Tuesday, March 31, 2009
Mudding and taping going well, hung the door frame this morning. Homemade dentil moulding applied shortly.
Big news from Cousin Arnold: His famous daughter, Erika Rolfsrud, is the understudy for Susan Sarandon on a new Broadway production. We'll post details soon. Erika got rave reviews in St. Louis, says he.
Saturday, March 28, 2009
Friday, March 27, 2009
Here's her note and photos from the Family Vacation.
Thursday, March 26, 2009
The earliest parts of Fyvie Castle date from the 13th century - some sources claim it was built in 1211 by William the Lion. Fyvie was the site of an open-air court held by Robert the Bruce, and Charles I lived there as a child. Following the Battle of Otterburn in 1390, it ceased to be a royal stronghold and instead fell into the possession of five successive families - Preston, Meldrum, Seton, Gordon and Leith - each of whom added a new tower to the castle.
Inside, the castle stronghold features a great wheel stair, a display of original arms and armour, and a particularly fine collection of portraits.
Manus O'Cahan and Montrose fought a successful minor battle against the Covenant Army at Fyvie Castle on October 28th, 1644. Following Victorian trends, the grounds and adjoining Loch Fyvie were landscaped in the 19th century. The American industrialist Alexander Leith bought the castle in 1885. It was sold to the National Trust for Scotland in 1984 by his descendants.
The castle (like many others) is said to be haunted. During renovation work in 1920 the skeleton of a woman was discovered behind a bedroom wall. On the day the remains were laid to rest in Fyvie cemetery, the castle residents started to be plagued by strange noises and unexplained happenings. Fearing he had offended the dead woman, the Laird of the castle had the skeleton exhumed and replaced behind the bedroom wall, at which time the haunting ceased.
I'm glad that you made it home in one piece! I wasn't certain that you'd survive the distillery visit intact, especially if you'd given the locals a dose of your Scot's treachery theory. I had visions of you floating upside down in a vat of whisky, the unlucky victim of the murderous nature of us Scots!
I followed your blog link and was shocked to see a wanted poster with my face on it. Then I read the text and relaxed. You have overstated dramatically my service to you and the guys and I thank you for it! It was wonderful to see that you had enjoyed yourself sufficiently to insert us into your family's blog!
I think you have the most professional blog that I have seen for some considerable time. I hope that all your readers enjoy it as much as I do. I'll look back in from time to time to see how my friend Stan is doing.
Keep well, my friend, and put up your feet after all those exertions here in Bonnie Scotland!
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Here's information from his family:
"Tuesday morning Paul was doing just fine. He had a morning meeting and then suddenly felt weak in his legs, had a pain in his chest, and couldn't find the words he was looking for. His colleagues called an ambulance and he was taken to Unity Hospital.
"After a CT Scan, they discovered that his aorta had been dissected. This is when a tear occurs in one of the layers of the aorta allowing blood to flow in between those layers. In effect, this causes one normal vein to be converted into two. The problem of course is that one of those tubes doesn't go anywhere and more seriously, this could cause the aorta to rupture. Luckily and thankfully, they were able to catch this before it ruptured.
"From Unity he was rushed to Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids, MN. On Tuesday afternoon he went into open heart surgery around 3:30 pm and came out at around 8 pm.
"The surgeon reported that the surgery was successful. He thinks the most likely cause of the dissection was an aortic aneurysm. They had to remove and replace a large section of the aorta that connects to the heart along with the valve.
"The good news is that this was successful and Paul pulled through!
"He is currently in intensive care, remains sedated and is on a ventilator. His hemoglobin counts are good, temperature is good, and they are controlling his blood pressure."
For more information and updates, here's the caring bridge link: You may also sign a guest book and relay your encouragement to the family.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Monday, March 23, 2009
But a naked volley of Protestant cannon fire might be bad for his legacy, he was advised, so the clever "Lord Protector" devised a more politic scheme: He invited the townspeople to scavenge the Cathedral for building materials -- sort of a 17th Century Home Depot, and more convenient than shopping the local quarry. As a result, many buildings in the adjacent business district contain consecrated rubble.
