team with the world’s leading contemporary artists to design and make some really amazing tapestries. We started by going through the gallery and then took a break for a cup of coffee in the coffee shop. By the time we were done the observation gallery was open and we were able to walk around on a balcony that surrounds the weavers’ studio and watch them work. It was fascinating. I’ve never really considered weaving tapestries as an art medium. Shame on me. I could have sat and watched them all day.

The sun was making intermittent appearances as we made our way to the Royal Mile. I needed to exchange some currency so the Bank of Scotland referred me to an exchange on the Mile. We found it and then decided it was time for lunch. Taylor led us to a pub just off the mile called Arcade Bar, Haggis, and Whiskey House. It was a lovely little pub. Taylor and Wendy had fish n’ chips. I opted for lighter fare and had a cup of cream of garlic soup. I was SO excited to find they had Amstel Light on tap. Amstel is one of my favorite beers and you can’t find it on tap anywhere in the U.S.

Wendy and I were starting to fade and needed a little break, so we headed back to the hotel to check-in. It is a nice boutique hotel and our room was very comfortable. Wendy found the French Open tennis tournament on the telly and the three of us curled up on the king sized bed for a cat nap. Taylor introduced us to an Irish comedian on YouTube which we really enjoyed.

It was enough of a rest to give us a second wind. We headed back out to visit the Camera Obscura museum which was more fun that I thought it would be. At the top of the museum is an antique camera obscura. Mirrors and lenses mounted on top of the tower project an image of the city onto a concave table many feet below. The operator can rotate the mirror/lenses which rotates the image on the table and you get a 360 degree view of Edinburgh. Each floor from the street to the tower is filled with different optical illusions, camera tricks, and hands-on exhibits which were a blast to experience.

It was late afternoon and both Wendy and I were feeling a bit zombie-like. We stopped at the White Hart pub across from our hotel and enjoyed a pint while we sat at the bar together. It was so good just to be with Taylor and to have conversation with her. We nursed our pints as we talked. It was 7:30 p.m. and Wendy and I had essentially been up and going without sleep for about 30 hours. We hugged Taylor good-night, staggered into our hotel room, and slept for 12+ hours.

Edinburgh Travel Journal: Days 1-2
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 3
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 4
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 5
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 6
Edinburgh Travel Journal: Day 7

Tulip Time Photos (& More!)

Wendy and I are enjoying a much needed rest after three very full days of Pella Tulip Time. We have played Pella, Iowa’s founders in three different stage productions and were asked by the Pella Historical Society to get in costume and portray the couple for the annual festival. We rode in a carriage in each of the six parades, had our picture taken countless times and made appearances at the Pella Historical Village and Scholte House Museum.

It was fun to talk to people about the Scholtes and the history of Pella, and to answer many questions about Pella and our costumes. Women, in particular, were enthralled with Wendy’s period costume and little girls made Wendy feel like  Disney princess. During one of the parades a little girl pointed at Wendy and shouted, “LOOK! It’s the PRETTY LADY!” Wendy even had a young man of about five blow her a kiss.

The heavy dress with all the layers of period underthings did make for a lot of heat for Wendy. Fortunately, the days were very temperate with highs in the 70s. The worst part was her tall lace boots which made her feet very uncomfortable throughout the day despite all of her attempts to cushion the consequences.

My folks came on Thursday and brought Madison who had flown into Des Moines the day before. We had fun meeting friends in between parades at the Pella Opera House where we enjoyed the air conditioning, the padded seats, and the refreshments. Madison stayed with us Thursday night and then headed back to Colorado on Friday night as she was on call over the weekend.

Our friend, Megan Atkins, was on the Tulip Court this year. Megan’s dad passed away back in 2010 and Megan has honored me over the years by asking me to be honorary dad when school or other events called for father/daughter activities. I was so happy to get to escort her on Friday and again on Saturday with her mom, Cyndi, at the official coronation ceremony on the square.

We are already thinking about next year, though we are thankful that we have another 362 days to rest up!

Three Minute Recap of Our Cruise

Wendy and I spent last week aboard Holland America Line‘s M.S. Westerdam for a cruise of the eastern Caribbean. I plan to write a more comprehensive post about our adventures in the coming days, but this morning I find myself a bit overwhelmed, and buried underneath the piles of all that has been building up after completely unplugging from daily life for a week. So, to satiate the curiosity of family and friends who are wondering how our vacation went, I threw together this little three minute slideshow of our trip. Enjoy!

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