Burns Night (25th January)

In honour of my Scottish roots I thought about making a Burns Supper tonight for dinner (haggis, neeps and tatties) but due to the lack of haggises in Illinois (there are no mountains for them to run around), and my unwillingness to pay $10 plus delivery for a tin of haggis from Amazon, we’re having lasagna instead.

True fact: Haggis only run round the mountainside in an anti-clockwise direction, therefore they have 2 legs on one side shorter than the other two. That’s how you catch them. Chase them clockwise round the mountain and they fall off. It’s a well known fact in Scotland. Ask The Google. Ignore the Wiki answer though and read the others. YW.

So the traditional Rabbie Burns poem that we read tonight is called ‘To a Haggis‘ but I’ve made my own version called ‘To a Lasagna‘….

Fair fa’ yer honest sonsie face, 
Great Chieftain o’ the pasta race.’

That’s as far as I got. It’s a work in progress.


Tomatoes. Absolutely nothing to do with Burns Night, haggis or even lasagna (except it’s an ingredient) but I didn’t have a photograph to match the blog post.

Anyway enjoy some traditional Scottish music brought into the 21st Century by Paolo Nutini.


Crossraguel Abbey

My recent trip home to Scotland wasn’t all party-party ye ken. Oh all right, MOST of it was party-party, but I did do some sightseeing and cultural stuff too. Despite Crossraguel Abbey being right on my doorstep (25 miles or so away) I had never visited before. I had driven past it many times, but never stopped and went in to explore. We have so much history and heritage around us we get kind of blasé about ancient buildings. It’s only now that I no longer live there that I appreciate how fabulous all of these buildings are what a great job organisations like Historic Scotland do at maintaining them.

I’m not going to go into the history of Crossraguel, mainly because I’d probably get it all wrong and this is a photography blog. I recommend you read about it here:


or here


Anyway I had a fabulous time exploring all the rooms and photographing everything I could. Unfortunately the main building (the church) was under scaffolding so I didn’t get any photographs of that, but if you Google Crossraguel you can see how impressive it is when not covered in scaffolding.

Crossraguel 1
Stonework, door and window details at Crossraguel
Crossraguel 9
Details of the Tower House

Crossraguel 8

View of part of the Abbey and the Tower House with the beautiful Ayrshire countryside in the background.

Crossraguel 4
The Dovecote

Crossraguel 10

Coo’s oan the wa’…. or translated to cows on the wall. Hah, not actually. They’re on the hill behind the Abbey but I liked how they seemed to be walking along the wall. the plaque on the wall here reads “ABOTT’S HOUSE. A series of cellars at ground level originally supported the Abbot’s apartments above.”

Crossraguel 2

Crossraguel 3

Actually I’m not sure what this was – I should have photographed the plaque and not just the hole. At first I thought it was a well, but I think I remember reading that it was actually a tomb and it’s just filled with water. I told you I’d get it wrong….

Crossraguel 5

Inside the Chapter House. How fabulous is the stonework, the windows and the arched ceiling?

Crossraguel 7

Some broken stone and pieces of carving dating back to the 12th century.

Crossraguel 6

The plaque on the left reads “A double tomb marker, with two elaborate crosses, a sword, shield and pike. The shield bore a chevron as the main charge, suggesting that the tomb commemorated members of the House of Kennedy.”

The plaque on the righ reads “The tombstone of Sir William Geruan, Priest, who died 9th April 1340. Sir William may have been vicar of one of the Abbey’s churches in Carrick. Note the chalice and paten.”

With the arrival of the Reformation in 1560, Crossraguel’s life as an active religious community came to an end. The last abbot, Quintin Kennedy, died in 1564 and a commendator, Alan Stewart, was appointed by the Crown to oversee the land and property owned by the abbey.

In 1569 Stewart signed over the abbey, its lands and revenues to Gilbert Kennedy, the 4th Earl of Cassilis. According to a complaint later made by Stewart to the Privy Council, his agreement was only extracted by the Earl by roasting him over a fire at Dunur Castle.

Turnberry (more Scottish photographs)

Last month when I was home in Scotland on holiday (vacation for US bloggers) some friends took us out for the day to a lovely restaurant (Wildings in Maidens, Ayrshire – highly recommended!)

Walking along the harbour wall in Maidens – I’ve always loved being near water, as a kid I was always coming home soaked to the skin!

We decided to have a wee walk along the Ayrshire coast to Turnberry.

Looking towards Maidens from Turnberry

I have wanted to photograph the lighthouse for years and I finally got the chance.

Turnberry Lighthouse

We were very lucky with the weather as you can see from the photographs because we got there before the storm came in.

