Why would you want to go there?

Hey lovely readers! Thanks for hanging in there while I had a bit of a meltdown. I’m getting better now so I’ll get back to telling you about my holiday in California. 🙂

Several times when we first arrived in the States (starting with the border patrol) we were asked where we were travelling to. Every time when we responded that we would be heading up to Redding we were asked ‘What’s in Redding?’ or ‘Why would you want to go there?’. Apparently Redding doesn’t have a great reputation in California and isn’t known for it’s steady stream of tourists. 🤔

After our busy few days in San Francisco and the skydiving adventure and wine tasting in Napa we drove north. This part of our visit was a little less hectic in terms of visiting tourist attractions but we fitted plenty in all the same.

On two of our five full days in Redding we visited Bethel Church. On the Wednesday we went to classes with our daughter and on Sunday to the church service. I love listening to or watching Bethel worship on YouTube so it was great to experience it in person. It was every bit as professional as I expected it to be but it was also more homely. I felt totally comfortable there like I could just fit right in. Often when I’ve been to larger churches in the past it has felt more like attending a performance. I didn’t get that there and that was refreshing. Both days the main speaker was Kris Valloton who just happens to be my favourite Bethel speaker to listen to. I enjoy his sense of humour and down to earth way of communicating. He had the same sermon title on both days (although the message was slightly different): ‘Mirror, Mirror on the wall, who am I and what’s my call?’ It was the perfect topic for me right now. I guess identity and calling have been a big part of where I’m at on my journey. Maybe I’ll say more about that in another post at some point?

Sundial bridge in Redding in weather that looks like home

We visited a couple of beautiful spots while staying in Redding. One day we drove to Shasta Dam and to Whiskeytown Lake. We had a bit of a walk over the dam and scrambled down the small embankment to the lake. It was another one of those clear, sunny days that brings out the allure of creation in the most stunning way. There were a couple of days while we were in Northern California where the sky was a little grey but thankfully one of them was the day we were in classes and the other brightened up as the day went on so that was okay.

Shasta Dam
Views on either side of the dam
Whiskeytown Lake
I was impressed by the size of the pine cones

One of the most random highlights of our trip was getting to experience stores that we don’t find in the UK. When I was teaching (particularly in Primary 1) I spent a lot of time looking for ideas for fun and interactive activities to do with the children on Pinterest. (Every teacher should have Pinterest boards! 😂) Often the ideas that I pinned involved ‘picking up’ this or that from your local Dollar Tree or Target. Obviously I had to make do with whatever I could find in Poundland or Tesco. Well I got to see these and many other US stores. We loved the fact that in Win Co you can find so many items in large canisters that you can dispense into bags so you can buy just what you need. We were entertained by the huge cereal bags that were the size of large bags of dog food or something comparable (in fact the size of many items was pretty impressive!) My hubby had fun looking round stores to see if they had guns for sale. I was gobsmacked to see machetes hanging up in Walmart for anyone to lift while bicycle locks were in a secured glass cabinet. I really don’t get that! We explored a mall and managed to get a few items to add to our daughter’s slightly depleted student wardrobe which she appreciated.

While staying in Redding we also met several of our daughter’s friends and enjoyed a meal with some of them. We were able to make use of the hot tub at the Airbnb we stayed at which was pretty cool and my hubby started talking about how we could rearrange our garden to fit one in – as if it will actually happen! 😝

On the Saturday we drove to the town/city of Eureka and visited Sequoia Park. The name Sequoia is meaningful to our family so it was fun to go there and see the redwoods even though we didn’t have time to go to Sequoia National Park. The downside of that particular trip was that hubby hardly spoke to me all the way there or back. Maybe he was just nervous of my driving – understandable I guess 😂. Anyway he’s talking to me again now so that’s okay.

Under the redwoods

I think that’s pretty much covered all the highlights of our trip to California so I guess you have boring posts about life in Scotland to look forward to for a while now. Sorry! 😝

A Present to Remember

I hope you enjoyed reading about my first few days in California in my previous post. On the Sunday (our third full day in the States) we picked up the hire car and left San Francisco for a motel in Napa. We didn’t go straight there though as we had an exciting stop on the way.

