Gifts that Inspire an Enchanted Life

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Perhaps you are looking for a unique gift this year for a friend or loved one. Or you wonder how to encourage someone as they learn and grow.  Maybe you want to show your support for another’s life journey. If any of these reasons are true for you, check out these gifts that inspire an enchanted life.

Gifts that Inspire an Enchanted Life title meme 2

 

What is an Enchanted Life?

For me, living an enchanted life means living with a higher awareness of all that’s going on around me. I notice synchronicities…those seemingly coincidental experiences that carry significance. Signs and wonders are common. Challenges become opportunities for growth. Gratitudes abound. And living in the flow of life takes me where I need to go.

Enchantment has been my theme for 2019. How perfect to wind down this year with a list of great gift ideas, to inspire enchantment in others.

Gifts that Inspire an Enchanted Life

Click on each photo, for more info or to order.

Gratitude Journal

Expressing gratitude, on a daily basis, can be life changing. The more grateful you are, the more you find to be grateful for. Capturing gratitudes in a journal allows energy to flow…and brings joy when you read back over your blessings.

Gratitude Journal
Gifts that Inspire an Enchanted Life – Gratitude Journal

 Daily Affirmation Calendar

Keep an affirmation calendar, the kind with pages that flip daily, on your desk or in the kitchen. Read the affirmation to start out the day…and read again before bed. Bonus: fall asleep thinking about that day’s affirmation and let the subconscious absorb those powerful truths.

Daily Affirmation Calendar
Daily Affirmation Calendar

Books

From living more creatively to living more soulfully and courageously, these books definitely inspire an enchanted life.

 


Encouraging Quotes Wall Art

I love finding encouragement all throughout my house. Inspiring quotes are one of my favorite forms of art to surround myself with.

 

Not all who wander are lost wall art.
Gifts that Inspire an Enchanted Life – Wall Art
Life is like a camera wall art.
Life is Like a Camera wall art.

Coloring Books & Colored Pencils

Coloring is not only a way to express creativity, it is meditative. Gift the creative person in your life with one of these beautiful coloring books. And don’t forget the colored pencils!


Prismacolor Colored Pencils
Gifts that Inspire an Enchanted Life – Colored Pencils

Instant Camera

Seeing the world through the lens of a camera focuses attention. Capture beauty, broaden perspective and memorialize enchanting moments with one of these.

Instax Instant Camera
Gifts that Inspire an Enchanted Life – Instant Camera

Edison Bulb Hanging Light Fixture

This gift is just fun. I have one hanging in my studio. Beneath it is my thinking chair. How inspiring to sit beneath this light and come up with creative ideas.

Edison Bulb Hanging Light Fixture
Edison Bulb Hanging Light Fixture

Meditation

The practice of meditation enhances awareness, lowers stress, improves health and boosts creativity. Give the gift of meditation with any of these products.

 


Tea Set & Herbal Teas

Tea parties aren’t just for children. Indulge in one of the best practices for daily rejuvenation…afternoon tea. From a simple cup of tea to a full high tea, give the gift of self care with a tea set and herbal teas.

 

Teapot and teacups for afternoon tea.
Gifts that Inspire an Enchanted Life – Teapot and Cups

 


Gifts that Inspire an Enchanted Life for the Holidays or Everyday

I hope these gifts bring inspiration and enchantment into the life of someone you love. Or, give yourself the gift of enchantment and inspire an amazing 2020!

Gifts that Inspire an Enchanted Life

Check out these Gifts for a Healthy Lifestyle

 

 

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

 

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Growing Through Week Two Celebrations

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Growing through week two celebrations seems like an apt title for this week’s update. As I approach my 62nd birthday in January, I am celebrating by randomly drawing daily activities out of a jar. Read about the creation of this fun game HERE.

It’s been an interesting week! More than last week, the activities the past seven days challenged me while upping my trust level.

Check out the next seven celebrations.

Growing Through Week Two Celebrations title meme

Growing Through Week Two Celebrations

As a reminder, I have 62 activities written on slips of paper. I folded those papers up and dropped them into a jar. Every morning I draw out an activity and do what is written on the paper. I love this game, trusting that the activity I randomly select is the perfect one for that particular day.

Make a Request So Crazy That I’d Expect a No

More than once this week, I’ve drawn out a slip of paper that’s made me question why I included this challenge! Last Friday, as I began week two celebrations, I drew out this slip of paper that made me take a deep breath.

Okaaay, I said out loud.

As I took a shower and prepared for the day, I opened to possibilities. I not only found my request, I came up with an idea for a future blog post as well. (Hint: have you ever wondered why so many good ideas surface in the shower or during a soak in the tub?)

The process of getting to the request so crazy I’d expect a no led me from idea to idea, with progressing degrees of outrageousness, until I reached the “crazy” level.

And here it is. I reached out to a cruise line, and asked to work together on a Solo Travel Series.  In exchange for a cruise, I offered a sizable package of posts, videos and social media shares. Norwegian Cruise Lines offers solo cabins, a lounge and excursions, which are perfect for those who wish to travel alone without paying for double occupancy.

I actually worked on the proposal for several days, after doing my research, before hitting the “send” button.

This was a huge push beyond my comfort zone, reaching out to a big company with an idea for working together. The point of this activity isn’t receiving a yes or a no…it’s getting beyond feelings of discomfort and inadequacy. What a crazy and fun celebration to kick off the week!

Growing Through Week Two Celebrations Cruise
Growing through week two celebrations – crazy request

Apply to a Writing Fellowship

Immediately on the heels of the crazy request came this activity, applying to a writing fellowship. Fellowships are programs offered to artists. The recipients work on writing or other creative work in beautiful and often isolated areas, for a designated period of time. Most fellowships provide the basics such as shelter and food for one week to three months.

Imagine the freedom to focus on creating art while expenses and needs are taken care of.

What I didn’t know, when adding this activity to the jar, is that this is not the right time of year for applying to writing fellowships. Most accept applications twice a year, in spring and fall. However, it’s been a great experience researching writing fellowships and dreaming big a bit. I found a fellowship in Massachusetts that accepts applications from December 1, 2019 until February 1, 2020. So the timing is perfect actually. I’m researching what I need to do to apply. And then I let that desire go and see what happens!

Growing Through Week Two Celebrations Writing
The Mastheads Writing Fellowship in Massachusetts.

Make Eye Contact and Smile at Everyone All Day

This sounds like a fun and easy activity! However, on the day I drew out this slip of paper, I spent most of the day at home. The only time I left the house, I walked at a nearby park and saw TWO people. I made eye contact and smiled. Both smiled back.

I’ve learned so much about trust, playing this type of game. The right activity shows up on the right day. So what to make of drawing this activity, on a day when I had contact with very few people?

