Saturday, September 22, 2018

Random Thoughts about Scotland

We recently returned from our 6th trip together to Scotland, and I really wasn't sure where I wanted to start with blog posts. I've written quite a lot about our travels to Scotland and the Isle of Mull, after all, and some of what we do and experience there is not new. Then I came across this post from fellow expat travel blogger, Camila, who lives in Scotland but traveled recently to Germany! She collected her random observations about her time in Germany, and I thought that would be a good way to start about our trip. Thanks for the idea, Camila!

Standing Stones at Glengorm, Isle of Mull

So here we go with my random observations, thoughts, and lessons learned from our most recent trip to Scotland!

  • Scotland is beautiful, scenic, majestic and mysterious, regardless of the weather.

  • The Scots - at least the ones we encountered - are friendly, helpful, sincere, warm, and hardy.

  • The Scots are also well aware of how special their land is.

  • During two weeks in west Scotland, one learns to appreciate patches of blue sky.

  • Snickers make for great hiking snacks. Carrot sticks do not. On Monday I ate a Snickers mid-walk and felt a burst of energy. On Tuesday during a longer walk I'd brought carrot sticks, thinking that was a healthier option. I ate those mid-walk and just felt sad.

  • One can never be fully confident that the toilet one has just used will flush effectively. In one particular incident in a pub in Tobermory, I exited the stall having tried three times and said to the woman waiting, "I'm sorry, it doesn't seem to be flushing." She said - in what sounded to me like a local accent - "Oh, don't worry about it, Luv." I guess one gets used to this?

  • The wildlife on Mull is fabulous and - occasionally - cooperative. We finally saw our first wild otters! They were just swimming and diving, so our photos aren't impressive, but we saw them! Then there were sea eagles, buzzards, Kestrels, and a seal. No haggis, though...

  • I wanted some nice photos of us and of me, but I have two looks or styles in Scotland: Windswept & Red-faced and Drowned Rat. So we returned with no nice photos of us or me.

  • Scotland will reward you - if you are patient. We often set out in sketchy weather or walked into a downpour, but it seemed when we showed Mother Nature we were undaunted, she begrudgingly showed her best side.
  • Tea is just not as satisfying to me, especially in the morning, as a good cup of coffee.

  • I am very glad M is willing to do all the driving in Scotland!

  • Single-track roads are somehow better than two-lane roads when we're driving on the "wrong" side.

  • My Meindl hiking boots are the hammer! (When something is really, really great, in German one says it is "der Hammer".) I walked across boggy fields, up hills, along muddy paths, and even through a small river, and my feet stayed dry the entire time! The river was deeper than the top of my boots, and still only my ankle got a little wet. They are also very comfortable and feel great on long hikes.

  • There is more to Scotland than Outlander! Apparently tour groups are bussed around the country stopping at filming locations like this one in East Linton, which is 5 foot-minutes from our relatives' home:
Preston Mill, East Linton
  • The ideal photographs I had pictured in my mind's eye before our trip did not include solid gray clouds, which is what we had much of the time we were out hiking.
Kilchurn Castle
  • Highland coos can be assholes. Near the end of one of our walks we were ambling down a road dodging poo pies. Then we came to the pooing coos. They were just standing there eating as usual, but they had a calf with them. He was standing closest to the road, and his mum and aunties with their big horns faced and watched us. We paused, they stared. We took a few steps back, they stopped chewing and kept staring. One moved slightly so she was clearly facing us head-on. We fled from the road up the hill and through the soggy bracken, giving wide berth to the stupid toddler. We've heard they are docile, except when they feel their offspring is threatened - understandably. And since we were planning to turn one of their former relatives into Gulasch that very evening, we decided to take the high road and let them have their space.
These are actually not the beasts we encountered on the walk.
I took this from the safety of our car.
  • Pub meals are delicious! We had steak pie, wild game pie, various burgers, tomato soup, neeps and tatties! We didn't try haggis this time, but I'm determined to order it on our next trip.

  • Not sure which would be more complicated to travel with - small children, or dogs. We are glad we have neither. (Sorry if that makes us sound like jerks.) None of the children being carried around in Kraxen looked or sounded happy to be there. In one pub there were two Springers at a table near us, which the servers had to keep stepping over and around. Before we left one of the servers crouched down to pet them, which was really sweet...except for the "scratch-and-sniff" effect. Good my lord, they were ripe...

