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June 28, 2006

Wet Coast. Heh.

Found this little poem over on Miss Snark and thought I'd share. Don't worry, it's short.

Though I still firmly believe that true Northwesterners rarely succumb to the lure of the umbrella. We're rugged like that.

June 27, 2006

The Luxury of Time

Today was the perfect day. Really.

I slept in, and woke up when I was ready. I had a lovely lunch at the Fruitmarket Gallery Cafe (cheap, too), then wandered down to Princes Street.

It was a beautiful day. Clouds rolling through the sky. Warm, but not hot, and with a light breeze. I wandered in a new direction, down George Street. I found an adorable modern jewellry gallery, and got a pair of earrings. And then I found the good Waterstone's.

The Waterstone's on Princes Street was small and didn't have what I was looking for. But this Waterstones, on George Street, had everything. I picked up a big Scotland Road Atlas (for tomorrow's adventure), and found a new Moleskine Large Ruled Reporters Notebook. (Aside on the Moleskine: its the perfect writing notebook. Good quality paper that's thick enough to write on both sides. Because the binding is at the top, my hand doesn't cramp at the edges orf the paper, and no space is wasted. Thick cover, with an elastic band that keeps it from flopping about. Plus, it's small enough to stick in my purse and leave plenty of room for everything else.). This was the fifth store I'd gone in looking for a new notebook, as I'm almost finished with the two I brought with me from home. And this was the first store that had what I needed.

The Good Waterstone's has a cafe inside, where I got what might be the world's largest cappucino. It was a very comfortable cafe, with a good vibe, so I pulled out my notebook and wrote a bit.

When the world's largest cappucino had been drained, I got to do one of my favorite things, wander through a bookstore. The shelves beckoned to me, but I remained relatively restrained. And I had them reserve a copy of The Crow for me, so I wouldn't have to worry about finding it when it comes out on July 3. After the bookstore, I wandered some more, and found a Starbucks with outdoor seating.

And today, Starbucks came through. Like a champ. First, I was finally able to purchase lemonade! For some reason, lemonade appears to be a code word for "Sprite" in Europe. And I love lemonade - not sprite - lemonade. Just lemons, water, and sugar. This lemonade had some lime juice in it as well, but it's as close as I've had in weeks. And it was wonderful. The second way Starbucks came through was that this was my view when I paused in my writing and looked up.

I came home to drop everything off, then headed back to the Grain Store for dinner. When I walked in, they greeted me like an old friend, even though I've only been there once before. I got my "usual" table, and kind of felt like I'd just walked into Cheers. I had a nice leisurely meal, enjoyed the atmosphere of the stone walls, candlelight, and wooden tables, and wrote more. I had soup, and venison (mmm. bambi.), a strawberry ice-cream-like dessert, and coffee. As we were chatting before I left, the owner, Paul, confirmed that Ullapool and Orkney were good choices, which was, of course, a nice confirmation to hear.

This one day was exactly what I'd envisioned when I planned my trip. Relaxed. Writing a lot, but having it flow naturally, and finding that it reads well when I go back through it. Calm. And fun.

So now you know what I was looking for. It was so nice for that ideal to actually come true.

Highland and Island Adventures

I decided it was time to get out and see a little of the countryside, so last weekend, I went into a planning frenzy. I almost went with one of these tours, but, ultimately, the siren call of the ruins on Orkney (which my dad turned me onto) were too powerful to resist.

I've rented a car, and leave tomorrow for a fun little adventure (yes, manual transmission on the other side of the road does fall into my definition of fun). Here's the plan:

Day One
Edinburgh to Ullapool. Staying at the Ceilidh Place (apparently, it's pronounced "kay-lee." No, really).

Day Two
Hanging in Ullapool and Wester Ross.

Day Three
Ullapool to Scrabster. Ferry to Stromness, Orkney. Staying at the Orca Hotel (pronounced as it looks).

Day Four
Ruins, ruins, ruins and a cathedral on Orkney.

Day Five
Ferry back to Scrabster. Scrabster to Aberdeen. Long drive. Saying at the Thistle Aberdeen Caledonian.

Day Six
Aberdeen to Edinburgh. Stop at Dunnnottar Castle. One good castle ruin is worth 100 ho-hum ones. The pictures remind me a bit of Dunluce Castle.

Should be fun, no?

June 21, 2006


The whole goal for this sabbatical was to actually sit and write. I wanted to see if I could do it, and if I had it in me to musle through and complete a novel. I'm ending with a trip to the Pacific Northwest Writer's Conference, and I hope that it'll be a good, fun way to round out the sabbatical experience. I'll be very happy to have even the first draft of the manuscript complete.

