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  • Strong Women on a Journey - January 2021

    The past year has been difficult for everyone around the world, so it’s nice to hear good news for a change, especially in a small rural community where many people struggle to survive hard times day after day, year after year. So we’re happy to share a story about a strong woman on a lifetime fitness journey who took a chance with a new business that has not just succeeded but also helps many people – women and men both – grow stronger and healthier. Here’s the report about OUTsideIN’s January 2021 Strong Woman on a Journey, Caroline Duncan.
  • Bangers, Bacon & Baps

    Recently an OUTsideIN blog fan was saddened to learn that the foods eaten to celebrate the Scottish New Year holiday, Hogmanay, do not include any part of a hog (see Hogmanay Kindness,)December 30, 2020. Like many people, this gentleman assumed that the presence of a food name in a word indicated food rather than something else, which is a linguistic quirk that fascinates the erudite squirrels in my brain.
  • Working Hands are Healing Hands

    OUTsideIN works for a variety of reasons, not all of which I can claim to understand. One of the ways it works came to clear to me recently when an artsy-craftsy friend told me that the craft group of older ladies she leads proves something she heard from Oprah Winfrey years ago: that that women who do crafts together, working with their hands, are emotionally healthier than those who don’t. In fact, this has been studied by a variety of experts, from neuroscientists to psychologists, who...
  • Hogmanay Kindness

    In Scotland, the New Year celebration is called Hogmanay – pronounced HOG-MUH-NAY. Ah, I can almost hear your giggles erupt. Hogmanay? HOGmanay? 
  • A Blithe Scottish Yule

    My first Christmas away from home was far from the difficult and suffering places I’ve seen in this world, spent in Scotland at the splendid 18th-century country mansion of Finlaystone Estate with the highly civilized MacMillan family (who are my clan mates but not direct kin). Finlaystone is the site of a 14th-century castle. John Knox performed the first Protestant Reformed communion service there in 1556, and legendary Scots poet Robert Burns dined there often in the late 18th century. It was rebuilt as a Georgian mansion in 1764 and has been carefully maintained and upgraded (including electricity and modern plumbing but no central heating) by the Kidston and MacMillan families since 1872. Finlaystone Estate
  • Thanksgiving 2020

    At this time of year it’s so easy to get overcome by all the immediate things that need to get done and overlook the really important thing that sh...
  • Breakfast at Finlaystone

    “We’re 14 for brekkers [breakfast] this morning,” Jenny explained as we set the massive dining room table with antique Blue Willow plates and ornate sterling silver flatware, “because we’ve six guests, plus the usual workers, slaves, Sir Gordon and Lady M.”

    Already distressed by the prospect of frying 14 eggs, I suddenly realized that my presence might be an inconvenience rather than a help to the MacMillans. “So this wasn’t a good time for me to arrive here, was it?”

    “No, no. Don’t worry. It’s just family. The MacMillans’ son John, his wife Belinda [pronounced “Bline-dah”] and their smalls [children], and Belinda’s parents. Lord Lumley-Webb was in the Army with Sir Gordon, and Belinda was once a slave. They’re all here for the Hunt.”

    “The Hunt?”

    “Yes, it’s shooting season, you see, so if it goes well, we’ll soon be dining on pheasant. Do you like pheasant? I’m not very keen on it, but the MacMillans adore it.”

     

  • Keeping Warm in a Scottish Winter

    Jolande saw me shivering and said, “Come here by the Esse and get warm.”

    It was my first chilly morning at Finlaystone and I had no idea what the Esse was, but I joined Jolande beside it and did appreciate the warmth. While Jolande explained the daily breakfast routine, I happened to notice a skillet of burning bacon and without much thought, reached over and pulled it aside. The bacon and its tantalizing fat simmered down and I turned back to Jolande, who terrified me by telling me that there’d be 14 for breakfast that morning so I must fry 14 eggs. I glanced at the Esse and realized it was a stove. I would have to fry eggs on this stove? How? Where were the burners? Did it even have burners? Fourteen fried eggs?! FOURTEEN?!

     

  • Stop, Look & Listen

    I’ve lived in a lot of different places, some that invited tourists and others that tourists overlooked or even avoided, so I think I’m qualified to state that tourism can be a mixed blessing. Visitors can bring money, create jobs in hospitality businesses like hotels and restaurants, and foster a sense of pride of place in an area’s natives. They may also bring less desirable things, from littering to disrespect and COVID-19. A friend in Spain was dismayed this spring to learn that 800 German tourists were about to land on the island of Menorca – a boon for local businesses but a terrifying prospect in a pandemic climate. The tourists were eventually rerouted to the bigger neighboring island of Majorca, but it was a close call.
  • Cultivate Connections

    At times my travel memories make me sad. There are places I want to re-visit, new places I’d like to explore, and so many foreign friends who I miss and want to see again. More travel isn’t impossible, but at this point it’s unlikely given the constraints of health and finances. That’s why my correspondence with pen pals and faraway friends is so precious to me. It helps keep me connected with other people. One of my favorite connections is Xiao Song, a young medical student in China.

  • An Athens Afternoon

    On an afternoon in Athens years ago, I explored some of the city’s “must see” sights but saw more than just the Parthenon, Acropolis, and Roman Stadium. As I’ve often found in my travels, there are unexpected lessons lurking around the corner in every city in the world. In Athens I met a man my mom had warned me about many times: the starving artist.
  • Happy & Full

    I have a young Chinese friend, a pen pal who comes from a difficult, impoverished background but is determined to become a doctor. The next step in his career is a postgraduate entrance examination that will determine what medical school he attends, and at times that exam looms over him like a dark cloud. Recently he told me “my dream is very big and it is difficult to realize it” and “I can hardly breathe under such great pressure every day.” He asked me, “Have you ever encountered this problem in your life?”

    Have you ever felt that your ambitions were impossibly difficult to achieve? I certainly have, and this is what I wrote to him.