I grew through this activity by making deep and strong eye contact and smiling…at myself. Have you ever stood in front of a mirror and really looked into your own eyes? Do critical thoughts arise? Or do you even like to look at yourself?

I found that the longer I gazed into my own eyes, the more tender I felt toward myself. Negative thoughts were not allowed. Nor did I let my mind wander or create stories. I simply looked into my own eyes and opened my heart to feeling love and compassion. When tears filled my eyes, I knew the activity was over, having led me into myself in a way that I would not have experienced otherwise. The smile that curved my mouth was so genuine and sincere.

Smiling at Myself

Travel a Different Way to a Familiar Location

Along with this 62 day birthday celebration, I’ve challenged myself to walk every day. Mercy Park, located about half a mile from my house, provides the ideal setting for walking and enjoying the beauty that the park offers.

And it’s the only place I traveled to that day! Greg went with me to the park and drove. He’s a good sport about my games. Playing along, he asked what route he should take to the park. Jesting really, I suggested he get there by only making right hand turns. He accepted that challenge and proceeded to make right turns until we arrived at the park!

We definitely traveled to Mercy Park via a different…and longer…route. The only hitch to following such directions presented itself when we needed to park the car. The parking lot lay to the left of the street. Greg solved that problem. He circled to the right in the street until he could pull into the parking space. I’m sure people walking by wondered what we were doing!

Growing Through Week Two Celebrations Driving
Growing Through Week Two Celebrations – Traveling a different way.

Watch a Movie/TV Show in Another Language

This Netflix series came highly recommended to me. Dark is a German series. Dubbing in English is available, which I dislike, or English subtitles. I chose the subtitles. It makes me pay close attention, which is important for this drama with a supernatural twist.

Set in a small German town, the story follows the disappearance of two boys from the community, and the connections among four families. Beyond those connections are similarities to events that happened in the same town in the 1980s.

It’s an intriguing and suspenseful show that has hooked me completely. After I finish the first of two seasons, I’ll do a proper review.

Netflix Series Dark
The Netflix Series Dark, presented in German.

Storyboard Ideas for Online Products

This activity worked well with the brainstorming I did last week, for the blogging business. I used my notes from that session as a springboard for fleshing out the ideas.

Using two large foam boards and sticky notes, I enjoyed letting my ideas grow. I used one board for Cindy Goes Beyond and the other one for Journey With Healthy Me. I’m excited to develop these ideas and create freebies, videos, products and online classes.

Growing Through Week Two Celebrations
Ideas covered by virtual flower stickers. Like flowers, these ideas have growing to do.

Have a Midnight Picnic

This activity, drawn on a day of heavy rain, gave me pause. When I wrote out this celebration, I envisioned drawing the slip of paper on a weekend of mild weather. I saw a fire roaring in the fire pit and a dark velvety sky sprinkled with stars.

Instead I drew the activity on a cold, wet day, making an outdoor midnight picnic impossible.

On Thursday evening, I spread a quilt on the floor of my creative studio. I added pillows and a metal tray holding a cup of hot tea and a bowl of sliced bananas and wild blueberries. Instead of starlight I enjoyed candlelight. And rather than the sounds of a crackling fire, my iPod supplied music. In keeping with the theme of randomness, I set the iPod to shuffle.

As I carried in my tray, the thought arose, “Let go of your expectations. Enjoy what is, right now.” Something shifted in my heart and my attitude. I opened to the experience, as it was, and let go of what wasn’t.

After enjoying my midnight snack, I lay back on the quilt, staring up at the shadows flickering across the ceiling. Such deep peace washed over me. The moment was perfect, in every way. Letting go is a lesson I’ve encountered before. What a gentle reminder to trust that everything in my life…everything…is designed for my growth.

I know now, when I draw out the “camp indoors” activity that I will create a blanket tent in my studio. It is magical by candlelight.

Growing Through Week Two Celebrations
Midnight picnic in my creative studio, with plants, candles and a healthy snack.

Growing Through Week Two Celebrations…and on to Week Three

What an amazing week of activities and celebrations. Did it go the way I thought it would? No. Did it go the way it was supposed to go? Absolutely. And because of that, I grew through the experiences. Trusting…and letting go. Opening to new ideas and thoughts…and moving beyond my comfort zone. Seeing the possibilities in situations…and accepting what is. These are the treasures I gathered to me this past week, the joys that I collected.

I’m excited to see what week three brings!

Week Two Activities

Read about Week One Celebrations

and Week Three

Create your own indoor picnic, with these finds from Amazon:

 


 

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Week One Celebrations

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Week one celebrations occurred, as I move through 62 Outrageous Things to do for My 62nd Birthday. Check out that post HERE, to see what the celebrations are all about.

I’ve chosen to do a weekly update every Friday, as a way of sharing the fun and also to hold myself accountable. Accountability is actually what led me down the blogging path back in 2014. That year I did something new every day, 365 days in a row. Blogging helped me to stay focused and be transparent in my accountability. In the same way, posting weekly updates keeps me on track with the birthday activities. It’s a big undertaking, this time of year, to add an extra activity every day. And yet, that’s part of the fun, challenging myself to “go beyond”.

I hope you benefit as well, from following along with me. May you find new ideas and be inspired to create your own magical games.

Week One Celebrations Title Meme

Week One Celebrations

As a reminder, I have 62 activities written on slips of paper. I folded those papers up and dropped them into a jar. Every morning I draw out an activity and do what is written on the paper. I love this game, trusting that the activity I randomly select is the perfect one for that particular day. This is a game that I play frequently, for various reasons. My trust and playfulness have both deepened greatly as a result.

How does this game deepen trust?

Some activities work better on different days, depending on what else I have going on. My trust develops because I can see the correlation between the free time I have on a given day, and the activity I randomly draw out. And as you will see in the week one celebrations, I sometimes begin an activity and then draw it out of the jar. This simple game shows me that I am part of a much larger “game” playing out. The more aware I become, the more magical my life is.

Here we go…week one celebrations.

Watch a Movie in a Different Genre

I’m an avid movie watcher. Movies, like music, speak into my life. So this activity, the first one I drew out of the jar, is more of a challenge than one would think. I watch films across a broad range of genres.

After consideration, I chose the category of Documentary. I’m not sure why, but I rarely watch anything in this genre. The next task was to choose one to watch. Charged: The Eduardo Garcia Story snagged my attention because Eduardo is a chef and outdoorsman who found a way to combine those two loves into a budding career. However, during a hike in the wilds of Montana, Eduardo came across a dead bear within a large metal box. Curiosity drew him to investigate, resulting in an electrocution. 2400 volts of electricity shot through his body and erupted in four places. Eduardo survived but he lost his lower left arm and hand, four ribs and muscle mass from his torso, leg and scalp.

More important than what he lost, is what Eduardo found as he began a life changing journey through recovery.