For Christmas our (adult) kids bought us a present to remember. While videoing the moment for our daughter to watch later, our son handed over a rolled up piece of paper; like a scroll. When we opened it out it said this: You are going Skydiving over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco! My jaw almost hit the floor. I don’t know if our kids were trying to thrill us or kill us 😅. Amazingly, since I’m pretty scared of heights (or at least looking down from a height) my reaction was actually one of excitement. I might have mentioned this when I wrote about facing this fear in Croatia last summer but I don’t even like looking over the rail on the first floor at the shopping mall so jumping/diving/falling out of a plane at 10 000 feet is just a little bit terrifying! 😱

We arrived earlier than expected at the skydiving centre and were quickly handed a four page form to fill out. It was pretty repetitive but required a lot of signatures. In effect it said ‘I understand that I might die doing this and my estate cannot sue the company for any reason’ over and over. Almost seems like they’re trying to talk themselves out of business? Obviously though, many people like us, are daft enough to go through with it despite all the warnings.

I was a little nervous walking out to the tiny plane (we were literally squashed in like sardines) but not as much as I thought I’d be. Maybe it’s one outcome of having struggled with depression for a while but death doesn’t feel like the worst outcome these days (not that I actually thought I’d die). I don’t mean that to sound morbid, I’m not suicidal and I don’t want to die but it just doesn’t feel like it would be that terrible any more if that makes any sense? Anyway, I did also pray heading up in the plane. I literally told God that my life was in his hands – which it was. Well that and attached to a guy, with the same name as my son, by a harness.

The views from the plane were stunning. The Golden Gate Bridge was visible in the distance (we weren’t actually skydiving over it) and we could see San Francisco and the coast and lots of lush green countryside. Hubby and his instructor were nearest the door while I was squished in with my instructor behind the pilot. This meant that they left the plane first. I didn’t exactly have time to think though before we were getting into position too.

They had given us brief instructions while on the ground about how to position yourself for the dive etc and one of those instructions was to keep your head back while exiting the plane. This worked out pretty well for me as I had decided that I just wouldn’t look down until I was actually falling. My reasoning was that the instructor I was harnessed to was about 6’5″ so I knew that if he decided to leave the plane I was going too, like it or not 😂. Right enough that’s pretty much how it happened. We got into position at the door with our legs dangled out of the plane (my heart was definitely in my throat just a bit at this point) and without much further ado we exited the plane and were falling at break neck speed towards the ground.

The initial free fall was an equally thrilling and nerve wracking experience. I did feel a bit panicked when I couldn’t catch my breath but I knew it wouldn’t last. There was a sudden jolt as the parachute was deployed and then calm. I could breathe again. As soon as the chute was open it was a really cool experience looking down at the earth and floating towards it and before I knew it it was all over and we were back on the ground. I have to admit that I was slightly relieved, but what an experience! Incidentally my hair looked hilarious when we landed; it was sticking up all over the place 😂.

There’s something significant happening with me to do with taking risks I think. It feels like I’ve started taking more risks like this one in life and I think it has some spiritual significance too. I started going to a study group at church just about a week ago and there was a lot of talk about taking risks in terms of growing your faith and also of not allowing fear any place in your life. When I heard that it resonated with me and I have a feeling I’ll be having to take some risks in my spiritual life too.

Once we were all safely back to the skydiving centre we purchased our videos and photos (have to have evidence since there’s a pretty good chance I won’t be doing that again 😂) and hopped back into the car to continue our journey as if jumping out of planes is something you do every day.

We drove on up to Napa where we ate at a lovely restaurant/cafe that reminded me of someone’s living room. After a decent night’s sleep we were up again for a slightly more relaxing kind of day – wine touring Napa Valley. We met a lovely couple from Vancouver on the tour and visited four different wineries. I have to say that I enjoyed pretty much all of the wines we tried – and there were quite a few. Thinking back I’m actually kind of surprised that I didn’t have a hangover after that. Maybe because it was spread out over the whole day? Anyway it was a gorgeous sunny day too and we had a fab time.

The first winery we visited (kinda forgot to take photos after this one 😝)

I guess I’ll leave it there for now and fill you in on the rest of the holiday (which was a lot quieter) in my next post. Talk soon.

I like to be in America!