I haven't written about my writing yet, in part because it's a little scary to share this journey. But it's been going very well, especially for the past week or so. I feel as though I've found my groove. Plus, I sent an excerpt to a good friend of mine, and she said that it didn't suck! Well, at least the first 350 words don't suck! Hoorah!

One of the more interesting side effects has been that as I've gotten further into the writing process, and as the plot continues to develop, I've become less and less interested in reading fiction myself. I still can't wait for The Crow to be released (July 3rd! Huge benefit of being in the UK, since I don't believe the US release date is even set), and I really want to read it, but I find that I don't want to leave the world I'm creating. I'm actually staying up late thinking about how things should develop, which is fun, though it's been wreaking havoc on my sleep schedule (especially when combined with the clubbers who've found the alley behind my flat).

So, I'm aiming for a minimum of 20 pages (longhand) per day. Some days I make it, others I don't, but I'm trying not to stress either way. I've auditioned a few cafes and several restaurants, and really like writing surrounded by people. If nothing else, I can evesdrop on some very strange conversations when I'm stuck for a way forward.

So, that's that. Wish me luck!

June 18, 2006

Edinburgh Restaurant Report - Week One

Since I know a few people planning trips to Edinburgh, I promised to keep track of where I ate and how it was. I didn't eat out much this week, so it'll be brief, and everything was within walking distance of my flat.

Without much further ado, here's the first in a series of four restaurant reports.

Petit Paris
38-40 Grassmarket (map)
Old Town
0131 226 2442
Cost: Moderate. £25 for soup, main, dessert, and coffe.
Thoughts: This was a charming, very Parisian cafe. I had the beef bourginon, which was good, though the souce was a little stronger than it ought to have been. The leek and potato soup needed a little more seasoning, but the chocolate tarte was quite good. The restaurant itself felt a little crowded - all the tables were rather close together, but it still had a congenial atmosphere.

15 Jeffrey Street (map)
Old Town
Tel No. (0131) 557 8184
Cost: Expensive. ~ £40 for an appetizer, main, dessert, and coffee.
Thoughts: I ended up here when it turned out the restaurant I had intended to go to was no longer in business. It was late, I was hungry, and Iggs looked reasonable. The scallop and jamon appetizer and blackberry sponge cake dessert were both fantastic, but the filet of Scottish beef was just okay, and had too much gristle. Also, though the wine list was very extensive (focused on Spanish wines), they didn't have any dinner wines by the glass. The restaurant atmosphere was very nice, trying for refined, and the service was polite, if a bit slow. If you go, stick with the seafood.

City Cafe
19 Blair Street (map)
Old Town
0131 220 0125
Cost: Very Reasonable. £8 for a large brunch and two cups of coffee.
Thoughts: I had a great brunch here. The atmosphere is laid back and casual, definitely a place where you could sit and relax for a while without having anyone bother you to move along. Plus, when I asked for water they brough ice tap water with lemon (exactly what I wanted), rather than having to do the bottled still vs. mineral dance that you seem to have to do everywhere else. The tap water is great! I got the french toast with crispy bacon, and it was the perfect size for a Sunday brunch. City Cafe is definitely worth checking out.

North Bridge Brasserie
20 North Bridge (map)
Old Town
0131 622 2900
Cost: High Moderate. £30 for an appetizer, main, dessert, and coffee. Wine available by the glass or half bottle, as well as full bottles.
Thoughts: I loved North Bridge, and fully intend to go back. It was the best meal I've had on my trip, and the setting was spectacular - it's in the Scotsman Hotel, an old building with exquisite detailing and lovely views. I had the tomato salad, crispy sea bass, and chocolate fondue, and they were all perfectly done. The service was lovely, everyone was friendly, and I want to go back just to sit in the window seats in the bar. I also got a flyer advertising 2 course lunches for £12, which sounds like a great deal.

June 17, 2006

The Beeb

Travelling on my own has given me the chance to experience all sorts of British television, and it's been an interesting experience. When I was in Paris and sick, the only english channels were CNN and BBC World. I tried to watch MTV France for a while, but it took some concentrating (as an aside, they actually played music videos on MTV France in the morning. What a novel concept!). And, of course, in England, the BBC (and ITV) are the only options I seem to have. My report thus far:

These shows are worth checking out (or bittorrenting, as the case may be):
Dr. Who. So, yeah, maybe I'm the last person on the planet to realize that the new series of Dr. Who is worth checking out. I just found the old series disturbing when I was younger and it prejudiced me. I was wrong (there - I said it).
Manchild. I only saw one episode, but it was kind of like Sex and the City. For guys.
Sugar Rush. Teenage girl in Brighton dealing with coming out and finding love. It's poppy and fun and the episodes I saw had a great soundtrack.