What an extraordinary documentary, about an extraordinary man. His former girlfriend, who journeyed with him through recovery, and his supportive family are just as amazing. I loved Eduardo’s zest for life and how he grew through his challenges. And I appreciated his desire to offer back to the world.

Rent the documentary HERE through Amazon, or watch for free if you are a Prime member. (Not a Prime member but want to be? Click HERE for a 30 day free trial.)

Mental note to self…watch more documentaries!

Week One Celebrations Charged
Week One Celebrations – Watch a movie in a different genre.

Spend 30 Minutes Brainstorming Ideas

This appears to be a simple and easy to do activity. However, 30 minutes seems to drag by while writing continuously. I set a timer for this activity, grabbed a pen and notebook and settled into my bedroom to write.

The intention is to write quickly and allow energy to flow, without editing thoughts or words on paper.

I didn’t limit myself. Instead, I jotted down ideas and didn’t stop until the 30 minutes was up. I had a momentary pause about halfway through. Fortunately, the ideas flowed again and on I went. I ended up with FOUR pages of ideas, so I was quite pleased with this activity and I’m excited to develop what I came up with.

Week One Celebrations Brainstorming
Brainstorming ideas are intentionally blurred out. These need development.

Have a Mini Afternoon Retreat

Oh how I love any excuse for a retreat! I “happened” to draw this activity on a Sunday, which worked well as this day is my self care day. I brewed a cup of peppermint tea, grabbed my Lord of the Rings Coloring Book and my colored pencils and retired to my room.

As I colored I caught up on recorded Poldark episodes from the current season. I intended to color for an hour or two. Coloring is so soothing for me, and meditative. The act of laying color onto a page releases a flow of creative energy and all kinds of ideas flow too. Three and a half hours later, I declared an end to the mini retreat. I felt so refreshed.

Week One Celebrations Mini Retreat
Coloring as an activity during week one celebrations. I have more coloring to do.

Design Shirts for Blogs

This is an idea I’ve had for a while, that I have not acted on. Hence the reason this activity went into my jar. I’ll enjoy wearing shirts with Cindy Goes Beyond or Journey With Healthy Me  and their tag lines printed across them. Fortunately, my daughter-in-law and her sister make shirts as a side business.

I’ll share my ideas with them and discuss logos for the shirts as well. My intention is to offer these shirts for sale on the blog sites. Watch for those in the near future!

Week One Celebrations Shirts
Week One Celebrations – Design shirts

Take a Class

This is the activity that I started BEFORE I drew the action out of the jar. As I checked through social media feeds, shortly after waking up, I caught a notice for a class on copywriting. It’s a free four part class, offered via videos sent daily through email. I keep returning to the idea of copywriting as a side business, so the class interested me.

I signed up. A short time later, I drew my activity for the day.  Guess what it was? No, really, guess. Right! It was Take a Class. I love when such synchronicities happen. They show me I’m in the flow of life, exactly where I need to be.

The class is called 6 Months to 6 Figures with Copywriting…which sounds amazing. It’s taught by Sarah Turner and I’ve watched two of the videos so far. You can sign up for the free class HERE.

Week One Celebrations Class
Week One Celebrations – Take a Class.

Watch a new TED Talk

Like watching documentaries, I rarely watch a TED Talk, even though I know there are some amazing topics discussed. The few TED Talks I’ve watched were via YouTube.

When I drew out this activity, I decided to go directly to the TED Talks website and join. I’m glad I did. After selecting topics I’m interested in, the site chose my first TED Talk for me.

The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage was perfect for me. Susan David begins with the word Sawubona, which is the Zulu word for “hello”…and I knew this was the right talk to listen to. Sawubona carries significance for me. It literally means, “I see you, and by seeing you, I bring you into being.” A dozen years ago I came across this amazing word and realized the importance of really seeing people.

I loved the TED Talk and plan to watch many more.

Week One Celebrations TED Talk
Great TED Talk

Eat at a New Restaurant

My last activity for this update posed a challenge as well. Having lived in Joplin for 37 years, I’ve eaten at most of the restaurants in town. The second difficulty is the fact that I am plant based. That lifestyle limits which restaurants are suitable.

As I considered and discarded possibilities, one restaurant that I’ve not dined at popped into mind and remained there. Infuxn is a restaurant and cocktail bar located downtown at 530 S. Main Street. The interior is fresh,  contemporary and welcoming. They state on their Facebook page,

“Passionate in everything we do whether it be customer service, culinary creativeness or the art of the cocktail. Please enjoy yourself.”

I took that as a personal invitation! Plus, Infuxn offers vegan choices on their menu and according to the manager, that menu is expanding.

Greg accompanied me to Infuxn, where we enjoyed a huge Asian hummus platter with baked naan, carrots and celery. The Asian hummus was amazing. It was seasoned with spices, including ginger, and topped with sesame seeds. The chef changes out the flavor of hummus each week. I’m excited to visit this classy restaurant frequently, to see what they have to offer. We opted for water with our meal, however I want to try some of their creative cocktails too.

Week One Celebrations Infuxn
Week One Celebrations – Eat at a New Restaurant
Week One Celebrations Hummus
Amazing Asian Hummus at Infuxn in downtown Joplin.

A Great Week of Celebrations

Seven days down, on the march toward my 62nd birthday in January, and 55 to go.

I’m loving this game and the way it opens me up to possibilities and opportunities.

I drew out a doozy of an activity today, one that made me say “ooookay, I can do this”, as I took a deep breath. And I did. I had to think about it for a bit and amazing ideas arose as a result. What I so appreciate about this game is that playing it requires me to follow through.

I’ll share that activity next Friday, in the weekly update, and let you know how it all turned out!

Week One Celebrations
Week One Celebrations – Seven Activities, randomly drawn.

Check out Week Two Celebrations.

And Week Three

Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

Movie Review: Joker

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

Two things drew me to the new movie release, Joker. I love origin stories that reveal how a well known character evolved. Joker is such a movie, featuring one of the most iconic villains in the DC Universe. And, I appreciate what actor Joaquin Phoenix brings to any role he plays. I’ve heard raves for his performance in Joker and I looked forward to seeing it.

My sister Linda and I caught a Sunday afternoon matinee. After a very full weekend, a couple of hours at the theater was a welcome reprieve.

Movie Review: Joker contains mild spoilers. If you don’t want to know anything about this film, stop reading now!

Movie Review Joker Title Meme

Movie Review: Joker – Cast

This thriller/crime drama stars Joaquin Phoenix, Robert De Niro, Zazie Beetz, Frances Conroy and Brett Cullen. Todd Phillips co-wrote and directed Joker. The film carries an R rating for violence, intense scenes and language, and has a run time of 2 hours and 2 minutes.

