Tag Archives: travel

Take Two: Something Old, Something New – by Sherrie Hansen

There’s something very exciting about seeing familiar characters in new situations. I love it when I get to experience my favorites things from days past paired with a handful of fresh new adventures. My upcoming release, Daybreak, a sequel to Night and Day, will give readers a chance to reminisce and reacquaint themselves with some of their favorite characters. At the same time, it has to be realized that this second glimpse at Jensen and Anders, Ed, and the Christiansen family begins at a time when everything has changed, some things for the better, and some for the worse. Familiar characters (something old), different situations (something new).

Night and Day (1)Daybreak in Denmark (3)

That’s how I’m looking at our third trip to Scotland this coming May and June. We’ll be revisiting some of our best loved spots, interspersed with a few never before seen destinations.  Familiar sights, new experiences. Hopefully, it will be the perfect mix!

We’ll be starting out at a new B&B in a new village, halfway between Edinburgh and St. Andrews, both of which we’ve already seen. Our beautiful room is in Colinsburgh, where we’ll be our first three nights in country.

2018- Collinsburg

On our first trip to Scotland, I fell in love with Cambo Garden Estates in Kingsbarns, St Andrews, Fife. This will be Mark’s first time, and I can’t wait to show him around, hopefully this time, not in the rain – although the raindrops and overcast haze made for some lovely photos in 2007.

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Some newly discovered treasures we hope to see while we’re in the area include Kellie Castle, with its fairytale stone towers, and an Arts & Crafts garden with herbaceous borders and old rose gardens, and Culross, Scotland’s most complete example of a burgh of the 17th and 18th centuries. Envision white-harled houses with red-tiled roofs lining steep, cobbled streets running from market cross to the hilltop abbey. In the centre is an ochre-coloured palace with a beautifully reconstructed herb garden, complete with rare Scots Dumpy hens. We’re told it’s one of the most picturesque villages in Scotland.

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Our next few nights will be spent in a cottage near Aberfeldy, Perthshire – one of our favorite places on earth. When we’re not enjoying our cozy abode, we hope to visit some new spots – Ailean Chraggan Hotel, where we’re told you can meet the locals, and the food is good. The Breadlabane Bakery is on my list, and a highly recommended Deli-ght, a great delicatessen with very good home cooked ready meals we can enjoy at our home away from home.

Aberfeldy - Inside

Our trip to Aberfeldy will include a visit to a favorite art gallery belonging to Artist Audrey Slowrance

And – a return visit to nearby Blair Atholl Castle where we will once again see the Atholl Highlanders marching in review, and the famed highland games.

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From there, we’re off to Inverness, or the countryside near Inverness, where we’ll spend two days at Ben View House Lentran Farm. 

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While we’re in the highlands, we plan to visit the living Highland Folk Museum, where we’ll learn how our Scottish Highland ancestors lived, built their homes, tilled the soil and dressed. We can’t wait to see the restored buildings and witness Highland history coming to life.

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The Kilted Fudge Company is next on my list. I first tasted their handmade cream and butter fudge at the highland games in 2016. Located in Aviemore, Scotland, they feature mouth-watering Scottish favourites like Irn Bru, Crannachan, Clootie Dumpling (my absolute fave), Millionaire’s Shortbread, Turkish Delight and Parma Violet.

On our last visit, we couldn’t quite squeeze in Balmoral Castle, Aberdeenshire, the 
Scottish residence of the British Royal Family. After watching two seasons of Masterpiece Theater’s Victoria, we’re intrigued by the history of Balmoral Castle, which dates from the 15th century, but was considered too small when Queen Victoria and Prince Albert fell in love with the region and people during a visit to the Scottish Highlands. Prince Albert set about organising the design of the current castle and grounds when the Royal Family purchased the estate in 1852. Construction of the new castle started during the summer 0f 1853, on a site just 100 yards from the original building. The couple spent many weeks each year relaxing at their new home in Highlands, and after Albert’s death, Victoria spent up to 4 months each year at Balmoral.  If we have time, we’ll also explore Braemar Castle, Aberdeenshire, a largely restored 17th century castle originally built in 1628.

From there, we head to Ullapool…

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Our host will be Fair Morn Bed & Breakfast, in a room with a view, at Morefield Brae.  This will be another first for us, as will the lovely Achmelvich Beach, and the award-winning Inverewe Garden, where we’re promised we can lose ourselves in the lush setting and enjoy a riot of colours and scents.

We’ll start out June with a three hour long CalMac Ferry Ride to Stornoway, hopefully on calm seas!