I'm a bit embarrassed to admit this...
But I've become totlly sucked in to a show called Raven. So yeah. It's a kid's reality game show. Set in a classic knight fantasy kingdom. The host has feathers in his hair. And a cape of raven feathers. And a Scottish brogue. And he says things like "Let the challenge... begin!" and "May the luck of the Raven's Eye be with you." And the production values are just this side of cheesy. But I love it. It's totally the kind of show I would have loved to have been on when I was a kid.

Why, why, why do I let myself get sucked in?
Big Brother is like this ginormous train wreck. Every person in that house is a self-absorbed spoiled prat (and one or two of them may be clinically insane). And yet I keep letting myself zone out with it on. I just don't get it.

Four Things

Since Carol asked...

Four jobs I've had

* Volleyball coach. Surprise, surprise.
* In-N-Out Associate. "Hi, welcome to In-N-Out. How are you today? And would you like fries with that?" I still have the shirt. And the hat and nametag.
* Nanny. Kids are great, but I still like the part where I go home and leave them with their parents.
* Wells Fargo Agent. It's just a glorified teller position. And they wanted me to push ATM cards.

Four movies I can watch over and over

* Pirates of the Caribbean. Drink up me heartys, yo ho!
* Pride and Prejudice. Either the Colin Firth/Jennifer Ehle or the Matthew MacFadyen/Keira Knightley version, depending on time constraints. Also in the Austen vein, Emma with Gwyneth Paltrow and Jeremy Northam.
* The Court Jester. They broke the chalice from the palice!
* The Awful Truth. Cary Grant & Irene Dunne. Though there are several Cary Grant screwball comedies in the runnning for this spot...

Four places I've lived

* Portland, Oregon. Where I grew up.
* Spokane, Washington. Also affectionately termed "Spo-Vegas." 2 dorm rooms, 2 house rentals.
* Walnut Creek, California. Not the happening scene one might think.
* Sunnyvale, California. In a lovely 3 bedroom that *finally* has a new roof.

Four TV shows I love

* House. Mmmm. House. I could honestly stop here.
* Gilmore Girls. The platonic form of witty repartee.
* NCIS. Don't knock it till you've tried it. Abby rocks. So does Gibbs.
* Police Procedural of the Month. This slot is usually filled by Law & Order, any flavor, though I've recently become obsessed with CSI, original flavor only.

Four places I've vacationed

* The British Isles (Scotland, Ireland, London, and parts of Wales)
* New Zealand
* Europe (France, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, The Netherlands)
* China (East Coast. And Hong Kong.)

Four of my favorite dishes

* Lemon Chicken at Sue Hong in Menlo Park. Best. Lemon. Chicken. Ever.
* Bot Boi. It's a hamburger noodle dish my mom makes. Yum.
* Tofu special at Lucy's Tea House. The restaurant's gone now, but it was the perfect meal.
* The Godiva Chocolate Cheescake from the Cheescake Factory. For breakfast. With coffee.

Four sites I visit daily

* Miss Snark, the Literary Agent
* Slate. Yes, it has gone downhill somewhat. But I'll take Dahlia Lithwick, Human Nature, and the Ad Report Card any day.
* Daily Candy
* Amazon. I have a book problem. And it's just SO EASY.

Four places I would rather be right now

* Dude! I'm in Edinburgh! On sabbatical! There's nowhere else I'd rather be.

But for other times when I'm not in such a happy spot:

* At our monthly "Girl's Night Out" dinners
* Chilling at home reading
* Travelling pretty much anywhere

One blogger I am tagging

* Quiddle
* I don't have anyone else to put here (is that incredibly lame?) since Carol's already called vibespright out.
* June 27 Update: Kim, you're up!

June 15, 2006

I Heart Sainsburys

So, I have an apartment in Edinburgh for a month (woo!), and part of the reason for getting the apartment was the whole "self catering" idea. You know, cook some of my meals at home and the like. And the kitchen in the apartment is very cute and efficient.

On Monday night, I stopped at the local convenience store to get breakfast supplies. But a convenience store isn't exactly the best place to get filling sustenance, right? On Tuesday afternoon, I grabbed my purse and started walking to find a local grocery.