Put on a Happy Face

Arthur Fleck (Phoenix) lives simply with his mother (Conroy) in a run down apartment building in Gotham City. He barely makes a living as a clown, performing in one time gigs at hospitals and retail shops. Arthur aspires to do stand up comedy and scribbles jokes and comedic ideas in a well worn notebook that he carries with him. He truly believes his purpose in life is to make people laugh and to bring joy to the world.

However, life is challenging for Arthur. He suffers from a condition called pathological laughter that causes him to cackle when he is nervous or uncomfortable. His inappropriate laughter invites ridicule from bullies and disapproval from those who don’t understand him. Unfortunately for Arthur, people laugh at him, not with him, and taunts follow.

Movie Review Joker Clown
It’s tough being a clown in Gotham City.
Arthur the Stand Up Comedian
It’s even tougher to do stand up comedy!

Send in the Clowns

To combat his loneliness and his difficulties interacting with people, Arthur creates alternate realities in his imagination. His idol, late night talk show host and comedian Murray Franklin (De Niro) embraces Arthur as a son and encourages him…in Arthur’s imagination. And likewise, neighbor Sophie (Beetz), who lives down the hall and smiled at him once, becomes his pretend girlfriend.

He writes in his notebook:

“The worst part of having a mental illness is people expect you to behave as if you don’t.”

When they aren’t laughing at his peculiarities, people don’t notice him at all. Arthur feels invisible and not real.

The troubled man’s lifepath shifts when he decides enough is enough, on the city subway. Three wealthy young men torment Arthur when he laughs uncontrollably, and they begin to beat him. Dressed in his clown costume and armed with a gun, he fights back for the first time, shooting the men to stop the attack. That act of violence divides Arthur, changes him, from a man with hopes and dreams to a man with a much darker purpose.

In Gotham City division grows as well. The killer clown on the subway becomes a hero to some. Clowns show up all over the city, wreaking havoc. The lower class rises against the upper class, exemplified by billionaire Thomas Wayne (Cullen) who is running for mayor of the city. When Arthur discovers a connection between him and Wayne it only further loosens the comedian’s fragile grip on what’s real.

Movie Review Joker Arthur
Arthur Fleck
Robert De Niro is Murray Franklin
Robert De Niro as Murray Franklin.

The Transformation from Clown to Joker

Feeling betrayed by the people closest to him, in reality or in his imagination, Arthur begins a transformation. The killing on the subway train emboldens him. He uses violence as a way to get back at those who have hurt him.

In a strange way, Arthur’s awkwardness around people lessens as he loses the last shreds of reason and decency. That peculiar freedom lends grace to his thin body and adds a confidence he’s never had before.

The Joker is fully born on a night that should have marked the realization of a dream. The man he once idolized unintentionally christens him with a new name and a new identity, and launches Arthur into a new career. He is a struggling comedian no more. He is Joker, the Clown Prince of Gotham.

Movie Review Joker is born
Joker is born. His dance down the steps is one of the most riveting scenes in the film.

My Thoughts on Joker

This is a phenomenal origin film. Todd Phillips wanted a fresh story about Batman’s arch nemesis and he certainly created one. Phillips and co-writer Scott Silver used elements of Joker lore to produce an original story that could stand on its own. I love how familiar aspects of this villain, such as his laughter, provide launching points for new discoveries in the film.

Joaquin Phoenix is mesmerizing. He lost 52 pounds for this role. According to him, it gave his body surprising fluidity, allowing him to move in ways that opened creative possibilities during the story development. Phoenix portrays Arthur in such a way that one feels compassion for him. He is painful to watch, at times, and yet he is captivating in his flawed humanity. I rooted for him…right up until his soul fractured and he embraced violence as a way of life. Then I hurt for him.

And that’s the beauty of this film. It’s more than the transformation of a broken man into a villain. Arthur’s pain shaped him in ways that he barely perceived. His realization that he had never been happy a moment in his life sharply alienated him from his desire to make people laugh and to bring them joy.

Arthur’s life felt devoid of joy. What he sought for others was in reality what his own soul longed for. And yet…society and those he thought cared for him only pushed him farther along the path to villainy. Of course, he could have chosen differently. However the point of the movie is that he was a victim and he allowed that role to define him. There is so much truth in Joker’s story and it broke my heart, in unexpected ways.

After Movie Review: Joker Check Out the Film

If you enjoy Joaquin Phoenix, origin stories or the DC/Batman Universe…check out this complex film. It’s beautiful, in a gritty, eye opening sort of way. And it’s devastating, in a heart wrenching, lip chewing sort of way. Joker offers a peek into the life of a man who twisted himself into a new creation and lost himself along the way. Joker might make you weep, for him and for all those who are lost.

Joaquin Phoenix as Joker.
Movie Review: Joker

Trailer for Joker

Check out these recent movie reviews:

Downton Abbey

Yesterday

Rocketman

 

And find your Joker items here, including the haunting movie soundtrack:


 

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The Scotland Connection


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When I travel, I enjoy bringing home small keepsakes to remind me of my adventures. An easy way to memorialize the trip is to create art from postcards from each country. On this trip, with Edinburgh as my home base, I looked for postcards that represented the fascinating city. As my sister and I browsed in different shops, I checked out the postcards for sale. However, nothing really captured my interest.

I was looking for the Scotland connection, a link between Edinburgh and my interests. As we waited to enter the Museum Context, I spied a small artistic shop next door, called The Red Door Gallery. How grateful I am that I stepped inside!

The Scotland Connection Title Meme

The Red Door Gallery

This delightful shop, established in 2003 and located at 42 Victoria Street in Edinburgh, showcases artwork from Edinburgh and UK based artists. The Red Door Gallery offers a large assortment of artists prints, homewares, jewelry and CARDS.

Suddenly I went from not having the right options to having too many! I’d been so busy looking at postcards that I almost missed an opportunity to purchase greeting cards featuring the artwork of local artists. I quickly located a dozen cards that appealed to me, that offered the Scotland connection I desired.

As a bonus, the cards easily tucked into my carry on. I can’t bring home a bunch of souvenirs, when I travel, which is perfect. The small space helps me to decide what’s most important.

The Scotland Connection Haul
My treasures from the trip: Maitland tartan pieces, Maitland Clan Badge, kilt pin, art cards, small keychains, dated thistle Christmas ornament and a jacket that I had to wear home.
The Scotland Connection David Fleck Art Cards
Cards by artist David Fleck. David grew up in Edinburgh and now creates from Glasgow.

Inspired Art

Back home, I studied my art cards, eager to create. (Check out my previous postcard art.) I chose the watercolor and ink art cards by David Fleck as my first project.

Previously I purchased frames from Michael’s Craft Store to hold postcards from Italy, Scotland and England. This time, I wanted to be more creative. Daily I looked at my cards as I sought inspiration. And each day ended without a solid idea. Finally, as I clicked off the light one night, an amazing flash of creativity arrived. I turned the light back on.

Interestingly, during this same time, ideas simmered on the back burner of my mind for another creative project. That night, the two projects merged into one.