  • The Scots have a clever sense of humor.
Outside a pub in Linlithgow.
Can you read the fine print?

  • One week on the Isle of Mull isn't really enough. We're already talking about returning next year for two weeks. Update: We've booked two weeks on Mull for 2019.
Tobermory in the evening
Admittedly we do like to travel to familiar places, which is why we keep returning to Mull and Glengorm. We have enjoyed other areas of Scotland - parts of the highlands, Glencoe, Edinburgh, the Trossachs, Loch Ness, the Jacobite steam train to Mallaig - but somehow we always end up saying to each other, "Well, it wasn't Mull, but it was very nice." So I think we'll keep returning until we have seen all we want to see and walked all the walks we can on the island. So far we've got the north fairly well covered, and after a few more walks there we'll explore central Mull a bit more.

Is there a place you keep returning to for holidays, or do you prefer to seek out new and unfamiliar places?

Any random thoughts on Scotland?

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Packing for Scotland

I've been absent for a while for (once again) no good reason, though I have been substitute teaching an Integrationskurs for the last week. It's actually an Alphabetisierungskurs, which means the students started the course not being able to read or write, at least not with our alphabet. This class has advanced to the A1 niveau, and they are a fun and interesting group!

Next week we'll be leaving on another trip to Scotland - our sixth together in 12 years. We'll be staying on the Isle of Mull for a week at Glengorm Castle in one of their self-catering flats, followed by three days at a B&B near Tyndrum where we stayed last year with the kids, and finally a few days near Edinburgh. This time M and I are going alone, and we're hoping to avoid the rental car problems we had last year - which I never ended up writing about. Hm.

Since the plan for this weekend is packing for Scotland, I thought I'd write a quick blog post about that! I know people who prefer to vacation at beaches and hotels with big pools where it is warm and sunny, but  - especially after a hot and dry summer like we've just had - we bundle up and head for cooler, wetter climes.

We each have our own packing list, and I'm mainly going to cover mine. M takes care of all the technical and electronic stuff, charging cords, batteries, etc., though I am in charge of my own camera batteries and memory cards.

So then, what do I pack for a trip to wet and windy Scotland? This is a start:

Most important for us are the hiking gear and photography equipment. We are by no means serious hikers, in part because we lack the fitness for it, but we love to go for long walks looking for pretty views and interesting wildlife. The wildlife on Mull has been doing its honest best to elude us, though this year we're hoping to be able to at least observe, if not photograph, some of the island's birds of prey.

Hiking Gear

I pack my hiking boots, a backpack designed for hiking, and a rain jacket that folds up and stuffs into its own pocket, making for easy storage. That's what the lobster is sitting on - more on him later. Shown in the photo are two of my four pairs of hiking pants. I have one for when it might be wet, one for when it's fairly wet, and one for when it's really, really wet. The Wisconsin shirt is one of only two t-shirts I'll bring; I rarely need short-sleeves and pack mainly long-sleeve or 3/4-length sleeve shirts. I bought the green Craghopper fleece last year, and it's super cuddly! Of course I am packing my Poldi the Steinkauz (owl) shirt.

We also have the all-important OS (Ordinance Survey) maps and a compass, though I should admit that we usually rely on M's GPS thingy to guide us during the actual hikes. It handles the rain better.

The Olympus binoculars are important for spotting wildlife as it runs, slithers, or swims to places we are not, and for identifying large birds. We'll be bringing two flashlights because we're planning to do the Whisky Cave walk, which unsurprisingly involves a cave.

We don't go anywhere without Avon's Skin-so-Soft® to fend off the midges (affectionately referred to by locals as "those fecking demons" and other colorful pet names), and this year we're also bringing Smidge® at the advice of the good people in the Scotland from the Roadside Facebook group. There's also a mosquito face net, though I've never needed it before.

We'll each have a Swiss Army knife, because who would go hiking without one? Same with the Snickers! 

Last but certainly not least: our mini-pharmacy: Band-aids, blister pads, adhesive tape, gauze, Fenistil for bug bites, Bepanthen for cuts and scratches, and Ibuprofen, Imodium, and cold medicine - not all of which is pictured.