Turnberry Lighthouse

While I was wandering about the cliffs, deciding on the best place to photograph from, the rest of the gang were being impressed by a couple of cars driving up to the lighthouse – the first was a Bently and the second was a McLaren which really impressed the guys.  I couldn’t have told you what it was… next photograph is one my friend took with her phone of the McLaren and Mr. Alba trying not to look impressed as the car passed him by…

McLaren, or if you’re like me, ‘A sporty black car’

So we got talking to a caddy, who told us for 3,000 GBPounds a night! you could rent a room in the lighthouse, which comes with it’s own private butler and chef. No wonder they’re driving McLarens and Bentleys!

Turnberry with the isle of Arran in the background

All of the accents of the golfers we could hear were Americans btw. I’m not sure how much it costs to play golf at Turnberry, but probably the locals can’t afford it!

Turnberry Golf Course (I think there’s 3 courses here but I’m not sure which one this is)

And of course there’s Turnberry Hotel itself. Beautiful and now owned by Mr. Trump, but I refuse to call it ‘Trump Turnberry’. This blog isn’t political at all and I am aware I’m a foreigner living in the USA but still it’s my blog and I can say it if I want – he’s an eejit….. but he does own a fabulous hotel and golf course!

Turnberry Hotel

Holibags and sickness

Hello my blogends (blogging friends). Apologies for my lack of commenting and general MIAness lately. I have great excuses though….

Firstly I was in Scotland (hame) on holiday, where I was busy partying (father-in-law’s 80th), meeting up with friends and relatives and eating all the food I possibly could for a fortnight. I did manage to visit a few places that I will blog about soon hopefully.

Secondly since I got back (8 days ago) I’ve been in bed sick. I’m not a good patient and always expect to wake up the next morning feeling better, but this time I just couldn’t shake it off. Anyway long story short, I went to the doctor who diagnosed Strep Throat so I’m finally on the road to recovery thanks to drugs (antibiotics before y’all shake your head at me!) I knew I was ill when I didn’t even want to eat any of the smuggled contrabrand (chocolate, crisps and biscuits) plus today is the first day I’ve felt like looking at my photographs from home.

So to let you know I’m still alive and (getting) well I’m sharing a Heilan Coo with you. Hope to catch up with all your lovely blogs soon.


Beautiful Scottish Redhead

All about ME!

I’ve just finished Jeffrey Deaver’s latest book (Steel Kiss) and I was going to blog about The Internet of Things and Spamming Fridges and all the other ways you can be spied upon online, then WordPress tells me this is my 100th post! Woohoo…. go me!!! So I’ve decided to tell you a little bit about me as I have picked up some new followers after doing the Photo 101 course. Welcome, come on in, grab a wine/beer, some snacks and lets mingle…. said the worst mingler in the world! Small talk and me just don’t go together I’m afraid.

So Hi, how are you doing? Glad to have met you here in Blogland. Who am I, how did I get here and why have I ended up blogging I hear you ask? (humour me!)

Loch Lomond lowres
Home – Loch Lomond, Scotland

Well I’m a British ex-pat living in the Mid-West USA. I moved here in 2010 with my family from Ayrshire in Scotland and have loved every minute of our adventure here. When they closed my husband’s factory down in Scotland he got offered a transfer with his company and basically they offered him anywhere in the world they had a factory, but I don’t speak French tres bien, nor Belgian and I refused to go to India, China or Poland so the USA was the sensible choice for us. Plus my family had all lived in the USA for over 20 years so I knew what I was moving to. Funny story – a week after I got married my mum, dad and sister all moved from Scotland to the USA Mid-West, then 20 years later when we moved to the Mid-West they all moved from the Mid-West to Florida! Do you think they’re trying to tell me something? I dragged a 15 year old girl and a 13 year old boy away from all their family and friends in Scotland and my daughter declared her life was over! Son didn’t really care, as long as they have electricity to plug in his x-box he was happy…. It took about 2 days for them to settle in at school and they haven’t looked back once! Daughter is now set to graduate college in December and son is a Freshman and has the whole world in front of him! I couldn’t be prouder of both of them.

Home now – somewhere in Illinois

Anyway, back to me! I work freelance from home as a Graphic Designer, but I’m actually a wannabe photographer. That’s not true, I’m actually a wannabe spy, but it’s hard to get spying gigs in the prairies. Sometimes I manage to sell a photograph and that keeps me happy for a while. I did try my hand at portraits for a while, but so much work for very little money and so much stress was taking away the enjoyment of photography, so it’s back to a hobby for me now and I’m loving it again. Working from home leaves LOTS of time for messing around on t’internet and that’s where blogging comes in. I decided last year to try and blog about my photographs… so here I am!