The Scotland Connection Vintage Chair
The chair my grandfather made, literally falling apart.
Vintage Chair Unassembled
The chair, carefully disassembled.

My Grandfather’s Chair

In 2014 my sister, the same one who accompanied me to Scotland, passed on to me a couple of vintage chairs made in the 1950s, by my paternal grandfather. The chairs underwent numerous repairs over the years. When I received them, one of the chairs needed extensive work to make it usable. (You can read about the restoration here.)

However five years later, this old chair is literally falling apart, due to exposure to weather. I considered throwing the chair away, but it’s one of the few keepsakes that I have from this grandfather, who passed away when I was just five years old. What could I make from it?

Last week inspiration provided an answer. Repurpose the chair into a frame…for the David Fleck art cards.

With Greg’s help, I disassembled the chair, piece by piece. The worn and weathered wood provided the material for a unique frame, a work of art in itself.

The Scotland Connetion Frame
From chair…to whimsical frame. I love that the arms of the chair became the sides of the frame.
Finished Repurposed Frame
Something new from something old.

Something New from Something Old

As I studied the pieces and tried out different frame styles, the finished work came together almost on its own. Suddenly the arms of the chair naturally became the sides of the frame. The 120 year old lath slats, which aren’t original to the chair but came from a remodel in my own house, created the back. And two dowel rods that formed the back of the chair perfectly divided the art cards, creating a window pane effect.

I’m grateful for Greg’s help in repurposing the chair into the frame. He used a variety of tools to assemble the frame and I attached the cards. I used double sided tape to close the cards and rubber cement to attach them to the frame backing.

I love the imperfections in the old wood, the nail holes and fine cracks. They add to the charm of the frame and remind me of the wood’s original purpose.

Vintage Chair in 2014
The chair as it was in 2014, after extensive repairs.

The Scotland Connection

I’m so pleased with this frame that holds four of my art cards from Edinburgh. The cards depict scenes throughout the old city, from the castle high upon its rock to the closes (alleyways) that offer shortcuts through town to the Hot Air Balloon event from 1785. One card, called Seek, is for those with wanderlust. It captures the Highlands north of Edinburgh. I love these cards.

I appreciate this framed work of art for another reason. My grandfather who made the chair, Dennis Fleet Lauderdale, is the Scotland connection in my family, to the country that I so love. It’s through his line that I trace my way to the Maitland Clan. This chair that he crafted once held him and my father and most recently, me. It now holds these mementoes from the country that birthed our family.

I hung the framed cards in my bedroom, above a table with a quirky telephone lamp that Greg’s dad made, a photo of my Lauderdale grandparents on their wedding day, and a small lion statue. The Clan Maitland crest has a lion at its center and the Latin words, consilio et animis, “by wisdom and courage”.

As I worked, I asked my grandfather if he minded that I took apart his chair and created something new. I hoped not. Grandpa was, after all, a carpenter and enjoyed tinkering in his workshop. And I intend to create more frames from this chair and the second one that still rests in my garden.

He appeared in my mind as I last saw him, a kind man with a bit of stubble on his chin and merry eyes. He smiled. I don’t think he minds.

The Scotland Connection Vignette
Finished art piece.

 

Scottish Watercolor Print from Amazon

Get inspired with this watercolor of Scotland’s national flower, the thistle. Better yet, travel to this gorgeous country, find your own mementoes and create the Scotland connection!

 


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Clan Means Family

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After five days together, our Clan Maitland group gathered one last time, for a formal dinner. Each of us arrived in the Maitland tartan, in the form of kilts, ties, sashes, scarves and skirts. For my sister and me, it was our first time to formally wear our clan’s tartan and attend such an event.

When our group gathered for the first time, some of us were strangers to each other. Others were connected on social media but had never met in person. Several sibling groups traveled together to attend the clan gathering. Debbie and I fit in this category. Those from England, Scotland and France  knew each other well. The strong thread that bound us all was our heritage, our kinship connection. Ian shared on our first evening together that clan means family. By our final dinner together, I felt the deep truth of those words.

Clan Means Family title meme

Maitlands and Lauderdales

Truthfully, I didn’t know what to expect of a clan gathering. I’ve been a member of Clan Maitland for years, however I’ve never had opportunity to attend a gathering. Debbie and I added extra days around those allotted to the gathering so that we could explore and enjoy Edinburgh. We looked forward to meeting our kin and yet kept our expectations neutral.

A part of me wondered if being Lauderdales, the American branch of the family, would make us feel a bit like outsiders. Debbie and I also wondered how we should address our clan chief. Ian is the 18th Earl of Lauderdale The proper title for an earl is Lord. We wisely decided to see how others in our group addressed him!

Ian quickly set the tone for the next five days during our first evening together. While we dined, he moved from table to table, introducing himself and chatting with us. After dinner, he shared a couple of stories that I appreciated, about the family’s origination in Normandy. Placing a hand on his chest, our clan chief said simply, “I’m Ian. Clan means family. We are all kin.”

He answered the question of how to address him…and he established kinship. I loved and appreciated my chief immediately.

Clan Means Family First Dinner
First dinner together as family, at the Angel’s Share Hotel.
Clan Means Family Glenkinchie Distillery
Exploring the museum at Glenkinchie Distillery.
Clan Means Family Lauderdale Aisle
Sitting quietly in Lauderdale Aisle, above the family burial chamber.

Becoming Family

Between that first dinner and the last one, our group shifted from strangers to family. During our days exploring in the Borders and sharing meals, an amazing thing happened. The historic locations that we visited, connected to the Maitland family, became touchstones marking our journey in the past and bringing us together in the present.

These places told different parts of our story, a story shared between us. It changed perceptions, hearing ancient family stories and seeing how alike we are, rather than how different.

I loved that when Ian shared historical accounts, he often began with the words, “Your kinsman…”. He didn’t say, “My ancestor….my kinsman…”. No, he fleshed out people I’d only read about and made them real to me. He told stories from personal knowledge, which gave such depth to those I’d only known as a name printed on a page. And in the process, he connected them to me, to us, as our family, our kin.

Clan Means Family New Club
Drinks on the New Club balcony, in Edinburgh.
Thirlestane Castle Dining Room
Exploring Thirlestane Castle together.
Clan Means Family Lochcarron
In the Lochcarron showroom.

Clan Means Family

During my time with my kin, I learned that clan means family, indeed.

Curious, I looked up the word. The Cambridge dictionary defines clan as “a family or a group of families, especially in Scotland, who originally came from the same ancestor.” Ian’s claim is absolutely true.

Further, the root word for clan is the Latin word planta, which means “sprout”. That word became the Old Irish word cland, and the Scottish Gaelic word clann, meaning “offspring, family” which eventually became the word as we know it.