Photography Equipment

I'm bringing my new camera, which is M's "old" Canon EOS 70D. We decided he should probably have a new camera to better capture the birds of prey in flight (we have high hopes), and the 70D can do things my 40D cannot. I'm looking forward to getting acquainted with it.

My lens of choice is the EF-S 18-135mm, not that I know what any of that means.

I'll have the monopod, while M will haul a tripod on his backpack. 

We'll have extra batteries and memory cards, and M will have several different lenses so that he can be in the middle of switching them when the Steinadler (golden eagle) flies overhead.

Self-Catering Needs

Center front you see the all-important knife sharpener. We cannot stand dull knives, but we seem to be alone in this. We bring a knife sharpener everywhere we travel - I even bring one when I travel to my parents' house. This little one isn't M's favorite, but it works in a pinch, and his whetstones would be too cumbersome to pack.

We also bring one good kitchen knife - again, I never travel without it when I know I will be doing some cooking. M made a sheath for it before my last trip to Wisconsin, with a warning mainly to protect the airport security guys rummaging through my suitcase.

We pack our vegetable peeler because I don't like using anything else, and mini packets of spices for the recipes we're bringing - lamb stew and Gulasch. We buy the lamb and beef from Glengorm and the vegetables from their gardens - it doesn't get more local than that!

Sorry, I couldn't resist.

I always pack a kitchen cloth as well, because usually it's a washcloth that is provided for doing dishes and wiping the counters, and I prefer the ones we use at home. I probably sound a little looney.


I bring two or three books and buy more while traveling. For Scotland I always bring a book about Scottish history, and for Mull I bring the little book about walks to take on the island, which I picked up a few years ago. 

I like to keep a journal to record the fun, funny, and frustrating moments and basically what we did each day.

There are other things on our packing list, but what I've pictured and mentioned above are the most important. Ha! I just realized I didn't think to put my tablet, keyboard, or smart phone in the picture. I will surely bring the tablet for checking emails occasionally and the mobile phone for summoning island rescue if one of us runs into very bad luck, but M will have his laptop, and if there's any posting of pictures being done, I'll use that. 

What do I buy??

What kinds of things do I buy when we go to Mull and other parts of Scotland? I'm not much for shopping, really, but I love the little shops in Tobermory. This is what I bought last year (two of the books were gifts from the kids):

The Craghopper fleece, Jacobs Cream Crackers (we both go mad for these!), books, books, and more books, a Mull calendar to hold us through the next year, something showing Mull - last year two slate coasters - a Mull heather scented candle, a bar of Mull soap, and a mini bottle of Tobermory whisky. Island Wife was written by a woman who lived and ran a B&B on Mull with her husband for a number of years, and the History of Glengorm was published last year and written by the mother of Tom Nelson, who has owned and run the Glengorm estate since he took over from his parents.

Why the lobster?

The lobster has become somewhat of a mascot for us, due to a book we're both reading which was written by a clinical psychologist from Canada who has been making quite some waves during the last year or so. Funnily enough, I bought this little finger puppet on our trip to New Hampshire & Maine as a souvenir quite a few years ago. He's been living in my "teaching props" bag since then, but lately he hangs out in our living room.

Scotland, here we come!

North Mull, view from Glengorm Castle

a burn on Mull

Loch Na Keal, Isle of Mull

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Benefits of Learning German

The answer to the question "Why should I learn German?" may seem obvious when the person asking is living in a German-speaking country. Apparently it isn't, though, judging by the number of people from various countries who post questions on expat-Germany forums asking, "Can I find a job in Germany that pays a good salary if I don't speak German?"

Such a person may be able to find a job here in a company or school where speaking only English works for that person, but what about all the time spent not-at-work?

Horb am Neckar
On the surface or basic level, anyone can come up with reasons for learning and speaking confidently the language of the country in which they live. Grocery shopping is easier, you can ask for help when you need it, you can follow signs in a department store to find what you need... But there are other benefits that reach to a deeper level, which one might not think about - especially before moving to that country.

These are areas in which I benefit - almost daily - from being able to speak and understand German. My inspiration for writing this post is #10. In case I've been too long-winded and dull, you can just skip to the end.

1. Driving - Fahren

If you've followed me for a while, you know I hate driving here, at least out of our community. However, when M and I go somewhere, he drives because he likes public transportation about as much as I like driving on the Autobahn and country roads. For those who drive here, being able to understand the Verkehrsfunk is helpful essential! You're on the A8 driving from Pforzheim to München, and you just heard there's an accident involving two semis and six cars just shy of Stuttgart, and the Autobahn is shut down. Get off the Autobahn and find another way! If you can't, then make damn sure you form a Rettungsgasse!