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While on the Isles of Lewis and Harris, we’ll stay at Keepers House, Uig Beach, Tinsgarry, Isle of Lewis. Although it was tempting to head back to the Isle of Mull, where Blue Belle is set, or Isle of Arran, which we enjoyed so much in 2016, we decided to strike out and try something new…

The mysterious, and now famous standing stones seen in Outlander will no doubt be our first stop.  We’re also hoping to drive over the bridge from Harris to explore the small island of Scalpay and its red and white striped Eilean Glas Lighthouse on the island’s eastern cliffs. We’re told Scalpay’s North Harbour Bistro is the place for a tasty meal and that we need to browse the beautiful Harris Tweed products at the Pink Sheep Studio. We want to see Gearrannan Blackhouse Village, an open-air museum with its restored blackhouses – long stone cottages with thatched roofs, Dun Carloway, the remnant of a stone broch (small tower) that’s roughly 2000 years old, the very northern tip of the island, or the Butt of Lewis, Luskentyre Beach, and St. Clement’s Church in the tiny town of Rodel.

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After another ferry ride to Uig, Isle of Skye, we hope to have dinner at Stein Inn, a favorite from two years ago, and take in a sunset like this one.

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We’ll definitely revisit our favorite scenic overlook on Skye, and the much loved Eilean Donan Castle featured in my books Shy Violet and Sweet William. One spot that we previously missed is Caisteal Maol (Castle Bare) near Kyle of Lochalsh. We hope to include it on this trip… something old, something new…

2018 - Lochcarron room2018 - Lochcarron view

Staying in Lochcarron, setting of Golden Rod, will be a new experience, (Castle Cottage looks wonderful!) but we’ll also enjoy some of our favorite spots while we’re there.

GR Blog - Waterside Cafe

And then, it’s off to Fort William on our way south toward Glasgow.

2018 - Fort William

After one night at Loch View Estate, Fort William, we’re very excited to get to explore a new corner of western Scotland, where we get to stay in a B&B that looks absolutely delightful.

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Kilmartin Glen is located between Oban and Lochgilphead, on the west of Scotland. The area spans 5,000 years with a multitude of cairns, standing stones, carved rock, stone circles, forts and castles. Kilmartin Glen is considered to have one of the most important concentrations of Neolithic and Bronze Age remains in Scotland.

And then, it’s off to Paisley to repack our suitcases and catch an early morning flight back to the U.S.

2018 - Paisley fireplace2018 - Paisley room

If we have time, I’d love to see House for an Art Lover in Glasgow. It’s situated in Bellahouston Park, about 10 minutes from the flat where we’ll be staying. It’s a wonderful Charles Rennie Mackintosh building with a fantastic restaurant and art collection.

Maybe now you have a sense of why I keep revisiting Scotland in my books, my travels, and my dreams. And although I took a detour back to Denmark and Minnesota in my new book, Daybreak, the concept is the same. Something old and familiar, something new and exciting, something borrowed (aren’t all stories?) and something blue… always Blue. It’s the stuff the best stories are made of.

BlueBelle 2016

(Sherrie is the owner of the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House in St. Ansgar, Iowa. She is a Wheaton College alumni, and attended University of Maryland, European Division, in Augsburg, Germany. Her husband is the pastor of Zion Lutheran Church, an LCMC Congregation in rural Hudson, Iowa. In Sherrie’s spare time (?) she likes to dabble in the creative arts, play piano, paint, decorate vintage homes, and travel.)

Wildflowers - Stripes

(Disclaimer:  I use my own photos except for those of places I have never been, which I obviously couldn’t have taken – yet.)

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New Beginnings and Happy Endings by Sherrie Hansen

The old joke goes that someone asked Mrs. Lincoln, “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?” The twentieth century version would be, “Aside from that, Mrs. Kennedy, how did you enjoy your trip to Dallas?”

Today is the 360th day of the year. There are five days left in 2017. For me, much of the year passed in a fog because in 2017 my father was diagnosed with leukemia and eventually died. When something that life changing happens, everything else is inconsequential. But the year did have some bright points, and I’d like to think on a few of those things as well as what I am looking forward to in 2018.

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In January, Mark and I went to Arizona for a Spiritual Life Retreat. It was a good way to start out the year and helped ground me for what was to come. Seeing the beautiful red rocks and hiking in the desert was an eye-opening  experience for me. Having grown up amid Minnesota Northwood trees, lakes and streams, I’d rarely appreciated the beauty of the desert – until we discovered Sonoran Botanical Gardens. We even saw a rainbow. A promise was a good thing, because even then, we knew something was wrong with Dad.

