A Story about Mary Polly

A Story about Mary Polly

The summer that my only daughter turned nine we had been on the road in a camper for almost three months. Mary Polly has never been one for a big party, and we often celebrate her birthday with just one or two friends. This girl loves her down time, and she works hard to keep the edges of her days as low key as possible.

We wanted to do something special to celebrate her birthday that summer, so she and I caught the Victoria Clipper from Seattle to Victoria, British Columbia. For certain the most English place I’ve ever been to in North America, Victoria is all high tea and gorgeous gardens.

I had been once to Victoria, nine years earlier, when I was pregnant with Mary Polly. I had come on the ferry with family and friends. Mary Polly and I laughed as I told her all I remembered. My father had pushed Cole in a stroller all around the famous Butchart Gardens while just the girls went inside for tea.

I did not yet know that I was having a little girl, and I had not dreamed that nine years later I would be sitting in the same garden teahouse with my sweet daughter.

At nine, Mary Polly was already quite the traveling companion, foreshadowing many wonderful mother-daughter trips to come. She was all wide-eyed on the boat ride over, watching the waves and spotting the Olympic Mountains.

When we arrived at Butchart Gardens, I gave her the map and she lead us all around, marking the different spots and letting me know what we had left to see. She was completely enchanted by each new garden room, but her favorite was the Japanese garden.

When it came time for tea, she was a little worried about our not being dressy enough since all we had were the best possible versions of our camping clothes. But all thoughts of fashion were forgotten upon the arrival of the stacked trays of sweets and sandwiches. We took our time and made our tea stretch for as long as possible, staring out from our window seats into the perfectly manicured rose bushes and hedges. We discussed our fondest memories of the summer and what we were most looking forward to about giving up our camper and returning to our life at home, an event that was just a couple of weeks away.

After our garden tour and tea, we wandered around the buildings and the piers of Victoria. Mary Polly stopped to watch a street artist drawing elaborate pictures on the sidewalk, and she asked me for some money for his hat.  She looked at tea cups in shops with great awe and she carefully chose postcards for her cousins, which she wrote on the boat ride home.

She just seemed older in so many ways.  It’s the first birthday I can remember one of my children actually seeming a whole year older.  All of sudden she had grown into this little adult person, and it was a joy to be with her.

On our summer adventure of camping, Mary Polly and I relied on each other a lot for company.  We showered together, colored together, read together and fought Simon’s two year old tantrums together. We bonded over being the only girls amidst a pack of boys, and our girl day away in Victoria was like a little stolen gem of a moment in the midst of a summer of being covered in dirt. Most of our summer was in shades of brown and green, but this day was all pink and purple and white. The flowers and the tea cups and saucers were bright shades of feminine color that we had been missing in our blue jean days at camp.

I wanted to bottle up the moment of sitting in a garden tea room with my little girl and hold onto it forever. Now Mary Polly is almost fifteen, and I still love being with her. These days she carries the world heavy on her shoulders, but I can still see that wide-eyed redhead running carefree in a garden.

Bonus: Google+ album of my little girl in the garden.

Roseberry Topping Walk (13/48)

Roseberry Topping Walk, Walking with Children, North Yorkshire, North York Moors

Climbing Roseberry Topping in North Yorkshire, England for #13 of #48walks

I noticed a subtle difference between walking in North Yorkshire and walking in Aberdeenshire. The air was just a few degrees warmer and the fields a slightly brighter shade of green.

The kids and I found this walk that was just a few miles from where we were staying in Middlesbrough.

Roseberry Topping Walk, Walking with Children, North Yorkshire, North York Moors

Roseberry Topping was perfect for us because you can see your goal the entire time.


Roseberry Topping Walk, Walking with Children, North Yorkshire, North York Moors

Seeing the top makes it feel closer than it is, so the kids were constantly running ahead.

Roseberry Topping Walk, Walking with Children, North Yorkshire, North York Moors

I am usually dragging my kids out for walks these days, but then they are always way ahead of me.