"Cool! No Stau!"
Think so, do ya? Wait for the Verkehrsfunk.
Bet there's one just around that bend.
The Verkehrsfunk will tell you how long the Stau is and often how much extra time you need to factor into your Fahrt (drive - giggle giggle). If you don't understand German, when the Verkehrsfunk busts into your favorite song you'll be left wondering what the hell is going on - both why some dude has interrupted your radio program, and why suddenly all the cars are slowing down, pulling way off to the sides of the road (left lane to the far left, everyone else to the right). Here's a hint - they are not clearing the way for you to get a free lane to Singen.

2. National News / Nachrichten

I can understand the news (most of it, anyway) from German sources, which expands my exposure to what's going on in the world. This is especially important for events that take place in Germany and Europe! I would not want to have to rely on English/American news to find out details about what is going on here.

3. Local News / Lokalnachrichten

I can read and understand the local (news)paper and online reports (Blaulicht), which are simply not available in English. If I want to know about events scheduled and happening in my small community - many of which are opportunities for meeting people! - I need to be able to read and understand German.

4. Information about Cities & Attractions

When I visit a town I haven't been to before, I want to be able to read about it to learn what I should see and do. Before I go to see a major attraction or a castle, I'd like some information about it beforehand so I know what is special about it. There is much more detailed information available about things and places to see in Germany in German. Compare the lengths of these two Wikipedia articles about the town of Esslingen - here's the English, and here's the German. Yah, yah, size doesn't matter. But information does.
This article about the Swabian Kehrwoche isn't even available in English!


5. Problems / Probleme

I can deal with most of my problems (appointment making or rescheduling, health insurance issues, shopping, returning a defective item...) myself without having to ask M for help. This is huge for someone who wants to be independent and not helpless!

I can also apply for a job, quit a job, and communicate with my colleagues.

6. Train Announcements / Ansagen

I can understand unexpected announcements on the train and not panic. For instance, on a trip to Esslingen once, the conductor announced that the track between Herrenberg and Böblingen was shut down because of "Personenschaden" (someone had thrown himself onto the tracks in front of an oncoming train), and she told everyone where to find the Ersatzbusse (replacement buses) that would transport us from Herrenberg to Böblingen via a detour.

I can also explain to other confused passengers when the conductor announces on the approach to Eutingen that the train we're on is going to split in two, and if anyone is on the wrong half of the train, there will be time to switch at the next stop - in case they didn't understand this sign:

The front half of this train is going to Rottweil.
The back half is going to Freudenstadt.

7. Vocabulary / Wortschatz

When I'm reading an English book and come to a new and unfamiliar word, I can often look up that word on my app (the only app I actually use on my smartphone) to find the German translation, which usually makes the meaning clear. I do this not infrequently; just the other day I came across the word "apostasy," and the German translation (Glaubensabfall) cleared it up for me.

8. Cooking / Kochen

I can cook with German recipes, which means I always find the required ingredients. I learned early in my expat life that American recipes usually do not work in Germany. Everything tastes different, and some ingredients just can't be found here.

It was in this magazine that I found our now-favorite Lamb Stew recipe...
...and also this crazy-delicious venison meal.

I can also take part in Kochkurse (cooking classes) here!! M and I have enjoyed doing those together.

9. Helping Others / Anderen Helfen

I have had several opportunities to offer assistance to someone who was struggling and confused because they didn't speak German, and the person to whom they were appealing for help did not speak English (at least not confidently). Despite what you've heard, everyone here does not speak English. Many people do, and at typical tourist attractions employees are likely required to, but there are no guarantees. I do not generally approach or speak to people here who are speaking American English, but if someone clearly needs help, I'm happy to offer it. 

This is also how I came to know some very special people, whom I am honored to call my friends. In 2015-16, many refugees came to Germany being able to speak English, but no German. I got involved locally and have had some of the greatest teaching experiences of my life.

10. Books / Bücher

Being able to read and understand German has allowed me to read books that are only available in German! A new one arrived yesterday noon about photographing owls and birds of prey, and I read all 320 pages by this afternoon. The craziest thing is that I have struggled to understand and retain a few certain camera functions and settings - having read plenty of explanations and books in English - and finally with this book it's sinking in!