Food - melting moments

The first week of February, I celebrated 25 years of being open for business at the Blue Belle Inn B&B and Tea House, and my 60th birthday. We served Tomato Basil, Fresh Broccoli, Wonderful Wild Rice, and Potato Ham soups, egg salad and Monte Cristo sandwiches, Copenhagen Cream with Raspberries and my fancy homemade cookies. I hired a DJ and made up an eclectic set-list of favorite songs from 1957 on. It was a wonderful night and would be my Dad’s last time to come to an event at the Blue Belle.

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March brought a flurry of bad diagnosis and a roller coaster ride of hope and frustrations and searches for answers.

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In April, Dad took his last “big trip” when he came down to Mark’s church in Hudson to listen to the M&MS and Zion’s worship team sing Life is Like a Mountain Railway, his favorite song. We practiced it several times for him because it made him so happy.

Ireland - flowers

In late May, Mark and I said goodbye to Dad at the ICU at Mayo. Dad had pneumonia. I hated leaving him, but we had tickets to Wales, Ireland and England. We compensated for our absence by calling him every night from whatever country we were in. We stayed at B & B’s, enjoyed taking photos of amazing castles, gardens, and beaches, as well as sampling delicious pub grub, smoked haddock, millionaire bars (caramel shortbread), meat pies, Battenberg cakes, and Irish stew. Our adventures on the Wild Atlantic Way along the Dingle Peninsula in Ireland inspired a new book, Seaside Daisy.

Ireland - daisy sea

Dad rallied and was still alive when we came home in mid-June. It seems like the whole summer went by in a blur. Dad had chemo and almost 70 blood transfusions. We almost lost him twice, once when he went into anaphylaxis shock and once when his platelets dropped to 1.7. Grandchildren and great-grandchildren came from all over the country to hug and cheer him on. Through it all, he kept his sense of humor and faith.

Dad - harvest

In the midst of the busyness, my new  release, Golden Rod, came out. I tried to promote it but my mind was on bigger things. In August, it became apparent that more chemo was not an option for Dad. The process of acceptance that we were going to lose him began. Dad said it was sure too bad he had to miss his funeral because he knew the music would be great (lively bluegrass) and he’d get to see everyone he knew. When he first mentioned having a funeral rehearsal, we thought he was kidding.

Dad - pick-up

Sept 7, we kids hosted Everett Hansen Day at the Farm. Nearly 250 friends and family came for a potluck, greeted by a joyous, smiling Dad. During the next two months Dad was able to stay at home, and as was his goal, watch the harvest come in. My brothers and sister and I took turns spending the night in the double recliner next to him and enjoying many late night conversations.

Dad - creek

October was spent doubling back to the Blue Belle to serve over a hundred Seasoned Pork and Parmesan Stuffed Pumpkins to lunch guests by day, planning and writing murder mysteries by night, spending Wed, Thurs and Fri evenings with Dad, and worrying about him the rest of the week when we were down in Hudson.

Dad - casket

Dad died on November 7th. The actual funeral was everything Dad envisioned, with great bluegrass music. I started writing again on the 22nd, but switched to working on Daybreak in Denmark, a sequel to my first book, Night and Day, because the father character reminded me of Dad.

BBInn - heavy snow smaller

Gray December has been spent catching up on everything that didn’t get done this summer, trying to break out of the fog, and getting used to the “new normal” of not daily talking to Dad about what is going on in my life and hearing his jokes and advice. I’ve spent a lot of time crying. Comfort foods help for awhile and then make me feel worse. I am so thankful that I was able to spend so much time with Dad before he died, but the closeness has made it harder to adjust to him being gone.

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I think 2018 will bring more big changes in my life. I’m not sure what that means, but I sense it very strongly. I wonder where to go from here. Nothing is as much fun as it used to be, because I can’t tell Dad about it and hear his laughter or comments. Sometimes, I think I could just as well die too, but I have to finish Daybreak in Denmark first – as long as I’m half done already. We Hansens like to finish what we start, and like Dad, I find it very satisfying to watch the harvest come in.

Sunset 2014 Corn

I wish all of you happy endings in 2018. To those of you who have suffered losses in 2017, I pray you will find peace and joy in the New Year. Because it’s not the end, but a new beginning.

Daybreak in Denmark

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A Christmas So Special

Yesterday, with carols blaring on my stereo, I finished decorating my house for Christmas. Since I started the day after Thanksgiving, and this is the ninth of December, I either have a big house, or lots and lots of decorations. Actually the latter is the true answer. And I’m a whole-house decorator, really into handmade gifts, flower arrangements, garlands and lights galore. I want my home to feel like It’s having a Hallmark moment.