I’m home! A few days ago now actually. Totally thought I’d have time to write and fill you in as I went along when we were away but the days were so packed that I didn’t get a minute. I’m still trying to decide whether to give you an overview in one post or several more detailed posts about what’s been going on over the last couple of weeks. Maybe I’ll just play it by ear?

Anyway as you know this was my first ever trip to America, in fact my first trip outside of Europe. I always enjoy going on holiday and seeing new places (especially when that’s accompanied by sunny weather) so I was expecting to like seeing the States (well one state anyway). What I wasn’t expecting was how much I LOVED it! Wow! California was beautiful. I was surprised that some of the landscape (mountains, lakes and coast) reminded me of home but with sunnier weather and bluer skies. Everything about the place was just a bit EXTRA if that makes any sense?

We arrived in San Francisco on the same day as our daughter. She’d been in Michigan for Christmas and New Year with a friend. It was SO good to see her again although as soon as we saw her it was like we hadn’t been apart. Naturally the best thing about being over there was seeing her but there were many other lovely things too.

Our first view of the city

San Francisco made a very good first impression on me. I loved the cable cars and Fisherman’s Wharf.

San Francisco cable car
Pier 39 at Fisherman’s Wharf
Sea lions on the pier

We enjoyed a trip to Alcatraz and went on to the Golden Gate Bridge.

Alcatraz
The Golden Gate Bridge

We ate in restaurants that we don’t have back home and I confess I didn’t stick to my diet 100% of the time (probably worse for everyone else than for me 😝). On our first day there we had a delicious meal at an authentic Chinese restaurant in Chinatown courtesy of one of our daughter’s friends who was able to order for us in Chinese.

Clam Chowder in a Sourdough bowl from Boudin’s Bakery

We visited the Musée Mécanique which is like a museum of arcade games that you can play with quarters. It was pretty good fun as there were some really cool old games there.

One of the old arcade games

We enjoyed exploring the city and visiting shops (stores) that we hadn’t been in before.

My first visit to Bloomingdales
A public space in the city centre

I did pretty much all of the driving which was fun/slightly terrifying for my passengers. The car we hired was really comfortable and had some nice features and I’d forgotten how much I enjoy heated car seats. I think I coped pretty well with the driving and different road rules because I only had one meltdown with the ‘backseat driver’ 😂. I was pretty much getting the hang of it when it was time to leave. I never really got why anyone would want to take a road trip across the States before but having driven there a bit now I’d be up for it. It’s not like driving here. That would be a fun trip to plan – maybe for my next big birthday? 😝

I haven’t posted much about songs or music recently but some of you know that there is often a random song going around in my head. Perhaps unsurprisingly it was this song from West Side Story that was in my thoughts during my first couple of days in the States. 😊

I’m thinking that’s probably enough info for one post. So that takes us to Day 3 of the trip. I’ll fill you in on the escapades of Day 4 soon. Let’s just say it was a pretty hair-raising day. 😱

Leaving on a jet plane

Right now I’m a little over half way through the longest flight I’ve ever been on (I’m somewhere over Canada in fact). It’s not the most comfortable experience – I’m definitely not used to sitting on my butt for this long and it’s been a bit bumpy in places. It will be worth it though. In a few hours I’ll get to see my gorgeous girl and actually give her a hug which I haven’t been able to do since she headed off to California in August. I can’t wait.

I’ve been keeping myself entertained. Got a nice wee pic of the sky this morning taken on flight number 1 to London.

I’ve got through a couple of chapters of the book I’m currently reading (Becoming by Michelle Obama). It’s a great story so far. Hopefully no one will think I’m making any sort of political statement reading her book on the way to Trump’s America! 😂 I’ve listened to a bit of an audio book (Blink by Malcolm Gladwell) and played a couple of games on the console on the back of the seat in front. I think that seat is actually broken. It looks like it’s at a bit of an angle and the man sitting there keeps shifting about to try and get comfortable. I’ve watched a couple of movies that I’d been wanting to see but not got round to yet – Wild Rose and Rocketman. Is it significant that I go for the music related themes? Anyway I loved both stories. Neither of these artists have had easy lives. I felt pretty sorry for Elton John watching Rocketman. I mean I know he’s loaded but it seems like he’s just a little boy craving love. I guess there are quite a few people with that story.