Well that’s me. Pretty boring, middle-aged, music-loving, read-a-holic blogger. With a dog. What else would you like to know? If you would like to know more you can ask me questions in the comments and I’ll answer truthfully. Obviously I’m not going to tell you my bank account number or anything silly like that (BTW my bank account is VERY silly – remember I have 2 kids in college!) So go on. Ask me any question.



Photo 101: Home – it smells like rain

rain leaves

Why does home smell like rain?

Well I’ve been living in the Mid-West USA for nearly 6 years now but home is Scotland (the country, not the small Mid-West town) and I am still in love with the weather here – real snow and hot summers and very little rain! Whenever it’s a dull grey day we always say to each other “Aye, it’s a guid Scottish day today!” and I can always smell whenever it’s going to rain. The rain is very rarely persistent all-day ‘dreich’ rain like we get back home in Scotland. It’s mostly the Monsoon-type where it pours down then just as suddenly stops. So to have a rainy day (like today – just when I wanted a nice day to start the Photo 101 course) is very unusual. That’s why home smells like rain.

As an aside, the Mid-West is not the most photogenic of places, but I’m going to try and take fresh photographs every day and not use any of my stock of old ones. Last year I was a newbie blogger and did the Photo 101 but sometimes reverted back to here’s one I did earlier – check out last year’s interpretation of ‘home’ here https://alba1047.wordpress.com/2015/03/02/photography-101-home/ Scotland, one of the most beautiful countries in the world (although Wales comes in close, eh D?) 😉

The Top Ten things I miss about home at Christmas

Christmas card 2 low resLying awake at 3am last night I was thinking of all the things I miss about home (Scotland) at this time of year and decided it’d be a good blog (Yayy, I FINALLY have something to write about!) Anyway here is my top ten list of all things British I miss about Christmas in the USA.

Mincemeat Pies

Friends and Family – maybe that should have been the top one, but hey, none of my friends and family read this so they won’t even know. And I mean I miss them all the time, but I only miss mincemeat pies at Christmas!

Cheesey Christmas Music – the USA does have it’s own cheesey Christmas music, but they don’t have Slade, Wizzard, Elton, Jona Lewie or the best Christmas song ever, The Pogues and Fairytale of New York blasting out of every shop.

Selection Boxes – no more need be said on British chocolate I think!

Marks and Spencer – wee sausage rolls, sausages wrapped in bacon, stuffing, wee bits of cheese wrapped in bacon (tried to make them last year and ended up with a baking tray full of melted cheese and limp bacon. It was not pretty)

Work Christmas Party Nights Out – the chance to have fun and let your hair down with your co-workers and laugh at the boss dancing with his secretary.

The Rain – just checking you’re still with me. Of course I don’t miss the rain!

Boxing Day – I know Canadians do Boxing Day, why don’t Americans? We do it anyway and when American friends ask what we do on Boxing Day I just say it’s like Christmas Day all over again but less stressful and without the prezzies.

Mincemeat Pies – I said that already, but I can’t remember the other 2 things. Damn, I should have written them down last night…

Can any Brits fill in anything I’ve missed? I would have said Christmas specials on the TV, but I never watched soaps and the only Christmas special I watched was Doctor Who… so I guess Doctor Who can be my 10th thing. Yayy, success!


Doing exceedingly Scottish things

Last week was a bummer… but Friday night lifted it out of the doldrums!

Love me a good concert, especially when I can be patriotic and let my Ninja-Scottishness come out. Heck, I was even up dancing – not the Highland Fling although I CAN do it, but I’m still all stookied up with my broken wrist (that’s MY excuse and I’m sticking to it!) Anyway, brilliant concert Friday evening, if you ever get the chance to go see The Red Hot Chilli Pipers you should definitely go! My American friends also thought it was fantastic, so you don’t have to be Scottish to appreciate them.

Red Hot Chilli Pipers bagrocking

As an aside, I was there with my husband and daughter, who both laughed at me because I took my wee flag on a stick with me (it’s about 30cm) Did I even get to wave my flag once??? Naw, I didnae! Because they both waved it non-stop the whole evening!!!

Not quite a ceilidh but a pretty good party nonetheless. “Heuch!”

Portencross Pier

Portencross Pier from the bottom. Or from the side I should say.
Portencross Pier from the bottom. Or from the side I should say.

Just another quick post – still alive and kicking but finding myself pushed for time so blogging is taking a back-seat these days.

I love this old pier – it’s so photogenic, but there’s a bloody big hole in the middle of it you have to walk round to get to the end. Good job I don’t have a fear of heights! In the background is the isle of Arran. Arran should be on everyone’s bucket list. It’s been called ‘Scotland in miniature’ as it has it all – mountains, beaches, golf courses, 5 star hotels and cheese. What more could you ask for?

Happy weekend blogging friends.