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I still have stockings and ornaments that I made the first year I was married back in 1962. The jester stocking is my son’s. The medieval hunting boot was my history loving husband’s, and mine is a plush velvet French style shoe, and after my mother passed away, I made a cowboy boot for my dad. We had little money in those days as my husband started out in the USAF, but all our friends were in the same boat, so we never knew the difference.

Stockings and Old Garland

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 1965, Vietnam interrupted a year of our lives and while my husband was gone, our son and I managed as best we could. We lived temporarily in St. Louis, MO, and Famous Barr Department Store had a wonderful Christmas area with specialty items not found in other stores. I remember walking around totally transfixed. I decided to splurge $6.95 on a nine-foot garland that had old fashioned lanterns on it. In those days and with my budget, that was a lot of money, but I knew it would look so nice above the stockings I had made years before. Can you believe I have used that garland every year since without replacing even a single bulb? That’s fifty-two years! Fifty-two years of frequent moves to cold and hot, wet and dry climates with the decorations often exposed to those weather conditions. When I put that garland up this year, one bulb didn’t light, but it didn’t matter, it has definitely earned its place in my home forever!

Flower Arrangement

Livingroom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Christmas tree is adorned with reminders of places we’ve lived or to which we’ve traveled: Germany, Greece, Hawaii, Bulgaria, Romania, France, Italy, Scotland, Egypt, Poland, Russia, and England, to name a few. There’s also a family area with ornaments with the names of my son, his soon-to-be wife, my grandson, me, my sister, niece, and even for my late kitties, Annie and Pippi. Not to be forgotten are two best-friend ornaments, and some shiny plain ones to add filler, color and brilliance. Most importantly, there’s the Nativity ornament and the tree topping angel to represent the meaning of this blessed holiday.

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Christmas, 2017 is one of those extra special Christmases, because in eight days my son, Rob, will marry, Florence, the woman of his dreams and my grandson, Colby, will be his best man. Then we all will celebrate Christmas together, eating and singing carols in front of the fire. Doesn’t that sound to you like A Christmas So Special?

 

Coco Ihle is the author of SHE HAD TO KNOW, an atmospheric traditional mystery set mainly in Scotland.

Join her here each 11th of the month.

 

 

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Golden-Haired, Most Fair, Prince Rod of Lachlan by Sherrie Hansen

If Prince Rod of Lachlan sounds like something straight from the pages of a fairy tale, you’re right.

Golden Rod painting

When Katelyn O’Neal, a reluctant “princess” from Minnesota, inherits a castle from a great uncle she met only once, she views the whole ordeal as a huge bother, except that selling the castle to a rich developer will pay for a very expensive, experimental cancer treatment for her 12 year old niece, Kacie.

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Rod MacKenzie, the illegitimate but rightful heir to Lachlan, has used his own time and money to take care of the castle and its magnificent gardens for years – despite the fact that his grandfather wrote him out of his will. Rod would love to live happily ever after in the land of his ancestors even though he’s always known it was an impossibility.

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Add Laird Valan MacKenzie and the lovely Lady Rosemary, a pair of 500 year old ghosts who are bound to the castle by age-old curses, and would do anything to escape the place, and you have GOLDEN ROD, a two-week romp through a lifetime of legends that turns everything upside down.

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Lachlan – a centuries old castle on Loch Carron in Scotland. Kacie – a twelve year old girl whose dying wish is to see it. Laird Valan and Lady Rosemary – 500 year old ghosts who desperately want to escape it. Golden-Haired, Most Fair, Prince Rod MacKenzie – the rightful heir who loves Lachlan and its gardens even though he will never inherit.  Katelyn O’Neal – the legal heir who unwitting sold the castle to a low life scum at a high price.

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GOLDEN ROD, a Wildflowers of Scotland novel by Sherrie Hansen – coming from Indigo Sea Press in June 2017.

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Being Grateful for Things I’ve Always Taken for Granted by Sherrie Hansen

Those who are close to me know that I’m approaching a milestone birthday. (I’ll let you guess which one.) In some ways, I don’t think it will make a difference in the way I lead my life, or how I feel about things. In other ways, it looms over my daily walk with great significance.

One thing that I’ve noticed about getting older is that I appreciate a lot of things I’ve previously taken for granted… simple things like a good night’s sleep. I am immensely grateful for those few mornings when I sleep peacefully through the night and wake up slowly and languorously rather than being rudely awakened by a cramp in my leg. Life’s simple pleasures.