Photos: Gerry Harris, owner of Mail Boxes Etc. at 68 Market Street, St. Andrews: www.mbestandrews.com . (Photo right) Ruins of the St. Andrews Cathedral, just blocks from the store. (Photo left) Golfer John Dovolos "hires" a computer to email his wife Michelle back home. (Bottom photo) Materials for this fireplace were taken from the St. Andrews Cathedral ruins after Oliver Cromwell suggested doing so. -- That's the story, anyway. To see more photos of the St. Andrews area, follow this link:
Saturday, March 21, 2009
The best English we heard in Scotland was spoken by a Russian. Andre and his wife, Maria, shared breakfast with us twice at the Bell Craig House in St. Andrews. They weren't there to golf, though the first tee at the famed Old Course was a mere two blocks away. They were there to visit their son, a business management student at the prestigious 600-year-old St. Andrews University, just down the storied, cobbled street. Andre, who lives with his wife in Moscow, learned English at school, but working for Price Waterhouse has given him fluency. He's current on American politics, and we enjoyed a nice conversation about the present global financial situation.
The best food we ate in Scotland was served at the Davidson home in Aberdeen, by Kenny, who also wins a vote as the archetypal man's man.
Personal circumstances put him in the kitchen as a wee one; he's now an expert hunter, fisherman, sportsman, outdoors man and whisky drinker. Briefly a roughneck and member of the Royal Air Force, he's a career phy ed teacher, and counsels and coaches youth about snowboarding, skiing and . . . sexually transmitted disease. An enthusiastic golfer, he once had a heart-attack on a fairway and walked himself in, leaving his clueless mates to finish the round. A long-time friend of our gruppen fuehrer Danny Martin, the plucky Scotsman invited over both our foursomes and teed up an eight-man buffet of ham, smoked turkey, prawns-au-melon (click on the image), red potatoes (one garlic, one plain bowlful), fresh veggies and icy salads.
Oh, and a yummy chocolate dessert for our gourmands, (at left) of course.
Then his lovely, accomplished, health-care services bride, decades his junior, arrived with their young red-haired daughter, in perfect time to warmly greet the departing grateful, sated guests and head up a post-party cleanup effort for her weary partner.
Thus bolstered, the next morning our Scottish host played an energetic 18 holes with his American friends at Peterhead. Truly a Scotsman for all seasons.
The best we ever ate were at the St. Olaf Hotel in Cruden Bay, and served to us by James, (left) a polite 18-year-old who's been to chef school at nearby Hatton College, and aspires to someday cook for big bucks on a North Sea oil platform.
We probably liked his bangers best because they had more texture and bite than the softer, mealier, versions at the St. Andrews Bell Craig House or the Craigallachie Highlander Inn (at right - click image to see the pepper). James' performed almost like a premium Jimmy Dean.
All the breakfasts were good and substantial and lasted through a complete 18 holes of golf that always ran past lunch into the mid-afternoon. Scottish courses don't always have a "clubhouse turn" with sandwiches... and never a "cart girl" with snacks, so a big breakfast is a must. And you're walking clubs up and down the glens, never riding.
One day, just for educational purposes, we chose the breakfast Aberdeen kippers and oat cakes (left) at the St. Olaf. This brightly-flavored salt sea offering was a good choice, and did last through 18 holes of golf, but in a repeating and re mindful way, and not ideal for one's concentration on the duties at hand.----------------------------------------
Worst credit card
"American Express, don't leave home with it," they joke around Scotland. Poor Danny Martin relied on this powerful American icon as an old reliable, but was chagrined to learn that thrifty Scots simply don't take it, given its fee-laden policies.
Restaurants, hotels, golf clubs, even the Royal Bank of Scotland looked down and sadly shook their heads at our frustrated leader's plastic. Fortunately, Danny was traveling with friends and able to cope, and a few phone calls back home (right) got his assets transferred to a more useful banker.
Runner-up for worst has to be GM Mastercard. Despite being informed of my impending departure from usual spending habits, and being given a specific itinerary, Mr. Mastercard slammed the cash drawer shut when I attempted to purchase a $100 bottle of cask-strength hand-filled single-malt whisky, aged in a bourbon barrel, from the Chivas Bros. at their Aberlour Distillery in Craigellichie. Fortunately, a quick swipe from Mr. M & I Visa, who had been similarly warned and informed, solved the problem.