I love the idea of a sprout, a plant that comes from a single seed and grows, spreads and matures. A clan embodies the concept of a family tree, with the single trunk and the many, many branches that connect to it.

Clan Maitland at Thirlestane Castle
Clan means family…at Thirlestane Castle in Lauder, Scotland.
Clan Chief Ian Maitland, 18th Earl of Lauderdale
Clan means family…to our beloved Chief.
Clan Maitland Collage
Family collage. Ian and Cindy. John Maitland, Ian’s son, and Debbie. Cindy, Crawford and Debbie. Ian and Debbie.

Saying Goodbye

Those branches of the family gathered for a final dinner, to conclude our time together and say goodbye. I love formal Scottish dinners with their different courses. Dinner isn’t a hurried affair, but a meal to be savored and enjoyed.

At our large round table sat family members from Virginia, Arizona, Paris, France, Missouri, Oklahoma and London, England. It was so representative of our shared days and the way we came together to become family.

The food was excellent. Our glasses remained filled with fine wine. Conversations and laughter flowed around our table and outward, around the room. I thoroughly enjoyed the evening.

Our meal finished, we exchanged email addresses. The group gathered on the stairs for a last family photo. We snapped pics of each other too. And we hugged and kissed cheeks, promising to remember our time together and stay in touch. My heart felt so full of love and appreciation for these, my kinsmen. I felt sad to say goodbye and yet so grateful for the connections.

Debbie and I will never forget our trip to Edinburgh together and the Clan Maitland Gathering. We left Scotland enriched by the experience and determined to return to that beautiful country as often as we can. Scotland feels like home. It always has to me. And now I know why. It IS home. I belong here. The Maitland Clan is my clan. And clan means family.

Clan Means Family Formal Dinner
Clan Maitland, gathered.

Check out the other Clan Maitland posts:

Clan Maitland Gathers

Maitlands in the Borders

Rosslyn Chapel & Thirlestane Castle

Traquair House

If you are a Lauderdale or Maitland descendant, join your kinsmen!

Clan Maitland UK

Clan Maitland North America

 


 

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Traquair House

 

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On our last day of exploring together, Clan Maitland members visited Traquair House, the oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland. Maitlands owned this property for a short time. The interest in visiting this house, beyond its own incredible historic value, is that Thirlestane Castle began life as a house very similar to this one.

Upon arriving, our large group divided into two smaller groups and off we went on our tours.

Traquair House Title Meme

The History of Traquair House

The word traquair is Celtic in origin, from tret or tre  meaning “a dwelling place or hamlet” and quair meaning “a winding stream”. The name is perfect for this incredible house. The Quair Burn joins the River Tweed a few hundred yards from the house.

The earliest mention of Traquair House dates to 1107, when King Alexander I signed a royal charter there. The property served as a hunting lodge for many of the kings and queens of Scotland. In the museum room a mural painting dating back to the early 1500s depicts a hunting scene from this time.

It is likely that a tower with three stories and an attic created the beginning of Traquair House and now occupies the north corner of the present structure.

In the mid 13th century Traquair belonged to Thomas de Mautelant, ancestor of the Maitland line of Earls of Lauderdale. He passed the house on to his son, William when the young man married. That line eventually failed to produce an heir and the property passed to the Murrays in 1464.

From there Traquair House changed hands several times until 1478, when the estate sold to James Stewart, Earl of Buchan, uncle of King James III. The Stewarts have remained in residence since. Expansions and additions enlarged the house through the years, with the last of these completed in the late 1600s. While the interior underwent extensive remodeling in the 1800s, the exterior is relatively unchanged.

Traquair House Exterior
The exterior of Traquair House is relatively unchanged since the 1600s.
Bear Gate
Bear Gate built in 1738.

Bear Gate

There’s an interesting story about the gate at the end of the original driveway. The 5th Earl of Traquair built the pillars in 1738 and topped them with sculptures of bears holding the family crest. The bear gates closed following a visit by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1744, with a vow to keep them closed until a Stuart king sat on the throne once more. The gates never opened again and remain closed to this day. A smaller driveway, called the “temporary drive”, allows entrance into the property.

Traquair House Bell System
I loved the bell system at Traquair, which reminds me of the popular tv series, Downton Abbey!
High Drawing Room
The largest room in the main house, the High Drawing Room.

Touring the Main Floor of Traquair House

My group had such a fun tour guide! Kenneth speaks with a soft Scottish brogue and displays a wonderful sense of humor. His stories illuminate the history of the house while adding whimsical elements too, all punctuated by that dry Scot’s humor.

In the High Drawing Room, the largest room in the main house, we studied a section of the original ceiling, covered over when the 5th earl redesigned the interior. The original beamed ceiling was discovered in 1954 and two small sections are on display. Also in this room is a rare harpsichord crafted in 1651 by Andreas Ruckers. The harpsichord is restored to perfect working condition. Kenneth played a few chords on it, and joked that his cds are available in the gift shop.

We also viewed a bedroom and dressing room, complete with furnishings, that Mary Queen of Scots used. The queen, her husband, and infant son James visited the house in 1566.

Traquair Dressing Room
The dressing room on the main floor of Traquair House.
Original indoor toilet in Traquair
Traquair House boasted an early indoor toilet, supposedly used by Mary Queen of Scots.
Tour Guide Kenneth
Our guide Kenneth on the house’s main staircase, a stone spiral one.

The Upstairs at Traquair House

My group moved upstairs to continue our explorations, by way of the main staircase in the house, a set of narrow stone steps that spiral upward.

There was much to see on the upstairs floors, as we wandered through bedrooms, a library, a museum room and the priest’s room.

The household maintained a Catholic tradition within Traquair, in spite of the dangers of doing so at that time. Mass was held in secret in the priest’s room on the top floor. If necessary, the priest could escape through a concealed passageway hidden behind a cupboard door and flee down a small twisty staircase. The room remained in use until the Catholic Emancipation Act of 1828. There is now a chapel on the property that is used for services and special events such as weddings.

White Bedroom Traquair House
I loved this pretty bedroom upstairs.
Priest Room Traquair House
The priest room at the top of the house, where secret mass was held. Note the escape staircase concealed behind the cupboard door.
Maze at Traquair
Rain prevented us from getting wonderfully lost in the maze on the grounds.

Saying Goodbye to Traquair House

We concluded our tour with visits to the two side wings, added to the house in the 1600s. The laundry room and chapel occupy one wing, along with a gift shop and ale tasting room. Kenneth told us a funny story of Americans who got married in the chapel. He noticed, right before the ceremony fortunately, that the groom and his groomsmen all had their kilts on backwards!

In the other wing we viewed the formal dining room and sat in the blue sitting room, while Kenneth entertained us with more stories.

