Thursday, September 19, 2013

If only he'd had thumbs

He would have ruled the world.  Run free, my little will be greatly missed.  Watching TV on the couch will never be the same without you by my side.  He put up a good fight and we tried everything we could. He spent 4 days in the emergency critical care center and he tried..but in the end his body gave up. He was Jason's faithful companion for 14 years..

We love you and will miss you.
Dante Stumpf
8/11/1998- 9/19/2013

 I will try to post some photos of him in younger years (pre-blog) this weekend.  Hug your hounds..

Thursday, September 12, 2013

UK blog- Scotland

This will be a long one but the final installment.
We left Chester on Friday morning and drove the 6 hours north to Inverness.  On the way, the landscape and weather changed dramatically and constantly.  We never had rain for more than 5 minutes and the sky would be blue for a few minutes.  And that appears to be the weather in scotland..
Halfway up we stopped for lunch at Blair Castle. We didn't have time to go in. While planning, I found that distilleries had 'extended and in depth tours' that you had to pre-book but included tastings of rare and very old whiskeys..this is right up Jason's alley. So I booked a tour each day as they tended to last a few hours.
Blair Castle was beautiful .
 Then a few miles up the road we had our first tour at Dalwhinne (don't let the angry cloud fool just meant high winds.).  This is the 'coldest' location in Scotland so they were able to use this to their advantage in whiskey making. And it was quite chilly.  There seems to be two things that separate all the distilleries. Their water source, which they guard and value above all else even purchasing hundreds of acres around the well/lake/pond to secure it and preventing anyone else from using it, and the shape of their distiller (more on that later).
After the tour, Jason did a tasting. At this distillery, the tour was free but the special tasting was extra. So we only did one, since I am not a Scotch fan.  But they did a Scotch and chocolate pairing.  I forget how old the one on the right is..but it is 18 or something.
Then we finished the journey to Inverness where we stayed at a B&B on the River Ness within walking distance from downtown. Our walk to and from dinner each night was pretty awesome.
And we would walk right under the Inverness castle. We were never in town during working hours so we didn't go inside. But it was pretty neat too (and we went in a lot of others). It is to the middle right on this photo
The next day we had a booking for a 3 hour tour at Glenlivit.  This was the biggest/most industrial of the distilleries but he got to taste some seriously old stuff here.
I tasted too..and honestly this is what mine looked like at the end of the tasting as well.  But I did learn to appreciate the differences in the Scotches.  The oldest one here is 25 years old. However, after this we went to the 'secret warehouse' and he got to taste a 36 year old straight from the barrel.  Photos weren't allowed in any warehouse or inside most areas. They SAID b/c there was alcohol in the air and the fear of fire was too great.  I don't know..
On our way here, I had told Jason I read about all the distilleries had a 'fill your own bottle' thing that although no cheap sounded pretty neat.  So he could fill his own bottle, cap it and label it. Usually with a Scotch that was only available this way so not distributed.  I told him he could fill A bottle. Why not? So he chose to fill one here.  it was really neat.  I think this was a 17 year old cask conditioned one
First he fills the bottle:

Then he caps it
And finally, he completes the label, writes in a log book and affixes the label.
 it was all very neat.
Driving out to Speyside (the 'area' of distilleries) took a little over an hour from Inverness.  We went through a lot of countryside and small towns.  No cities here.
 After Glenlivit and lunch in Dufftown, we went to Spynie Palace which is very close to the northern coast, so less mountains. We drove right by the ocean.  The palace is just ruins but we climbed to the top of the tower for some awesome views.
 The next day, we head to Loch Ness to search for Nessie!  I had learned about a cool castle on the Loch Ness. If you find yourself in this area, visit this castle!! Uruquat castle.