Roseberry Topping Walk, Walking with Children, North Yorkshire, North York Moors

Partly because I can’t help but stop to turn around and take in the views.

Roseberry Topping Walk, Walking with Children, North Yorkshire, North York Moors

Spidery Sycamores + Yellow Fields = Gorgeous!

Roseberry Topping Walk, Walking with Children, North Yorkshire, North York Moors

360 degree views from the top (first photo) were unbelievable, but it was crazy windy up there! We quickly dropped back down to the other side of the hill after spotting this little monument.

We started this day on this hill and ended it playing in the sand by the North Sea. Pretty much perfect.

Roseberry Topping Walk, Walking with Children, North Yorkshire, North York Moors

Here’s a map and description of the walk and lots more photos in the Google+ album.

In The Pipeline

Ireland, Green, Donegal

We had a great week in North Yorkshire and now we’re off to Ireland. I’m so grateful for bloggers who have already scoped the area out for me, so we have lists full of wonderful recommendations for our trip to Killarney! Also, I have already been reminded of how wonderful Irish hospitality is by our house hosts. When they heard how late we will be arriving, they offered to have lamb stew ready for us when we arrive. Seriously, y’all? When was the last time you rented a house and the owner was that accommodating!

I love Ireland!

A few links!

Definitive tipping guide, including all those awkward situations you aren’t sure about.

Please take me along next time you go to Morocco!

I certainly feel this way about the Rockies!

My friend Jerusalem is celebrating the year anniversary of her book, A Homemade Year and her friend Jeanetta wrote such a sweet post about it + a giveaway.

I have always had this hunch about sugar but I didn’t want to hear it because I have such a sweet tooth.

If you are not a blogger, have you ever thought about starting one?

If you are a blogger and you ever do product reviews, you’ll love this tongue and cheek product review!

Webjet is giving away to tickets on Emirates Airlines. Bangkok or Johannesburg? I’ll take either, thank you.

This made me happy.

So did this. (Thanks Bob!)

Walking in Oakland.

Also, I’m over the moon about getting to be an official member of the team at Arkansas Women Bloggers, and if you are an Arkansas Blogger, I’ll be seeing you in September at the retreat in Rogers this year!

I hope you have a beautiful Holy Week! I have a new walk and a story on go for next week, but otherwise, my internet presence may be a little quiet. You can follow along on Instagram in case I find some internet now and then.





Snapshots of North Yorkshire, England

Roseberry Topping, Snapshots of England, North Yorkshire, North York Moors

We’ve been in North Yorkshire this week because Taido was presenting and attending a conference in Durham. Cole’s at camp, so I’ve just had three in tow as we explored on our own.

North York Moors, North Yorkshire, Snapshots of England

Our favorite day was spent in North York Moors National Park. We went for a walk in the morning up a big hill (Roseberry Topping).

North York Moors Visitor Center, North Yorkshire, Snapshots of England

Then we headed to the North York Moors Visitor Center where we played outside (super fun playground) and inside (climbing wall for little ones) before we had lunch in the tea room.


Next we stopped in at the train station in Goathland to see the steam engine train because it was one of the locations for filming Harry Potter. (Hogsmeade!)


We ended our day walking the beach in Whitby, a Yorkshire Coastal Village that I would love to return to.


It is picture perfect.


Snapshots of England, North Yorkshire Drive

Here’s a little map of the route we took. We spent between 1-2 hours walking around at each stop and on the way back to our hotel, my daughter said, “Mama, today was a great day!”

That’s high praise y’all.

Do you travel + Instagram? Join in IG Travel Thursday!



In The Pipeline

In The Pipeline, Taido and Alison Chino, Scotland

Taido and I have taken turns playing tour guide this week, and on Friday we teamed up for our friend’s last day in town and went to a local castle. This photo captures what the weather has been like all week. Mist + Rain + More Rain.

I went to my first European football game this week and I’m feeling grateful that I can check that off my list. I attend very few sporting events because I have no attention span for them. However, all the chanting and singing was fascinating to me. For a minute. By the time a man fell over drunk into our row (and on my friend), I was pretty much over it.