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As I get to an age where many of my friends have only one or no parents still living, I am daily reminded how blessed I am to have both of my parents still active in my life. I’m grateful for all of the things my parents have done for me, taught me, and given me, and that I have people in my life who love me, just as I am.

I’m thankful to have been raised with a hard work ethic, that I was not brought up to feel entitled, but with the knowledge that if I worked hard. I could earn the things I wanted and have the freedom to do what I wished. Those principals have shaped my life, and because of that, I have been very blessed.

I also find that I spend far more time being grateful for what I have and less time lusting after what I don’t have. It’s the realization that I have enough or even plenty of what I need, and that if I don’t need something, I should find someone who does.

B&W Blue Belle Inn

I’m privileged to have owned and operated my own business for 25 years, and to have served my wonderful customers, and participated in their lives, their special occasions, and the hard times they’ve gone through.

I’m increasingly thankful for my good health, even as it daily worsens, even as the definition of good has to be continuously downgraded.

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I’m grateful for a soft mattress, a sweet husband, nieces and nephews who make me smile and do me proud.

I’m grateful to have been able to see so much of the world, to have had the luxury to enjoy beautiful landscapes and picturesque places in so many countries.  I’m thankful to have been given the gift of an artist’s eye to capture that beauty in photographs, to appreciate art and beauty.

B&W View

I am grateful to have been given second chances, and that when I’ve made mistakes, I’ve had the opportunity to try again and again, until I’ve gotten it right, or even made amends.

I am thankful for the few, true blue friends who have stuck with me for a lifetime, and not just a season.

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I’m grateful for a Savior who forgives me over and over again, who loves me unconditionally.

I’m thankful that I have the right, the honor, and the skill to express myself.  I’m grateful for every single person who admires my art, listens to me speak, or reads what I’ve written and respects me enough to take the time to let me share a little bit of myself.

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Getting older may not be the most fun thing in the world, but it comes with its perks – one of which is that every so often you have time to sit back and count your blessings.

So, thank YOU – because I don’t take you for granted either.

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Vacation Reading by Sheila Deeth

I started reading The Girl On The Train on a train

On vacation near London, I started reading The Girl On The Train at a railway station.

A London bookstore is surely the perfect location to start Mr Penumbra's 24-hour Book Store

This bookstore, with its horizontal as well as vertical displays, was the absolutely perfect location for enjoying Mr Penumbra’s 24-hour Book Store

These dogs surely dared to dream while I read The Dog Who Dared To Dream

Then I followed some happily dreaming dogs while exploring The Dog Who Dared To Dream.

Surely punting on the Cam is timeless ande English enough to inspire reading The Eyre Affair

And punting on the Cam – a timelessly English pursuit – inspired me to read The Eyre Affair

A wedding goblet accompanies my reading The Daylight Marriage

A wedding goblet in the Victoria and Albert accompanied my enjoyment of The Daylight Marriage.

Then it's off to enjoy the play of the book, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time

Then off we went to watch the play of the book, The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time, at the Gielgud Theatre.

Meanwhile my mum enjoyed Infinite Sum, hot off the press from Indigo Sea

Meanwhile my mum enjoyed Infinite Sum, hot off the press, freshly published by Indigo Sea.

And now I'm home, it's time for those final edits on Subtraction!

And now I’m home. It must be time for those final edits on Subtraction!

Sheila Deeth is the author of the Mathemafiction novels, published by Indigo Sea Press. Find Divide by Zero and Infinite Sum online and where good books are sold. Then watch out for Subtraction, coming soon!

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When in Rome…

 

Twenty-seven years ago, Steve and I did a whirlwind tour of several countries of Europe in a little rented Fiat Uno over a period of 19 days. It was enough to give us a taste of several countries, but not a lot of time to do an in-depth exploration. Now, we’ve celebrated our twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, and two weeks ago, we decided to do it up in style. We booked a week-long vacation in Rome.

The first day of travel was long, involving three flights from Quebec City to Montreal to Toronto to Rome, touching down at 9:45 a.m. at Leonardo Di Vinci airport. But, it was worth the effort.

We checked into our hotel and immediately set out to explore some of the neighborhood and grab some lunch (pizza and calzone, of course). After a short siesta at the hotel, we decided to go for a little walk. We eventually found ourselves in the heart of Ancient Rome. Putting aside any serious exploration because of a scheduled tour the next morning, we walked to the top of the Museo del Palazzo Venizia. Unfortunately, I didn’t take my camera for our ‘little’ walk. The view was wonderful.

We made our way back, showered, changed, and went in search of a good Italian restaurant – not hard to find. We dined on bruschetta, cheese, pasta, and wine. Oh, my goodness.