It took an expensive follow-up phone call in a chilly red phone booth, using the special international number I was given when I made my first notification, and then a series of confusing security questions about my checkered past (have you ever lived on Lyndale Ave. North in Minneapolis? Your wife's birthdate?) before Mrs. Mastercard put me back on the "A" list. "It's just an automatic block, sir, and we apologize," the scripted voice intoned. So why is that, please? Or could someone have possibly screwed up? (Calm down, Stan)
Oh well. It's been a long time since being refused at a liquor store. Made me feel downright youthful.
Friday, March 20, 2009
Tuesday, March 17, 2009
It was great to finally reach you by telephone today, after seven unsuccessful attempts from various phone booths in Scotland. Learning that you have been taking down the poker tables at Canterbury was especially sweet. This trip is a wee bit expensive and your serious winnings will be most appreciated.
I am seated in a pub surrounded by fine single malt Scotch whisky, my mates are throwing feathers at the dartboard behind me; they've already toasted my sweetie for being lucky and Irish today. I am truly the lucky one, of course, they are quick to point out.
We took a day off from golfing to visit the Aberlour distillery in Craigellachie (rhymes with smart alecky, John "Little Stick" Shotz hints).
By following host and mentor Julian's instructions, we were soon sniffing the vanilla, the chocolate, the sweet apple flavors in the water of life that has been the mainstay of this area for centuries. Our brave leader has been taking these tours for years, says today's was the best he's experienced.
This afternoon I explored an old walking bridge over the Spey and as luck would have it a salmon fisherman was wading below, lashing his long fly rig over and over. He said he caught nothing, but I captured a camera full of fabulous photos framed by the arch of the auld bridge against the sheer cliff walls.
I talked with mothers pushing prams past some nursing lambs in a verdant meadow beside an abandoned railway right of way. I walked through three handmade stone tunnels to get there. We chatted, then I learned that one was an English mum, the other a native Californian transplanted by her homesick Scotch husband. Yesterday the gentlemen at the 250-year-old Fraserborough Golf club left us in stitches. Their club was being organized when we were throwing the British out of the colonies in 1776.
They claim to have invited Gen. George Armstrong Custer across to be the keynote speaker at their 100th anniversary club celebration, but George was a no-show.
Talk turned to Highland clans.
"How would ye tell if a man be a real McDonald?", twinkled the ruddy-cheeked club member.
We were stumped.
"Ye jist reach under 'is kilt and ye make sure he has a quarter pounder!"
We tee off at 11 a.m. tomorrow at Cruden Bay, one of the 50 top-ranked golf courses in the world. We've been playing all the best courses at reasonable cost because it's now off-season. The weather has been great though and there's more great weather tomorrow.
We'll be home on Friday. Can't wait to see my Irish Collee.
Remember your father singing, I'll Take You Home Again, Kathleen?
Monday, March 16, 2009
At the moment I am seated at a tv table in my little room at the Highlander Inn in the tiny town of Craigellachie beside the River Spey in the far north end of Scotland. We are in whisky and salmon country.
There over are 500 golf courses in Scotland, there must be just as many distilleries. Tomorrow we intend to see some, along with more castles. A couple days ago we rummaged through an unattended Slain castle, climbing turrets and looking far below at crashing breakers and deep moats. It was dangerous to be there, but we just walked in and explored. Bram Stoker drew his inspiration for Dracula from this monstrous edifice. Tons of photos, of course, but you'll have to wait until the support technology improves.
Tonight, after a fine round of golf with friendly locals in the rural town of Fraserborough, we followed the spectacular northern coast through MacDuff to the Moray Firth and its legendary whisky trail. Tomorrow morning a gentleman we know as Duncan will make us breakfast. He used to work at a nearby hotel, but had an opportunity to buy this one and took it. I had the Aberdeen kippers with oat cakes at the St. Olaf in Cruden Bay.
I am thinking bangers, bacon and poached eggs. The bangers, if they have some texture, will taste like a Jimmy Dean sausage link. The bacon will look and taste like fried ham. We see a lot of sheep, but rarely see it offered. A Scotsman told us that the French eat most 0f their sheep and their drink most of the whisky. There are five rooms. We have all of them.
The scenery out my window is dazzling. The people are most cordial.
Three floors below, Tatsuya Minagawa, director of the Highlander Inn and a famous whisky judge who brought his family here from Japan, is serving our party from a 200 bottle collection of rare whisky. Danny, left, our group leader, is a connoseiur, and the rest of us are learning to appreciate the finer points of this water of life.
Somewhere east of Inverness