I loved the daring tale of Lady Winifred Herbert, Countess of Nithsdale, whose portrait hangs in the dining room. She rescued her husband William, charged with treason for being a Jacobite, from the Tower of London in 1716. On the night before his execution, Winifred visited him, accompanied by several maids. They dressed him in women’s clothing. William walked out of the tower with a maid, wearing a dress and the “nithsdale cloak”, which is still held by the family. Lady Winifred remained in the cell and pretended to talk to her husband, before making her own escape. She joined William in Paris, to live out the rest of their lives together. I love a happy ending!

In twos and threes Clan Maitland members walked up the driveway, in the pouring rain, and finished our afternoon with lunch at the cozy Traquair House Café.

Laundry Room at Traquair
Doing laundry at Traquair House required strong muscles I think!
Formal Dining Room
The lovely formal dining room.
The Blue Sitting Room at Traquair
My group sat in the blue sitting room and listened to Kenneth tell stories, until it was time for lunch.

Back to Edinburgh

After a wonderful lunch at the café, enjoyed with pots of hot tea and lively conversation, we boarded our coach for the trip back to Edinburgh. En route we stopped at Lochcarron Mill. There we looked at the Maitland Tartan and several had fittings for kilts.

The Maitland Tartan is a private one and products are only available at Thirlestane Castle and by special order here at Lochcarron. How grateful I am that we could purchase tartan products during this trip. Debbie and I picked up scarves and sashes and Maitland Clan badges to wear at our final former clan dinner.

The dinner marked the end of our time together as family. I’ll share thoughts about that evening in my next post.

Maitland Tartan
The Maitland Tartan, created in 1953, is a variation of the Lauder Tartan.

Read more Clan Maitland Gatherings:

Clan Maitland Gathers

Maitlands in the Borders

Rosslyn Chapel & Thirlestane Castle

 


Cindy Goes Beyond is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program. This affiliate program provides a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com, all at no extra cost to you.

Dean Village

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my Disclosure Policy for details.

On this activity-light day with Clan Maitland, in between two very full days, my sister and I checked another “must see” location off our list. I’ve been drawn to Dean Village, in Edinburgh, for years, based solely on beautiful photos that I’ve seen.

Checking the map app on my iPhone, our destination seemed walkable. On this gorgeous sunny day, Debbie and I left the apartment and set out on our own on foot, bound for one of Edinburgh’s hidden gems.

Dean Village Title Meme

Dean Village History

This former medieval village, founded in the 12th century, began as home to the milling industry. A river winds through this valley, located a short distance from Edinburgh’s New Town. Mills sprang up along the Water of Leith, and cottages soon followed, to house the mill workers. The area became known as the Water of Leith Village.

The village was a successful center of milling for 800 years. However, due to the development of larger, more modern mills the village fell into decline. By 1960, the community was filled with poverty and decay.

Fortunately, in the mid 1970s the area’s beauty and tranquility inspired restoration. The warehouses, mills and workers’ cottages transformed into desirable residential homes. Now called Dean Village…”dene” means deep valley…the area attracts thousands of visitors each year.

Dean Village Well Court
One of the most well known renovated buildings in Dean Village…Well Court.
Dean Village Upstream
View from the metal bridge.

Walking to Dean Village

From our apartment on Thistle Street, Debbie and I walked three blocks to Charlotte Square. Intuitively, we knew which direction to go from there, to reach Dean Village. However, my map app took us along a longer, out of the way route.

Ultimately, we came to Queensferry Street and walked down it to Bell’s Brae. If you continue on Queensferry Street, which becomes Lynedoch Place, you cross over Dean Bridge. The village lies below, in the valley.

Walking down Bell’s Brae, we arrived at Miller Row and the Water of Leith. There is a circuitous path through the village that crosses two bridges, a stone one and a metal one. The gorgeous photos that I’ve seen posted are taken along that path and from the metal bridge.

Dean Village Metal Bridge
The metal bridge in Dean Village.
Dean Village Stone Bridge
The stone bridge

Exploring Dean Village

This area is still residential. There aren’t any pubs, cafés, shops or public restrooms. Instead, there are flats and cottages, a school and at the edge of the village, a museum.

We walked Dean Path, exclaiming over the adorable stone cottages, the abundance of flowers and the incredibly homey vibes of the village. Even though there were many others strolling in Dean Village, people respected the fact that this is a neighborhood. It’s a charming neighborhood, to be sure. But people live here and raise families in this beautiful place. Visitors remained quiet, talking softly as they walked.

We all paused to take photos, and smiled at each other as we traded places along vantage points. However none of us laughed loudly or called out to one another or behaved in a boisterous manner. I appreciated that. I’m sure the residents of Dean’s Village do as well.

Laundry in Dean Village
Such a homey scene in Dean Village.
Container Garden in Dean Village
A cottage in Dean Village. I love the Scots’ appreciation of flowers and gardens.

Another Dream Realized

Walking through Dean Village was another dream realized for me. And the photos don’t really do it justice. It is such a gorgeous place. Beyond that, Dean Village is peaceful and idyllic. How wonderful to stroll along the Water of Leith and experience the incredible feel of the village, basking in the warm Scottish sunshine.

Realizing that dream birthed another. Debbie and I peeked into a vacant flat and imagined what it must feel like, to live in this tucked away place. Although Dean Village is only a 15 minute walk from Princes Street and Old Town, it feels like a country burgh, far from the busy hub of the city.

As we climbed back up Bell’s Brae….brae means steep bank or hillside and this road is aptly named…we paused to rest on a bench and allow our dreams of living in such a beautiful place to expand. I don’t know how or when it will happen, but that day, my sister and I released into the universe the desire to own or rent a flat or cottage in Dean Village. The strong desire is released and out there now. I just need to be me and stay in the flow of life, trusting the guidance of the Dream Giver. I’m content with that.

Dean Village Upstream 2
Gazing downstream from the metal bridge.
Dean Village Upstream
Gazing upstream from the metal bridge.

Gratitude for Dean Village

I’m so glad we had opportunity to discover and walk through Dean Village. After the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, this was the other place I absolutely wanted to see while in the city. I’m grateful Debbie was willing to explore this hidden gem with me and appreciated its beauty as well.

Walking back to the apartment I put the map app away. We trusted our instincts to get us back. They served us well, guiding us quickly and unerringly along picturesque narrow streets back to Charlotte Square. Technology is often helpful, however, I can always trust my instincts.

Have you heard of Dean Village? Would you love to visit it as well? Someday, I’ll be back there. I know it.

Check out these Scotland and Edinburgh finds:


 

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Maitlands in the Borders

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Traveling together, Clan Maitland spent the most time in the Scottish Borders. This area borders Edinburgh and extends south and east to the English counties of Cumbria and Northumberland.  We were Maitlands in the Borders, exploring. Our roots sunk deep here, in the hilly rural countryside. Centuries ago, our family settled in the beautiful lowlands, grew and expanded outward into the world.