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Today, we hit the road (or rather, the Metro) early and went to join a tour group for a visit to perhaps one of the best known structures on the planet -The Colosseum. It was a fascinating tour, followed by an equally fascinating visit to the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill.  It was hard to imagine that we were walking on the same paths as people 2000 years earlier. As we were visiting the ruins of an ancient palace, we were treated to the sound of Bruce Springsteen preparing for a concert tonight at the Circus Maximus, the first and biggest arena created in the 6th century BC. Talk about a mix of the old and the new!

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This afternoon, wandering around on our own, we happened upon the most beautiful cemetery I have ever seen, containing the remains of people from all corners of the world, including Percy Shelley and John Keats, the famous English poets and writers.

Now, we are once again preparing to go out and indulge in two of the things which Italian have definitely mastered, food and wine. As Carly Simon would say, ‘Nobody does it better’.

In a few days, I plan to be back again with a few more pictures. We have only started. You can check it out at my blog site www.ajackmccarthy.com.

 

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Seeing the World in Blue and White by Sherrie Hansen

I’ve been hearing Scottish accents in my head for over a decade, and now, after returning from my second trip to Bonnie Scotland, my mind’s eye is just as steeped in images of the highlands and islands I’ve been writing about.

B&W View

Our trip was a flurry of wildflowers and walled gardens, castles and keeps, and lochs and legends. My mind is whirling with the characters and construct of a new story, ancient ghosts and curses, and modern day longings and desires set to clash like pitchforks and swords at Culloden.

B&W Flag Castle  B&W Blair Atholl

One of my characters is the “rightful” heir of a castle and as fascinated and enamored of Scotland as I am, the other is there only because she could find no other way to wiggle out of her duties as the legal heir of a castle she cares nothing about.

B&W Stained Glass

Even more exciting is the sense of déjà vu I feel about the Wildflowers of Scotland books I’ve already written.

B&W Bluebells

As I spotted each of the wildflowers I’ve featured in Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet, and Sweet William, and the castles and kirks that provide a backdrop for each of the stories, the characters have come to life for me all over again.

B&W Lighthouse

One of the highlights of the trip was the day I left a copy of Shy Violet with a random staff member at Eilean Donan’s Castle Café, where many scenes in the book take place. A few days later, on our way back from the Isle of Skye, we stopped once more to eat lunch. The recipient pulled me aside, and in her delightful Scottish accent, said “I’ve begun to read yer book, and I’m loving it! Ye’re a very good author, and I thank ye so much.”

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The whole time we were at Eilean Donan Castle, I kept catching glimpse of people who looked like Nathan or Violet.

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William and Lyndsie, the stars of Sweet William, felt very close to me when we were on Skye – walking around the mysterious Fairy Glen at Uig, watching the cows graze on Claigon Coral Beach near Dunvegan and dipping a toe in the Fairy Pools at Glenbrittle. Because I know what happens to William while he’s on Skye, I had a deep, sense of foreboding until we were on our way home, and I knew everything was okay.

B&W Blue Belle Inn

There’s a magical connection between Scotland and me. I’m a Blue Belle, and always will be. (For those of you who don’t know me, I have a B&B and Tea House called the Blue Belle Inn.)

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Loving the blue and white Saltire of Scotland is a natural extension of my love of blue.

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If you’ve yet to fall in love with Scotland, I hope you’ll pick up a copy of one of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels and see if the highlands and islands of Scotland resonate with you like they do me.

B&W Swan

Age old castles and blue-watered bays,

White sandy beaches and quaint cottage stays.

A rainbow of colors and chocolates, hand-dipped,

A valley of bluebells and sheep, freshly clipped.

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Legends galore, buried treasure, and more…

In the Wildflowers of Scotland novels, that’s what’s in store.

Twenty-four years ago, Sherrie Hansen Decker rescued a dilapidated Victorian house from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a B&B and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn. Sherrie and her husband, Mark, who is a pastor, live in 2 different houses, 85 miles apart. Sherrie writes murder mysteries and novels whenever she’s not working at her B&B – or trying to be a good pastor’s wife. Her contemporary romantic suspense novels include Night and Day, Love Notes, and Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet and Sweet William, her Wildflowers of Scotland novels.

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You can see what’s she’s up to at: 

https://www.facebook.com/BlueBelleInn

 http://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/

http://www.BlueBelleInn.com or www.BlueBelleBooks.com

https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen

https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

Sherrie’s new release is Sweet William.