It was very large and had lots of vantage points and history.  Loch Ness is huge.
But from top of the towers, it was beautiful.  There weren't many people here due to the time of year and day..but those that were in the way were deleted. ;-)
There was obviously at least one other person!
This is probably my favorite shot..from the furthest point looking back.
 Then we drove the 2 hours back to Speyside for lunch and a tour at Glenfiddich.  they actually allowed us to take photos everywhere except in the warehouses.  So I was able to get more detailed photos of all the inner workings.
I feel sure I don't remember it correctly..but the barley goes in these things to soak and get ground up.

And then it goes in to these things for 8-72 hours to ferment with yeast..kind of like beer at this point.

Up to this point, every distillery was exactly the same except for the source of water. But the shape of the distillers were different.  They always looked like tear drops, but some were larger/smaller/taller/fatter/had divits/had inset/etc

And then we tasted

And yeah..remember the whole "you can bottle one, if you'd like"...turned in to two.....
They gave this one a great 'display' box which will be on a shelf when he gets home.  No, he hasn't opened them yet and let's hope they make it home in one piece.

 We drove back to Chester the next morning and I flew out next day.  I really enjoyed Scotland a lot.  Everyone did OK here.  Shiloh ate well for aunt Kristen and Dante ate well for aunt Nerice.  I did split them up so that not one person had to deal with all the difficult old dogs...I am used to it.  So Kristen took Shane and shiloh and Nerice stayed at my house with the other three.  Shane developed a tooth abscess while I was gone and Kristen took him to the vet. Antibiotics helped but we knew his horrible teeth and past dental care was the issue.  So I made the decision to have a dental done on the 14 year old boy.  He came out fine and his infections are all gone and his teeth look awesome.  He is doing great.

Jason comes home on Saturday.  He is ready and so are we!!!!!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Cali's Log

Cali's Log
Day 47

47 days, and no Daddy.  I am worried sick.
I haven't slept  a wink.  I have licked a boo boo on my is because I haven't had a foot rub in 47 days.
I miss my daddy.....

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Roman walls in the UK

For 6 weeks, Jason has been living in Chester, England,  He met me in London and my first UK blog post detailed that weekend.  Monday was a holiday in the UK, so we caught the train to Chester from there.  Jason would work Tuesday-Thursday and I would explore his 'home away from home' during the day.  At night, we'd meet up with his work friends who were all in the same boat and have dinner.  Chester is about 4 hours north and west of London and about 3 miles from the border of Wales.  Chester is known for a few things.  It has a wall around the city as it was occupied by the Romans at one time. You can walk on this wall all the way around.  Second, it has the oldest horse race track in the country.  And lastly and most recently, it is known for shopping.I was amazed at how touristy it was and how crowded it became on a weekday (that was technically no longer summer as they had just had their 'end of summer' holiday the monday before..think Labor day in the US).  The architecture is Tudor style buildings and it is basically one big outdoor mall.
The first day, I got the lay of the land, meandered around a bit and realized I had to be strategic to fill 3 days there..since shopping was not on the list of things to do. The 2nd day I did the cathedral and a antique bus tour.  And the last day, I walked the entire wall.  Every day consisted of a beer outside for lunch. The weather was awesome..72ish F and sunny every day. I started with the racetrack. No races were going on, but it was close to Jason's hotel. So I wandered around it for a while. I can only imagine how crowded it gets.  It is huge..this is just half of it.

 The city has a beautiful cathedral right in the middle of the city.  I have seen some pretty spectacular cathedrals including those in Rome, Sienna and Florence..but this one.  Was pretty awesome
I had lunch in the garden one was very peaceful a good way to remove myself from the crowds.This is just one was massive.
I wish I could have captured the scale inside..
This is the organ..look closely at the bottom and you see folding chairs for some reference

I will be honest and say that I left the city and retreated to the room to work on photos (why the London blog was put up so was ready to roll when I got home) and chat with people on Skype by 1-2PM as the crowds were immense.  The stores opened at 10AM and closed at 5PM.  So at 9:30AM the streets looked like this:

This was a photo I took around 12PM on a Wednesday.  They tended to double or triple by 3.  So this wasn't even a great representation.