So. Much. Yelling.

I was a little afraid a fight was going to break out the whole time we were there.

Anyways, here are some fun links for your Sunday!

Happy video about Brick Lane, a favorite London neighborhood. Adorbs.

Do you blog about travel? Then you should apply for this dream job!

Enjoyed this reminder that in order to write we also need to read. (Yes! A good excuse to spend the rest of my weekend with a good book.)

A corner of Scotland I’ve yet to visit.

This makes me want to eat my way through Europe.

I love Venice.

Having fun on the cheap when you travel.

Hello someone who shares my passion for BREAD.

And for walks this week:

Jen walks us through a different side of her hometown. (Makes me homesick for Arkansas!)

A great list of UK walks. And Sue’s recap + photos of her Coast to Coast walk.

Melissa is walking into the past to tell a story.

I walked on a local beach  and also for the month of March, I walked through my journey of blogging over at Arkansas Women Bloggers.

We’re off tomorrow to England and Ireland for two weeks of Easter Holidays! (The school breaks here are gloriously long!)

A Story about Cole

A Story about Cole, Walking with Children

photo by Whitney Loibner

 A Story about Cole

Hello, Mom? I’m in trouble and I need you to come pick me up.

As a mom, you know you might get this phone call one day, but it still surprises you that first time it happens.

Cole is my first child.

I have strong memories of his nights as a baby, long hours spent holding him, walking him around the house and trying to get him to sleep.

I vacillated between wondering what he might become and worrying about all the possible harm that could come to him.

When Cole was a baby I was sovereign over his days and nights, protector and dreamer. Storyteller and playmate. We spent long hours together reading the same books over and over again, and drawing the same shapes.

Then I blinked and he was heading off to school.

Before long he had finished his elementary years and was getting up early to walk to a bus stop for a new season.

Now he was almost twelve, and he was in trouble at school for the first time.

I drove to the school.

I was super nervous. I have history with this building.

I went into the office.

 A secretary led me back to a waiting room outside a closed door.

 Cole was sitting in the waiting room.

 The secretary indicated that I should sit and wait with Cole.

 Apparently we were now both waiting to see someone.

“Hi,” I whispered quietly to Cole, “How are ya?”

Shoulder shrug.

The door opened and a young boy came out of the office. Hanging his head, he walked out of the waiting area and left the office.

We were next.

A loud voice called us in.

Sitting behind a desk was a short, balding man. Before he ever uttered a word, his (permanent?) scowl gave me the feeling that I was the one in trouble.

Ten minutes later I exited the office in a heap of tears with Cole trailing after me. I had some sense of the punishment that was being assigned, four days in SAC (Student Assignment Class), an on campus suspension program that is as effective as its title is clever, but zero real knowledge of why my son was in trouble

Cole had hardly spoken in the office and I had only mustered nods.

It was not until I got home and collected myself that I began to notice how little dialogue had occurred back in the school office. Mr. Grumpy (as I will now refer to him in order to protect his identity in case he ever wants to give up the job of yelling at students all day long) had thoroughly intimidated and threatened us, apparently to prevent further incidents similar to the one I still had not heard anything about.

I was so frustrated with myself for falling apart and not maintaining enough composure to ask questions.

I remember that a Regina Specktor song from the soundtrack of Prince Caspian was playing in the car. “All you can do is try to know who your friends are when you head off to the war.”

This was a glimmer for me.

For much of our relationship, Cole and I have been locked into a battle that was me against him.

All of a sudden, by making me feel like I was in trouble with my son, Mr. Grumpy had actually done me a favor.

He had put Cole and me on the same side again. This was different from when Cole was a tiny baby and I was the barrier from the big scary world. Now he was out there facing all the scary. For the most part, he was going this journey on his own and I could only take part in whatever details he was willing to share with me, which was precious little. But now, I’d been drawn in, very much against Cole’s will, but still there I was, with a new glimpse of what life was like for him in middle school.

Slowly, Cole began to tell me the story of what had happened. He admitted to where he was at fault and explained the unseen events that led up to the incident that landed him in the office. The backstory.