He’s a real sweetheart. She’s a wee bit tart. When Minnesota farm boy, William McKnight, and sassy Scot, Lyndsie Morris, are forced to work together in the kitchen of Rabbit Hill Lodge, the atmosphere is as charged as an episode of Chopped. Will someone get cut, or will they find a recipe that works? Things just start to get spicy when an angry bull butts his way into the picture, and Lyndsie has to decide if she loves William more than everyone and everything she holds dear.

Sweet William Front Cover

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Filed under photographs, Scotland, Sherrie Hansen, Travel, writing

My Unbucket List, by Carole Howard

In my last post (Time Travel), I was just about to leave for a trip and said I’d write about it next time.

Here it is, next time. Thing is, though, let’s face it: Sometimes reading about someone else’s trip – even one that was wonderful, as this one was – can be boring. So I’m going to write about something else. You’re welcome.

But first, to fulfill my commitment: First a week in a house in the beautiful countryside in southern Italy with good friends. Then an overnight ferry to Dubrovnik. Then five days on a catamaran visiting various Croatian islands with people who had been strangers but are no longer. Finally, two days in historic beautiful Dubrovnik.

Now, onto something I realized on the trip, something about myself, not about Italy or Croatia.

I’m not saying anything you don’t already know when I point out that we change in a whole lot of ways as we get older. Some changes are unwelcome.  Can’t run as fast.  Higher blood pressure.  And then there’s that memory thing. But some are quite welcome, indeed: Things that used to bother us, don’t.  We don’t spend time doing things or being with people we don’t want to.

Something else that’s changed for me is the way my husband and I travel.  And I didn’t realize it until this trip.

Back in the day, we wanted to see the sights when we traveled. Made a list of those sights. Checked them off. Or we visited places where we wanted to absorb and understand the culture. Serious. Intellectual. There were a few hiking and biking trips thrown in, but even those included trails we just had to take, restaurants we had to eat at.

I don’t regret any of it. But now our traveling is less about things we just have to do than about enjoying whatever we do. And it’s no longer necessarily about going someplace new (though my vanity did enjoy adding Croatia to my longish list of the countries I’ve visited).  It definitely includes places we’re very familiar with. If anything, there’s an even stronger pull to go back to the old haunts. (“We’ll always have Paris.”)

The way I see it now is that any place I go is someplace I wouldn’t otherwise have gotten to. It’s serendipity and it’s lovely. It’s a smorgasbord and you take a little of this and a little of that.  Less urgent, more forgiving.

It might sound like we’re jaded, but I that’s not it. It’s more a realization that we’re not going to be able to visit everything, so the point is to take pleasure in whatever we wind up doing. It’s the opposite of a bucket list.  It’s acceptance.

Frankly, I can’t remember the names of the Croatian islands we visited, and certainly don’t remember which was which. And that’s just fine with me: I enjoyed them all, both in the moment and now.

For me, that’s now definitely more than enough.

What about you?  What’s your preferred travel style?

*    *    *

Carole Howard is the author of Deadly Adagio.

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Scotland Revisted by Sherrie Hansen

I will be in Scotland by the time you read this, perhaps on the Isle of Arran, touring Brodick Castle or walking amongst the rhododendrons in the walled garden. Perhaps I’ll be checking out of Lilybank Guest House, or on the ferry, headed to Craig Villa Guest House, near Loch Awe and St. Conan’s Kirk. I was last in Scotland nine years ago, and have been longing to return for at least five. Thistle Down, Wild Rose, Blue Belle, Shy Violet and Sweet William have kept images of picturesque kirks and castles, hairy coo, grazing sheep, colorful villages, white sand beaches, stone cottages and heather-covered hills fresh in my mind, but I think the need to be there in person, experiencing it firsthand, is born of a more ancient connection.

Scotland - sheep

Mark and I recently signed up for Ancestry.com and  discovered that my DNA is 43% Great Britain, and only 20% Scandinavian, a slight surprise since I’ve always thought I was half Danish. (There’s also Western and Eastern European mixed in from my Bohemian and German great-grandparents, and a dash of Italian – where that came from, I have no idea.)

146 Scotland - Eileen Donan

Although my Mom’s family, the Lightlys, were from England, my grandma and now mother have long told me about a supposed Scottish great-great grandmother. My English ancestors lived in the north part of Lincolnshire, near a village called Scotton.  My family tree is leafed with names like Scullin, Maltby, Harrison, and Mcintyre, and in my searches of the generations, I just found a reference to the Shetland Islands. Scotland in my blood. I feel it when I hear the bagpipes, the drums, or a Scottish accent. I feel it when I see a parade of men in kilts marching down the field, when I look out over the sheep grazing, when I see fields of purple heather in the highlands.