The book on the left is a new one about Falknerei (falconry), and also fascinating. 

This series is also a favorite of mine - "Secrets of Home." The writers explore 50 different lesser-known stories or secrets of a town, revealing very interesting details - and the books are not available in English! I first came across the one about Esslingen three years ago, then the one for Tübingen, and seem to keep adding to my collection. Without this book I would not know some fascinating details, which I now include in the tours I give.

Bonus Benefit

I can follow the conversation M and his English mother are having, even when they randomly and unconsciously switch back and forth between English and German!

What about the rest of you? 
What benefits have you seen from learning the language of the country in which you're living?

Saturday, July 28, 2018

German and Swahili

Jambo! Habari gani?

When I went back to school in 1997 to obtain a minor to teach German (I already had my B.A. in English and my teaching license and had been teaching English part time for 2 years), one of the courses I needed to take was “Methods in Teaching Foreign Language.” My classmates were future teachers of Spanish, French, and German, and the professor wanted to demonstrate to us how it is possible to teach a language from day 1 using no English. Obviously she could not use any of our second languages because the point was to introduce a new language.

So she taught us Swahili.

She had spent some years in Kenya and was therefore comfortable with the basics, which was all she needed to demonstrate. In every German class I have ever taught, I used the method she taught us and reviewed with us nearly every day. Little did I know I would even have the opportunity to teach several groups of students some of those Swahili phrases I had learned in my methods class!

That class was my very first exposure to Swahili, but since then the language has come into my life again and again. If you go on the safari at Disney's Animal Kingdom in Florida, you'll be greeted in Swahili. A friend of mine in Esslingen spent some years in Kenya and learned Swahili, and when I discovered that I greeted him with, "Jambo!" My aunt and uncle spent some time in Kenya a number of years ago and came back with a CD of music in Swahili, which I still have. My dad and M's host father went on a Photo-Safari in Tanzania and Kenya and came back with great pictures and fascinating tales. 

The methods teacher taught us to count from 1 to 10 (which I can still do), how to say hello and introduce ourselves, and ask someone else’s name. She taught us more than that, but that’s what I’ve retained. And as I said, I have used her method in each beginning German class I've taught. The teacher uses lots of body language and gestures but speaks no English.

As an example, to teach the numbers, I start counting with my fingers: “moja-mbili-tatu-nne-tano!” Then I repeat. Then I gesture for the students to say the numbers with me and use their fingers, too. We count 1-5 and then 5-1, repeating often. Then I pass out cards with number words on them to five different students, write 1-2-3-4-5 on the board, and gesture for them to put the cards under the corresponding number. The student who feels unsure can wait for all the others to place their cards. Then we read the numbers while I point to each one – this helps the visual learners (like me!) who need to see a word written out in order to confidently pronounce it. I point to the numbers in a random order while they read them, then I remove the cards and point only to the numbers. I hold up various amounts of fingers while they call out the numbers. The next day I add “sita-saba-nane-tisa-kumi”!

Jina langu ni Frau HejlJina lako ni nani?“ Through pointing to my name tag and gestures, I get them to understand what I’m asking, and they hesitatingly give their name. Then through repetition I get them to say the whole sentence: “Jina langu ni Julie!”

This is so much fun every time!

At what point did I actually have the chance to teach my students in Wisconsin some Swahili? First of all I taught American Literature and added Hemingway’s “The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber” to my curriculum. The story takes place in Kenya and is peppered with a few Swahili words – Bwana, Memsahib – so I started the days we read it by teaching them the numbers and phrases I’d learned. Then to my German level 3&4 class I added what is still my all-time favorite movie to the curriculum: Nirgendwo in Afrika (2001). Through that movie my students and I learned more Swahili words and phrases. They even had to take a vocabulary quiz in German & Swahili – no English at all!

What is the Swahili word for Brunnen? KisimaFeuer? MojaKind? Toto!

And guess what? If you have seen “the Lion King” (and who hasn’t?), you also know some Swahili words!
Safari = Reise = journey
Rafiki = Freund = friend
Hakuna matata! = Keine Sorgen! = No worries!
What got me thinking enough about Swahili to write this post? This beautiful song. (You can thank me later.) I wrote recently that I obsess about songs on occasion, and I cannot stop listening to this one. There is so much heart and soul in African music! Here it is with just the lyrics. I’ve learned the chorus and will work on the rest of the song next.