They said at one point that there was WiFi on this flight and I was thinking I could catch up on reading some blogs and stuff but it turns out the availability is limited and of course there’s an extra charge so I’ll just wait till we get to the hotel before I do that.

I was planning to sleep a bit first thing when we left and then stay awake to try to adjust my body clock and avoid jet lag. I didn’t manage to sleep much though so now I’ll just need to try to stay awake. It’s going to be a long day! 😝

The airline food has been pretty good although I didn’t request a special diet and now my stomach is a bit sore. I’ll survive of course. 😊

Well I guess I’m just rambling on a bit here and not saying anything that’s of much interest to anyone else 😂 so I should probably leave this for now. I’ll have landed before I can post it obviously. We have lots of cool plans while we’re in California (wine tour, visit to Alcatraz, skydive – yes you did read that right 😱) so I’ll fill you in when I get a chance.

If you have any ‘must see’ suggestions for our trip let me know in the comments. Talk to you soon.

Goodbye 2019!

I’ve been thinking about writing this post for a few days now and I keep putting it off. Partly that’s because I’m a little scared to look back on this year and go through some of the most painful emotions again… so I’ve decided to avoid those to an extent. It’s not that I don’t want to be real – it’s just that I need to work out when it’s helpful for me to look back and when it just makes the depression more difficult. Having said that there have also been some really good times this year and I’m grateful for those and don’t want to forget about them.

I’ve been to some cracking music gigs – Charles Esten; Country 2 Country (where my favourites were Lady Antebellum and Ingrid Andress); Cassia supported by Alfie Neale (twice); The Cactus Blossoms; Joseph and finally Emeli Sande supported by Ben Monteith. I’ve loved all of these for different reasons. I don’t have any more gigs lined up right now but there will definitely be more next year. There have been good books, meals out, trips to the cinema, mini adventures, board games and lots of quality time with great friends and family.

Some of this year’s highlights have been travelling to Belgium and Paris, Croatia and some places not so far from home like Edinburgh and Carnoustie. I had a bit of fun looking for the Oor Wullie models in Glasgow and Edinburgh in the summer – sometimes with little B and sometimes not. For those of you who have never heard of Oor Wullie; he’s a pretty well known Scottish cartoon character who’s been around since the 1930s so he’s a bit older than me 😂.

One of the Oor Wullie models in Edinburgh

I had the Best Surprise Ever!! when my son came home from Australia in the summer and a more difficult time when my daughter left for California. Can’t wait to go over there to see her in a couple of days. I finally took the plunge and left teaching – no regrets about that. I’m loving my new job even though it’s not exactly a viable business yet. I’m spending more time with some new friends and some old ones than I had been doing and that’s been really good for me. I’m still blogging! Not something I’d ever thought I’d end up doing but it’s been a useful processing tool for me and a way to express myself. I’ve also found the blogging community to be really supportive and friendly.

At the beginning of 2019 I had decided that my goal was to ‘be a blessing‘ but I’ve found this a lot harder than I anticipated. I guess it takes that bit of extra effort to go out of your way to be kind to someone or help them. One of my friends insists that I’ve probably been more successful at this than I think just by being there for people but I suppose it’s not what I had in mind. I guess I know that across the year I have managed to be a blessing to a few people and hopefully that will continue and maybe even develop in the future.

I haven’t made any resolutions as such but looking forward to next year I have thought of a few things that I’d like to do more or less of. I’d like to try to restrict the time I spend on social media and spend more time reading books. I want to spend more time living in the present and being grateful for God’s blessings in my life now. To help me with this I’ve bought this cute little diary and I’m going to try to write down some things that I’m grateful for every day. I want to find a new freedom to be myself and say what I think (I don’t want to allow myself to be silenced any more). This one will probably be the hardest for me as I’ve trained myself to keep quiet over the years. I guess it’s taken me a long time to realise that it wasn’t good for me. I want to grow more as a person and in my relationship with God. I want to grow my business too – a lot easier said than done but I’m hopeful that as I feel stronger in myself I’ll be able to do what it takes.

That’s a lot of things to work on and if I plunge straight in to trying to do all that I will probably feel overwhelmed and fail miserably so I’m going to start first with the little diary and take it from there.