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Researching my novels (and watching Outlander – my guilty pleasure) has only fueled my passion for kilts, castles, highlanders, and all things Scottish. I’ve always known I was from hardy stock with a history of eking out a living in a part of the country that’s sometimes brutally cold and harsh. I love the sea, and rocks, and find a great affinity in the creative, yet no-nonsense foods, cottage décor, and crafts of Scotland. I love that the colorful wildflowers and woven plaids of the highlands are such a contrast to the gray and brown stone cottages lining the valleys and lochs. There is something primal and instinctual that binds me to the Scots.

13 Scotland - Band in Kilts

I have no idea if a new book will be born of this journey to the motherland. I’ve labeled Sweet William (coming soon from Indigo Sea Press) as the last of my Wildflowers of Scotland novels, but I named Violet’s baby Heather, leaving the door open for a look-ahead novel some two decades down the road. And there’s always Red Jasmine, Blue-eyed Mary, Cherry Primrose, Bee (Bea) Orchid, Golden Rod, Lily of the Valley, Seaside Daisy, Mountain Laurel, and other names I can use if I change my mind.

Sweet William

My main goal is just to relax and enjoy Scotland’s magnificent scenery and history. Everyone keeps telling my husband and me to travel while we can, so we plan to keep returning to Europe as long as we’re able – hopefully every year.

Scotland Lighthouse

There’s something to be said for getting out of the country, for going so far away that you can’t be easily found. Years ago, when I lived in Germany, my mom and dad came to visit me, and I learned this very important lesson. When I was little, our family went to Florida, Colorado, and northern Minnesota into Canada. Our trips were fun while they lasted, but on all these adventures, my Dad was still close enough to home that he was a little tense and consumed with wondering what was going on at home. A few times, after hearing the weather, or the news, or the crop reports, 5 or 6 days into a 8-10 day vacation, he would get worried or frustrated and utter the dreaded words, “Get in the car. We’re going home.”

When he and Mom arrived in Germany, with expensive tickets and a locked in return date, he had no choice but to relax and enjoy himself. This was before the days of email, Skype, texting with international minutes, or cheap long distance. Dad had no idea what was happening on the farm, and even if he had known, there was absolutely nothing he could have done about it.

Baldners Dad

I saw a completely different side of my Dad on that trip. His sense of humor shone – he laughed and smiled and chatted with strangers and truly relaxed. It was amazing. He was like a new person.

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The same kind of magical transformation occurs between me and my husband when we travel. We get to know each other all over again. We rediscover ourselves when we forget the stresses of being a frustrated business owner and a busy pastor. We set aside the issues we’re preoccupied with and reconnect. Our tired brains and downtrodden psyches rejuvenate. Our bodies start to thrive again.

Scotland Bagpipes castle

I hope you’ll come along on our journey. You can follow me on Facebook or Instagram to see my photos, or wait for my next installment at Indigo Sea’s blog. Sweet William should be ready to release just about the time I return from Scotland. I’ll do my best to bring it to life for you in the meantime.

Age old castles and blue-watered bays,White sandy beaches and quaint cottage stays.A rainbow of colors and chocolates, hand-dipped,A valley of bluebells and sheep, freshly clipped. Legends galore, buried treasure, and

Bon voyage!

Wildflowers of Scotland.jpg

Twenty-five years ago, Sherrie rescued a dilapidated Victorian house in northern Iowa from the bulldozer’s grips and turned it into a bed and breakfast and tea house, the Blue Belle Inn.  After 12 years of writing romance novels, Sherrie met and married her real-life hero, Mark Decker, a pastor. They now split their time between 2 different houses, 85 miles apart, and Sherrie writes on the run whenever she has a spare minute. Sherrie enjoys playing the piano, photography, traveling, and going on weekly adventures with her nieces and nephew. “Sweet William”, Sherrie’s ninth book and the last of her Wildflowers of Scotland novels, is coming soon from Indigo Sea Press. You can find more information about Sherrie Hansen here:

WEBSITE  http://BlueBelleBooks.com  or http://BlueBelleInn.com

BLOG  https://sherriehansen.wordpress.com/

Twitter https://twitter.com/SherrieHansen

Facebook http://www.facebook.com/SherrieHansenAuthor

Goodreads  http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2870454.Sherrie_Hansen

Amazon Author Page https://www.amazon.com/author/sherriehansen

Pinterest  https://www.pinterest.com/sherriebluebell/

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Filed under Scotland, Sherrie Hansen, Travel, writing