  I decided to be the tourist and hop on this old bus witha guided tour. The top was open and it was a beautiful day.  The tour guide (old guy walking on the side) was hysterical and I learned a lot about the city.
 I got better photos walking around the wall the next these are not what I took from the bus.  But I will be able to tell you more of what the photos are OF because of the tour!
The wall is the US we really don't know what old is.  It is neat to go places like this and Rome to gain perspective on just how young our nation is.  The wall circles the whole city and in some places it looks like a wall, others the city has 'moved up' to the point hte wall is simply a stone sidewalk. From the outside of the wall..if you look closely you can see little heads on the other side.
This is from ON the wall. the guard posts towers are still standing on some corners.  And the green you see beyond..that is Wales. I was on the far side at this point.
While on the wall, i passed the Chester Castle.  You can't go in, but some of it was still standing. Every city/town/family/post office box had a castle.  But there will be more castles in the next post!

The wall also gave you great views of the River Dee.  We stayed on/near 3 rivers on this trip.

But on the tour, I learned one 'fun fact'.  Some old dude (OK..I didn't take notes) decided it would be a good idea to add a "weir" to power his corn mills.  What is a weir..apparently this...kind of like a small dam.

Anyway, before this..the River Dee was a main channel and Chester was a main port.  The river naturally moved in and out and the flow kept the bottom clean and boats could maneuver. Adding this weir led to a stoppage in the flow of the water and the bottom filled with silt..stopping boat traffic.  The boats needed somewhere to go and Chester had no been effectively cut off for corn.  So they moved up a bit and decided that little sleepy town would be the next port..and Liverpool was born.  So according to our guide..if dude hadn't done this..Chester would be a bigger city and the Beatles would never have become famous. Who knew? ;-)
So I continued my trek on the wall (the whole thing took me about an hour) to the remaining Roman ruins. They are on the outside of the wall b/c the Romans were 'barbarians' and they wanted them outside.  There was a coliseum ruin and the Roman Garden.  I hopped off the wall (which consisted of taking a million stairs at this point) to investigate the garden. It was nice.  The wall is on the right.

 And back on the wall, you can see a bridge/columns and the roman garden on the other side of the street. That is a car on the bottom, so you can get a scale.

 I finally made it to the 'landmark' of the city and the 2nd most photographed clock tower in England (the first has already been captured on this blog!).  From the wall, you walk under it.  Another fun fact, a long time ago Wales decided they wanted Chester for themselves. So they attacked and tried to take them over.  Chester ended up winning and maintaining it's status in England..but they had lost so many citizens in the war that they never forgave Wales.  So all the towers in the city, lack a clock face on whatever side faces Wales.  Because they didn't want to give Wales the time of day.  This one had four sides b/c it was deep in the city. But most only had 3 sides and the ones really close to Wales, might only have one.
 From the street. This is the main 'drag' of shopping and again you can see the crowds.  This was the 'end' of my day and I needed a beer badly.  I don't do crowds. This was probably around 11AM on a Thursday.
 Every evening, Jason and I went out with his work friends from the US and visited one of Jason's favorite restaurants. He'd been there 5 weeks by now and he was in a standard hotel room, so restaurants are the only option.  We also celebrated his birthday while in Chester.  On Thursday, we all went to his favorite location outside of the city.  It was about 10 miles on some really small roads, but we loaded up the Bank vehicle and took everyone.  And man was it worth it!!!
 This is the group.  All are from Richmond except the one guy beside Jason, who is from Chicago.  I think he's made some great friends while there. I quite enjoyed their company!

 We enjoyed cocktails on the deck until it got a bit too chilly. The evenings would drop pretty low.  But it was beautiful
  The sun set and gave us a great birthday present for Jason.  He says his Mom paints him sunsets and she outdid herself for his birthday.
 The next morning, we rented a car and headed 6 hours north to Inverness, Scotland.  My FAVORITE part of the trip.  But that..will be the next installment.