After touring St. Mary’s Church and Lauderdale Aisle in Haddington, and lunching together, our day trip took us to one of the former Maitland houses, Lennoxlove. We concluded our outing with a fascinating tour at Glenkinchie Distillery.

Come along and join the Maitlands in the Borders and share our discoveries.

Maitlands in the Borders Title Meme

Lennoxlove House History

After lunch we explored Lennoxlove House, south of Haddington in East Lothian. The house includes a 15th century tower, known as Lethington Tower, and experienced several building expansions. Currently the seat of the Duke of Hamilton, this property began as a house of Maitland.

Robert Maitland of Thirlestane purchased the lands of Lethington in 1345. He built the L-shaped tower that now forms the southwest corner of the house. Mary of Guise, mother to Mary Queen of Scots, stayed at the house on her visit to Haddington in 1548.

Lethington House remained in the Maitland family until the death of John Maitland, the Duke of Lauderdale, in 1682. The trustees of Frances Teresa Stuart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox, purchased the property after her death in 1702. She stipulated that the house should pass to her “neare and deare kinsman, the said Walter Stuart”. Walter Stuart, eldest son of the 5th Lord Blantyre, became the 6th Lord Blantyre upon his father’s death.

The Duchess requested that the house be renamed “Lennox’s Love to Blantyre” which eventually shortened to Lennoxlove. The property remained in the Blantyre family until purchased in 1960 by the 14th Duke of Hamilton. During the summer the house is open to the public and available for special events.

Maitlands in the Borders Lennoxlove House
Exterior of Lennoxlove House
Lethington Tower
The Great Hall in Lethington Tower

Maitlands in the Borders at Lennoxlove House

Our large group divided in two to tour Lennoxlove House. My group benefited from our Clan Chief Ian being with us. He is a historian and an excellent storyteller. I loved hearing the stories connected to this grand old estate. We moved from the newer part of the house, with its extensive collections of art, furniture, porcelain and artifacts, through hallways and rooms to the older tower.

Many extraordinary portraits hang on the walls throughout the house, including a couple of the Duke of Lauderdale. On display too is a silver jewelry box belonging to Mary, Queen of Scots, and her death mask.

I especially enjoyed the older section of the house, including the great hall and the rooms beneath it. I’m sensitive to energy and the flow of it. The past pools and eddies in this ancient part of Lennoxlove, swirling and spilling over into the present. I felt tingles of energy several times and delighted in the discovery of a narrow passageway in the chapel that led to a small dungeon. The secrets and stories, joys and sorrows, lives lived and lost in Lennoxlove give fresh meaning to the phrase, “if walls could talk”. As I wandered through this beautiful place, I listened.

Lennoxlove Sitting Room
The front sitting room in Lennoxlove House.

Maitlands in the Borders at Glenkinchie Distillery

We finished our long day together with a tour of Glenkinchie Distillery. I am not a whisky drinker, however I am always open to a learning opportunity. And a learning experience it was, at Glenkinchie, and so much more!

Glenkinchie Distillery began in 1825 under the name Milton Distillery. From 1837 on it has operated under its current name.

Maitlands in the Borders at Glenkinchie Distillery

Making Single Malt Whisky

Whisky making is an ancient process that’s been refined over the centuries. The first thing I learned, from our amazing tour guide Brian, is this: good whisky requires four ingredients…water, barley, yeast and time.

Water

Because of its importance, it’s not surprising that distillery locations are often determined by a pure source of water such as a spring or stream. Water encourages the barley to germinate during the malting process and it is added at the mashing stage to extract the sugars and make wort. Cold water is used to condense the vapors back into liquid as well.

Barley

Grains are essential to whisky making. They provide the starch that becomes alcohol. Scotch can be made from a variety of grains, however Single Malt Scotch Whisky is created from barley only.

Yeast

Yeast is a mirco-organism. Its purpose is to convert sugar into alcohol through the process of fermentation. Only a few strains of yeast are suitable for fermenting malted barley and these can influence the flavor.

Time

To classify as Scotch whisky, the newly made spirit must mature in an oak cask, in Scotland, for at least three years. Single malts can mature for up to 70 years. At Glenkinchie, the usual maturation period is 12 years. Oak is the wood of choice for the casks. Rather than using new oak, which negatively influences the flavor of the whisky, American oak casks are used that previously held bourbon, wine or sherry .

Brian at Glenkinchie
Our fun tour guide, Brian, explaining the process of making single malt whisky.

Walking Through the Process of Single Malt Whisky Making

During the distillery tour, we walked through rooms where each step of the process was underway. Malting, the process of rapidly germinating the barley, is actually the first step in turning barley into whisky. It’s no longer done at the distillery, however Brian explained the malting process to us and then led us on to the next room.

In the milling room the dried malted barley is ground into a coarse flour called grist. Next the grist is fed into the mash tun and hot water is added to dissolve the sugars. The resulting wort is drained off and cooled.

In the fermentation room, the cooled wort goes into large tubs called wash backs, made from pine wood. Yeast is added and fermentation begins. The mixture is now called wash. The next step is distillation. This process involves heating the liquid in large copper stills. And finally the alcohol goes into casks to mature for up to 70 years.

This is a very simplified explanation of the whisky making process! Please visit the Glenkinchie Distillery website for a much more in depth look at the fine art of making single malt whisky.

Whisky in casks
Whisky maturing in oak casks.

The End of the Day for Maitlands in the Borders

At the end of the tour…and the end of the day…we sampled whisky at Glenkinchie. I did not intend to have a dram…or four…of whisky. However, Brian conducted our tour with great knowledge and great humor. He explained the whisky making process in such an informative and fun way that my curiosity kicked in. After hearing about the incredible amount of work that goes into creating whisky…who figured all this stuff out anyway??…I HAD to sample the whisky. Could I taste the subtle flavors imparted by an oak cask that once held bourbon?

Brian poured out a round of drinks for our group and we followed his instructions, swirling the golden liquid, sniffing it and then tasting it. My initial reaction was “WOW”. The alcohol taste seemed so strong. Then Brian walked among us and added a small amount of water to each glass. “Taste it again,” he suggested. What an amazing difference that tiny bit of water made! Now I could taste the flavors. We sampled four different whiskies. I’ll never be a whisky connoisseur. However, I thoroughly enjoyed learning about how whisky is made and tasting the resulting “water of life”.

What a full day! Perhaps because of the wee sips of whisky, we were quite jolly on the coach ride back to Edinburgh. Maitlands in the Borders certainly know how to make the most of experiences. The bonding as a family increased that day and my heart felt very enlarged by our shared adventures.

The next day’s activities kept us in Edinburgh. However Friday promised a return to the Borders, to visit Rosslyn Chapel and our ancestral home, Thirlestane Castle. I couldn’t wait!

Copper Still
Copper Still at Glenkinchie

Check out these books about Scotch Whisky:

 


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