Well, I walked. And I walked. And I walked. In fact, I ended up walking all the way around Edinburgh castle. (For reference, this is where I'm staying. The green bit below Princes street is the castle outcropping). And I found the following: loads of cool buildings, Boots, H&M, many many many bars, but NO GROCERY STORES.

I did find a cheesemonger by my apartment, where I was able to pick up some cheese and bread, and next to them was a liquid deli, where I bought some port and two different whiskys to try (hey, when in Rome..). But cheese and alcohol won't really suffice for the entire month's food supply.

Even better, when I asked "where could I get some fresh fruit and vegetables around here?" the answer I got was a sad smile and "Sorry, luv. You're in a bad part of town for that. The best you'll do is Tesco."

Tesco? That does NOT sound like a fresh fruit sort of place, and the way he said it made me even more hesitant.

So I brought my cheese and liquor home and went onto the handy internet. Sure enough, no grocery stores around here at all. I had heard where a Sainsburys was, but it was going to be a bit of a hike. And then the power of the internet really came through...

On a lark, I went to http://sainsburys.co.uk and discovered that, oh yes! you can order your grocerys online and have them deliered to your home. And they had an open delivery spot on Wednesday afternoon!

Angels sung. And I spent an hour going through and getting all the staples, and lots of heavy stuff that I wouldn't want to drag back to the apartment on my own. And the Sainsburys man came today, on time, with loads and loads of bags. And the produce was lovely (really - these might be the best bell peppers I've ever had). And I had something to eat other than cheese, bread, or cornflakes today. And they gave me a free sample of some sort of chocolate candybar.

So now I feel free to go browse at the grocery store and know I won't feel compelled to buy anything in particular, so I can just grab whatever catches my fancy. Which is, of course, why I Heart Sainsburys.

June 14, 2006


I got into Hay-On-Wye around 5 on Saturday afternoon, and left Monday morning, so I really only had Sunday to explore the shops.

Hay-on-Wye BooksellerdThere were certainly books everywhere, but, despite having what seemed like a not-too-esoteric list, there were some authors I had a lot of difficulty finding. In some of the shops, there was a mustiness, and the haphazard way the books were piled was a little hard for me to take. What's more, as an aspiring author, being where so many books have come to die was a little sad. It makes the whole goal of being published seem like a little less of an accomplishment.

Fortunately, I discovered that this melancholy was due in large part to the shops I happened to wander into first. As soon as I found the right shops, my whole day truned around and I started having a much better time hunting for treasure.

Hay-on-Wye is a great town to wander - with a partly ruined castle in the center of town surrounded by old stone buildings, it doesn't lack for character. The non-book shops are also very browseable, though I had to be very careful since I lacked space in my luggage

I stayed at The Old Black Lion Inn for my two nights in Hay-On-Wye. It was a charming inn, which I would absolutely recommend. I had a single room, which was small, but clean and comfortable. The only problem I encountered, which is to be expected in any 17th century building, was that I am rather a bit taller than the peope for whom the building was originally built, so there was a lot of watching my head and ducking through doorways. I survived relatively unscathed - the nasty bump I got on the first day served as a reminder to mind my head for the rest of the trip.

The Old Black Lion is a DB&B on Saturday nights. My dinner Saturday was so good that I ended up eating in the restaurant again on Sunday night as well. The halibut from the main menu is fantastic, as were the cider and dessert wine. All of the staff were very warm and friendly. Since I got done shopping early, and it was a beutiful day out, I sat out on the patio in back, had a cider, and read for a few hours.

WTF? Deify Plums?

Several years ago, I was reading On Writing by Stephen King. Now, I'm not really a horror fan (way too good at scaring myself, plus I live alone), so I don't usually go for his writing, but I found that once I picked this book up, I could not stop. It was fantastic. Fantastic.

Anyway, he has a section on the basics of writing, and one of the things he talks about is following basic grammar rules. It goes something like this:

"Take any noun, put it with any verb, and you have a sentence. It never fails. Rocks explode. Jane transmits. Mountains float. These are all perfect sentences. Many such thoughts make little rational sense, but even the stranger ones (Plums deify!) have a kind of poetic weight that's nice."
- Stephen King, On Writing, page 114

And I had to agree. It does have a kind of poetic weight. He uses the phrase again a little later in the book, and by that point, it had stuck with me.

So, that's the story behind the blog name. I chose it because it was wacky (but fun). And because it had that whole writing connection. And, truth be told, because it was out there enough that I could still get my hands on the domain name.