Incidentally, I cannot recommend Nirgendwo in Afrika (Nowhere in Africa) enough. It is a brilliant film about family, war, prejudice, home, language, friendship, expatriates, sacrifice, love, and culture shock. It focuses on a Jewish family who flees Germany in the 1930s and settles in Kenya, where the mother/wife ironically has many prejudices against the Kenyan natives. It is an autobiographical story, told by the writer Stefanie Zweig. The scenery, the soundtrack, the actors...all superb. It surely earned its Oscar for best foreign film.

I'm a lover of film quotes, and here's a taste:

 "Es ist wunderschön. Aber hier können wir doch nicht leben." ~Jettel
   "It's lovely. But we can't live here."

 "Das ist 'was Anderes. Weiße Frauen sind hilflos. Schwarze Frauen nicht."  ~Owuor
   "That's different. White women are helpless. Black women aren't."

 "Ich kann mich gar nicht mehr an Deutschland erinnern." ~Regina
   "I can't even remember Germany anymore."

If I'm being honest, I wrote this blog post for the purpose of sharing the song "Baba Yetu" with you. Did you listen to it? Am I nutty for being captivated by it?

Sunday, July 15, 2018

Life Lately

Ahh....Summer! Even if the Rhododendron and Azaleas are just a memory and the Vergissmeinnicht are finished as well, our garden is still blooming with all kinds of other pretty flowers I don't know the names of. We've got some Hortensie (German spelling), Gänseblümchen (daisies), and roses, and of course it's been Furztrocken (dry as a fart) in our village for a long while, so we have to water most evenings. Everyone else seems to grumble about rainy days, but I do not!

It was beautifully cool the last week or so, which I find I like better than stifling heat - to me that's anything above 27°C (I'm a bit of a wimp). The heat will start to pick up now, and I'll be yearning for fall before long.

I thought I would write a general post about what I've been getting up to lately, just because. So here is what I have been...


homemade deodorant! I saw this on our noon show, ARD-Buffet, and I decided to give it a try. I don't like the fact that most anti-perspirants have aluminum salts in them (that's what turns your shirt armpits off-color, and smearing a metal on our skin every morning can't be good for us), and this is a simple recipe! I used 100 ml Hamameliswasser (witch hazel) and 3 ml Odex. The first day I used it I wasn't sure, but by the second day I was pleased with the result. It's very neutral, and I'm assuming mild and good for the skin. I'll have to see how well it works when the temps rise above 25°C, but the woman who showed how to make it said she has used in all her travels, including in Africa.


birthday cards and postcards to my children. They both live in Pennsylvania now, though they are still 6 hours apart by car! Their birthdays are 3 days apart in July.


the Razor's Edge, by W. Somerset Maugham. It's an old favorite, and it's possible this is my second time re-reading it.


two exchange students home three weeks early due to...let's just say misdeeds.


the value of the exchange program. I just don't know if it's worth it to take a chance we'll get more kids who pull what those kids did. Apart from that, one in particular was a huge pain in my neck and shockingly immature. This is volunteer work for me; I should not have to put up with that crap.


lamb chops - the taste of Scotland

Lachsburger und Pommes
When my salmon burger came, I asked the waitress for some ketchup before trying the curry-mustard dip that came with it. I could have saved her the trouble, the curry dip was so delicious! And I don't even really like curry.


cherry tomatoes! I love tomatoes, M hates them, but luckily for me he likes growing vegetables. We've got some peppers growing in the same Hochbeet and Kopfsalat in another one, but the tomatoes are what make me happy. My snack yesterday afternoon was a few too many Tomaten-Mozzarella-Basilikum Spieße.

feeling guilty about

the amount of sleeping I do! I swear, I nap as much as a useless cat. We're pretty sure I was a cat in a former life, which keeps us wondering what on earth I did to get down-graded to human in this one.

daydreaming about

SCOTLAND!!!! Our next trip to Mull is happening in September, and we're both looking forward to it. I've done my share of gallivanting this year, but it's M's only time away from the office. 

Isle of Mull looking north over the sea

Highland coos on Mull

Urquhart Castle on Loch Ness

What have you been up to?