What have you been grateful for in 2019?

Is there anything you want to do more or less of in the New Year?

Thank you to everyone who has stuck with me through this year; reading my posts and sending lovely comments. I really appreciate you and I hope that 2020 brings you good health, prosperity and joy.

Still Alive!

Well I did it – and I made it. I was very much out of my comfort zone yesterday when we went canyoning. In case anyone hasn’t heard of canyoning you basically climb down into a canyon and then wade, swim or get pushed along the river by the rapids.

If you read my last post you’ll know this was a huge challenge for me because I really don’t like heights – particularly when you have to look over the edge of something – and since I was about six or seven years old I’ve been pretty scared of putting my head under water. That’s not without good reason; I almost drowned in a swimming pool at that age.

As you can imagine from these pics of our group there was a fair bit of looking over the edge getting down to the river Cetina and there was always a risk of your head ending up under the water while riding the rapids.

Have you ever had that feeling when you’re doing an activity in a group and you just know everyone else is better at it than you? I had that feeling a lot yesterday. I even asked one of the guides if they have the TV quiz show The Weakest Link over there. I kept waiting for someone to say ‘You are the weakest link. Goodbye!’ 😂

There were places where we had to climb up the side of the canyon a bit and dark tunnels to find your way through before heading back down to the water. The biggest challenge for me were the places where you can climb up the rocks a bit and jump into the water. Obviously that involves both my fears at once and since I don’t normally even jump into the swimming pool I wasn’t completely sure I was going to actually do it. There was always a way to get around these things so copping out was an option.

The first jump into the river was a smallish one so I decided pretty quick just to go for it. I’m sure I looked very awkward doing it but it wasn’t too bad and I only swallowed a little bit of water. I avoided the second one which was a lot higher but when it came to the third I watched lots of people doing it and started considering facing my fear.

It took a while but I decided to climb up the rock and do it. My son climbed up behind me and was encouraging me to go for it. I faltered quite a few times at the top. I couldn’t quite bring myself to actually jump. My legs were jelly looking over the edge but at the same time I was trying to tell myself that it was completely safe and everyone else was doing it and was fine. I don’t know if you’ve ever had to push yourself to do something that really scares you? If you have you’ll know what I was going through up there. Well in the end I managed to close my eyes and practically throw myself into the water. Unfortunately there is no photographic evidence because by the time I actually plucked up the courage the guide had put his camera away thinking that it wasn’t going to happen. 😝 Somewhere out there though are about 20 people who can vouch that I went through with it. The pic below shows someone else in the group doing the same jump so you can see what it looked like. I guess mine probably looked a lot less confident though 😂.

I’m not sure how much the whole experience helped me to conquer my fears but I’m glad I did it. Maybe next time it will be a little easier to persuade myself to jump even if I only manage to jump into the swimming pool.

I’m writing this post on the plane home so by the time I post it I’ll be safely back in my own house. No doubt it will be a lot cooler and damper than I’ve been used to for the last week or so but there will be benefits to being home too. At least I won’t get eaten by mozzies tonight, maybe just midgies!

Croatia so far…

I’m writing this this morning just in case I don’t make it home. 😝 Today we’re going canyoning which (from what I understand) basically involves two of my biggest fears – heights and water – including scary things called rapids!! I am determined to start facing more of my fears though so I’m gonna do it. Hopefully this won’t be my last post. 😂

So far Croatia has been gorgeous! I’ve definitely got my heat and sunlight fix for a little while. The temperature has been somewhere between 32 and 37 degrees Celsius every day and probably not much lower than 25 at night. Our apartment is close to the beach and there’s a shared pool so we’ve spent a bit of time at both of those. We’ve mixed up eating out and eating in but everything we’ve tasted has been really good.

In the first few days here we explored the old town of Split. It’s really pretty! We caught a glimpse of it in the dark last night too.

Split, Croatia

We’ve also been to Krka National Park which has the most stunning waterfalls. You can swim there in certain places too which is particularly welcome in this heat.

Krka National Park

On the way back I did something I’ve been putting off for a while – I drove a left hand drive car on the right hand side of the road (I’m used to driving on the left in the UK). It wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be. Mind you my family might not agree 😂. I’m starting to get the hang of it though.