“What didn’t you tell Mr. Grumpy all of that?”

Shoulder shrug.

Maybe because Mr. Grumpy didn’t ask. Who knows though because Cole is a lot of things, but a tattletale is not one of them.

I offered to go back to the school to plead his case. Maybe get his sentence reduced.

No. He did not want that.

“Just leave it alone. I’ll be fine Mom.”

So off he went to on campus suspension. To SAC. The first day he had absolutely nothing to do. Sleeping was not allowed. If you fell asleep, you got another day added to your sentence. His teachers were supposed to send him his work, but there was not anyone making certain this happened. So if you did not have any work to do, you just had to make something up. Or just sit there.

Against his will, I went along with him the next day to SAC, a cheerless, dark room in the basement of the school. The room was full of students who, in my own humble estimation, probably could not afford to be a week behind in school. I introduced myself to the lady who presided over the room and asked what the best way to go about making certain Cole would be able to do his coursework would be? She was very kind and told me that she had at first been suspicious of Cole because of how quiet he had been the day before, but now she realized that he was actually just well-behaved. She was used to breaking up fights and calling the police, and she later confessed to me how much she hated her job. She and I worked together to get Cole’s work delivered to him, as he was not allowed to ever leave SAC. For an eleven year old boy, it was a bit like prison.

The next day I brought trays of warm chocolate chip cookies to the kind lady in SAC. I also left some with Mr. Grumpy’s secretary, as well as several boxes of tissues and a note.

Dear Sir,

On the hunch that I am not the only unfortunate person you have ever made cry in your office, I thought you might could use some tissues on your desk.

Also, I made you some cookies, because I believe life is better when you add sweetness.

Kind regards,

Cole’s mom

I wish I could say that Cole learned his lesson and never got in trouble again.  I can’t.

I also wish I could say that I learned my lesson and that I now know that anytime I find myself on the opposite side of Cole, I am in the wrong place. Nope. We still battle on the daily over dirty dishes and laundry left everywhere.

But after his time in SAC, I told him how proud I was of him for accepting his punishment and enduring in gracefully.

Ultimately, I think we both learned that though I can do things to make life a little easier along the way, I can’t really protect Cole from the world. Life is not always fair. In light of this truth, I want Cole to make his own way with the belief that I am in his corner. Cheering. Even walking with him on the days he will let me.

And if nothing else, I will always show up with cookies.

Balmedie Beach Walk (12/48)

Balmedie Beach, Aberdeen, Scotland, #48walks

Often there is such a long string of gray days in Aberdeen that I actually forget that the sky and sea can be this lovely.

When the cold mist clears, it’s as though someone has taken a paintbrush to the city or like a black and white film has turned to color.

Balmedie Beach, Aberdeen, Scotland, #48walks

Just north of Aberdeen, Scotland (where we live), Balmedie Beach is a perfect spot to head for a walk when the skies clear.

Balmedie Beach, Aberdeen, Scotland, #48walks

Don’t be fooled into thinking it is a Caribbean warm. This is still the North Sea.

Balmedie Beach, Aberdeen, Scotland, #48walks

But there is sand and water and enough horizon to take you for as long as you want to walk.

Balmedie Beach, Aberdeen, Scotland, #48walks

One of the reasons I started #48walks is that I need the reminder to rush out into the light when it comes like this.

Sometimes the sun only shines for an hour or two, so it’s an occasion worth dropping whatever you’re up to and getting outside.

To see the world painted into colors again.

So when the gray comes rolling back, you remember that you felt the sun on your face.

Balmedie Beach, Aberdeen, Scotland, #48walks

Tomorrow begins a NEW month! April strikes me as the perfect time to go for some walks! If you’re walking with me this year or if you want to walk with me this year, share your photos of where you are by tagging your pictures with #48walks.

This month my stories will be themed around Walking with Children. My kids have two weeks of school holidays coming up so I will be walking a lot with them in April, but my stories will be about the challenges and joys of walking through life with them.

Also, Kate, Jen and Laurie shared walks recently! And you can see lots of other photos of walks around the world in our Facebook group.

Happy Monday and Happy Walking, friends!







Snapshots of Scotland: Luxury Edition (11/48)

Trump International Scotland, Balmedie, MacLeod House

When Taido and I get to escape from our kids, we usually run away to a cabin in the woods. Or a tent in the hills.

But last week some friends from church graciously let us have a Spring Getaway package that they were not able to use at the last minute that included dinner, bed and breakfast.

“It’s at the MacLeod House,” my friend told me, “only about fifteen minutes away.”

So off we went, and as we came to the end of a very long driveway, we were a bit dumbfounded to discover where we would be staying for the night. The MacLeod House is the restored Scottish mansion that serves as accommodation for the Trump International Golf Links. So if you’re keen to play fancy golf in Scotland, this is where you come.

I had no idea.

Trump International Scotland, MacLeod House, Balmedie

After we checked in, we went for a walk to see the famous golf course.

Trump International Scotland, Balmedie, MacLeod House

Neither Taido nor I are golfers, but still. So gorgeous.

They were opening up for the season the following week.


But while we were there, hardly a soul in sight. It was like a giant green maze.


On the sea.

I have often wondered how golfers cope with the North Sea winds, but maybe the large sand dunes help.

The whole place was so dazzling that I actually thought about taking up golf.

Just for a second.

(PS, If you’re counting walks with me this year. This walk on the golf course is #11 of #48walks.)

Do you travel + Instagram? Join in IG Travel Thursday!

Butternut Squash Hummus

Butternut Squash Hummus, Healthy, Vegetarian

Looking for something healthy + inexpensive to take as an appetizer to a party this weekend?

I’ve got you covered. Butternut Squash Hummus.

We have been cooking all year out of Jamie Oliver’s Save with Jamie, as a way to both save money on groceries and use recipes for which we can find the ingredients at our local markets.

Back in the US, I am used to buying pita chips by the bag full at Sam’s, but they are not as common here, so we’ve been making our own. You can pick up a package of pita (or pitta) bread here for less than a pound (or quid) and it is always really fresh. We eat it with curries, tzatziki and hummus.

Butternut Squash Hummus, Homemade Piita Chips, Vegetarian

Butternut Squash Hummus

or Houmous, adapted from Save with Jamie by Jamie Oliver


1 butternut squash

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1 red chili

1/2 a bunch of cilantro (coriander, 15 grams)

1 can chickpeas, including liquid (1 tin, 400 grams)

juice of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons olive oil


Slice squash in half, de-seed and roast face down on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F oven (180 degrees C, gas 4) for 90 minutes.

Allow squash to cool before scooping the flesh out.

In a food processor, mix the squash with the rest of the ingredients. Pulse until you reach desired consistency. Serve in a bowl and sprinkle with paprika, cayenne and maybe a little drizzle of olive oil.

Serve with Pita Chips.

Easy Homemade Pita Chips: Cut pita bread into strips, brush with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and crushed chili pepper. Bake on a sheet pan in a 350 degree F oven (180 degrees C, gas 4) until crisp. 10-15 minutes.

Homemade Pita Chips, Hummus

A (Short) Story about Spring

Matisor, A Story about Spring, Romania, Tradition

A (Short) Story about Spring

When she came through the door, she handed me a small wooden charm.

It was a colorful shamrock shape, tied with red and white striped string.

“We wear these in my country when we are waiting for spring to come.”

“What a lovely tradition!” I said, as I took it from her hands.

After the party I pinned my charm to my coat as a sweet reminder of the couple I had just met from Romania.

Later I looked up the tradition of these small charms and found this description:

The Martisor, a spring token, a tiny adornment tied with a red and white entwined cord presented on March 1,  celebrates the arrival of spring. It is believed to bring joy.

To Bring Joy.

Friends, I am all about traditions that bring joy.

Each day, when I put on my coat and walk out into the blistery March winds, I smile when I see The Martisor. My spring token from a new friend.

What do you do to celebrate spring?