We sheltered from the heat one day for a couple of hours in Vranjaca Cave which was impressive. I couldn’t really capture how awesome it looks with my phone. It was really fun to explore though.

Vranjaca Cave

Yesterday we took a catamaran to Korcula Island (about 2.5 hours away) to spend time with my friend E and her family. It was my daughter’s 24th birthday. I don’t know how it’s possible that I have a 24 year old! We had a nice catch up with our friends and enjoyed a swim in the turquoise blue sea water and a meal together before we headed back to our apartment.

Well that’s all from Croatia for now. I’m hopeful that today’s adventure won’t be my last. I’ll fill you in soon. X

A few days in Europe

I’m just home from a few days away with my friend E. (Well I was when I started writing this blog – as usual it’s taken me a while to get round to finishing it 😝.) We took a flight to Brussels on the Tuesday morning and went to stay with her husband’s aunt. She’s such a lovely wee lady and we’ve stayed with her before (a couple of years ago now).

Tuesday was mostly spent travelling. We left home at 9.30 am and got a taxi to the airport. We started our holiday with a wee Prosecco and breakfast after getting through security at the airport. The flight to Brussels doesn’t take long but with the time difference and the onward bus journey we didn’t get to Auntie B’s until around 5 pm. We had another wee glass or two of Prosecco (I confess we drank a lot this week) and some crisps to keep us going before getting settled in and heading out for food. We ate in a Spanish Italian restaurant that night and had steak and fries with salad – oh and more wine (of course 😂).

Pretty streets in Bruges

On the Wednesday we took a trip to Bruges by train. I didn’t visit Bruges on my last Belgian holiday and I’d been told it was beautiful. It was! The architecture was typically Flemish in many streets, with their stepped gables.

Flemish stepped gables

We had a traditional Belgian lunch with beer of course after which we enjoyed a canal boat tour.

Lovely views from the canal boat

We got some amazing views of the city this way.

Bruges from the canal

After our tour of Bruges we headed back to the train station and travelled on to Blankenberge (where I have been before). Blankenberge has these awesome bars on the beach with really comfy outdoor sofas and seating so it’s like relaxing in your living room but out in the sunshine. I love it! We had a couple of cocktails there before heading back to Brussels for the evening.

It was a very early start on Thursday (4am) as we were off to spend the day in Paris. I was so excited! I’ve never been in the centre of Paris before. The closest I’ve been was EuroDisney (when the kids were much younger). We got a train there and arrived at 7.30am – just in time for breakfast in a cute French cafe.

What a day! I must confess my diet went to pot but you can’t be in Paris and not have croissant and baguette for breakfast, not to mention the best omelette I’ve ever tasted!

A Parisian breakfast

After breakfast we bought day passes for the metro. Only €7 for the two central zones and we really got our money’s worth hoping on and off throughout the day as we literally whizzed from one tourist attraction to another. We managed to cover most of the really famous ones although if you really want to see Paris properly I’d recommend going for a week.

Arc de Triomphe

The Arc from underneath

The tomb of the unknown soldier

Champs-Élysées

The Eiffel Tower (of course 😝)

We also took a walking tour to see some of the lesser known points of interest (I literally had blisters on my feet by the end of the day – but my Fitbit was happy ’cause I chalked up 29539 steps!)

The newest Metro station in Paris

Art at the palace

Artwork in the street

Parisian street

Window shopping at Laboutins 👠

Fountain at Jardin des Tuileries

The Louvre from The Louvre 😊

She needs no introduction

Venus de Milo

What’s left of Notre Dame from the front

Sacre Coeur

We were exhausted but really happy when we fell into bed that night.

Friday was a more laid back day. We had a little bit of a lie in and then headed into Louisa in Brussels to a couple of our favourite shops – Dillie and Kamille and Hema. Bought ourselves a few wee treats to take home and then caught the tram to the Palace Gardens to read our books by the fountain in the sunshine.

The Palace in Brussels

Palace gardens

We finished off our last evening with a Brazilian buffet at a local restaurant.

It was a fab trip. Can’t wait to go back! If you enjoy travelling and you haven’t been I’d highly recommend Bruges and Paris. Definitely my highlights. If you’re still reading thanks for staying with me. Hope you enjoyed my pics. X