Honeymoon: Part 2

On our second day in Edinburgh, our first stop was the Edinburgh Castle. We got there close to opening time so we could avoid the potential crowds (There were stanchions and other signs of long queues in the square outside). They had free tours all day so we found ourselves a tour that gave a little overview of the castle for  45 minutes. We learned that the castle was never taken outright, only by surrender or trickery. We did learn that when Robert the Bruce recaptured it, he had it burned to prevent it from being taken by the Brits again. Apparently, this was a common theme with castles captured by Robert the Bruce in Scotland.

Edinburgh Castle

After the tour, we wandered into the magnificent hall that was covered in swords and other paraphernalia of war. The woodworking is magnificent. They did have docents who talked to us about some of the swords and other weapons in the hall. We got to lift a claymore! (So heavy). Then we wandered into the beautiful war memorial that records all the deaths over the centuries in various conflicts. In this church-like hall, there are many books with the names of the deceased listed by rank and regiment. A secular holy place.

Great Hall

We also got to see the Scottish crown jewels and the Stone of Destiny. My husband was very disappointed that he couldn’t make off with the Stone of Destiny for the British Museum. That would have been awkward to say the least. There were several museums dedicated to various military regiments since the Castle is still used for military purposes including a barracks (I think). What a wonderful place!

After the castle, we decided to wander the Royal Mile and get some lunch. Afterwards, we decided to check out a free Harry Potter walking tour of the area. The first third of it had us wandering around the cemetery that we had wandered in the day before. We got to see where J.K. Rowling got many of her character’s names. We saw McGonagall’s resting place; apparently, he was a notoriously bad poet! Even more thrilling was the tomb of Tom Riddell! Very cool. We also got to see the street that allegedly inspired Diagon Alley. It’s a curvy road with brightly colored buildings on it. Very picturesque.

Diagon Alley?

After the tour, we ran over to the National Museum of Scotland before it closed. It’s a lovely building with a nice open atrium in the middle. We did a whirlwind tour of the place, checking out the T-rex bones and the Lewis Chess pieces. The chess pieces were a real treat for me since they are my favorite at the British Museum. I didn’t even know there were more pieces (though it seems obvious now!). It was neat to see that some parts of the museum collection were paired with thematically similar items rather than separating things by time or geography. I like seeing the connections between ideas in objects.

After our whirlwind tour, we decided to check out Lovecrumbs, a place our friend in Edinburgh recommended, for tea and cake. It’s a little cafe below from the castle and off the Grassmarket. On the way there, we passed a cat cafe and lots of used bookshops.  Edinburgh is my kind of place. This cafe was amazing. The place has all sorts of tables including  piano where you can sip your tea and work. I had violet tea and a tasty cake with neat flavor pairings. Sadly I don’t remember what cake I had but it was among the best cakes I’ve had in a long time.

For dinner that evening, we decided on a little place off the Royal Mile. I had goat cheese stuffed butternut squash, which was tasty. My husband’s dish included fried haggis balls that were simply out of this world.

Then it was time for another ghost tour. We had opted for the 10:20 tour because it was the latest tour…and we would check out the vaults. There are buildings coming off the hill that is the Royal Mile. We learned that these vaults were accidentally created when they built structures around them. The vaults were used for several businesses including a tannery and a tavern. But also all sorts of crime flourished here. And there are lots of reports of ghostly sightings and even possessions by tour guides and others.

The vaults are delightfully creepy. You have to descend several flights of stairs to get to them so you definitely feel cut off from the rest of the world. The lighting is fairly low and dark in some places. You can believe anything is possible here. But the best part of the tour? We were the last group so we got to blow out the candles. Whee! So thrilling!

That’s all for now!

Jane Addams Day 2015: Featuring Kristin Lems!

On December 5th, join AAUW for a celebration of Jane Addams Day at Hull House for the third year starring feminist singer and songwriter Kristin Lems! She will share stories about her family’s experiences with Jane Addams and perform songs written about the life of Jane Addams. Join us for a historic Jane Addams’ speech and song! The event will conclude with  lemonade and cookies. Come and celebrate this amazing woman with AAUW! For more information on Kristin Lems, check out: http://www.kristinlems.com

The event is open to the public. $10/ticket

RSVP to Chicagoaauw@hotmail.com by Nov. 27th

The event will take place 2:00 – 3:30pm at

Hull House Museum, Residents’ Dining Hall

(800 S Halsted St)

Check out the flyer here: JAD Flyer 2015

Honeymoon: Part 1

After our wonderful wedding, we had a marvelous honeymoon in Scotland and London. As most would expect, our honeymoon was filled with castles, graveyards, ghost tours, and hiking. So over the next few weeks, I’ll talk about our travels around Scotland and our time in London.

We began our honeymoon in Edinburgh, flying through Heathrow. We got to Edinburgh in the mid-afternoon. It was amazingly easy to get into the city. We found a bus right outside the airport doors that cost about £4.5 per person and it took us to the center of the city. A short thirty minute ride later, we made our way to the hotel, which had a brilliant view of the castle. We threw down our stuff and ran up to the castle. When we got there, it was about five to 4 and the castle closes at 5. The staff recommended at least 2 hours there so we decided to go the first thing in the morning so we could see everything we wanted.

Castle at sunset

So we trotted down the Royal Mile, which is lovely but very touristy. We ended up in St. Giles Cathedral, which was gorgeous. It has beautiful stained glass, a series of battle worn flags, and more. While we were there, an organist started to play. Absolutely beautiful!

We took a side road to find the statue of Greyfriars Bobby, the loyal dog. He is said to have waited at his master’s grave for 14 years. There’s now a statue commemorating him. We found ourselves in a cemetery during the Golden hour. The sun hit the gravestones just so. Beautiful.

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We asked one of the shopkeepers about a place for some tea and a snack and discovered that we were in the area where J.K. Rowling had written Harry Potter in several coffee shops. He told us of one place nearby so naturally we went to a place known as the Elephant House. It was lovely. It had a dual theme of elephants, which readers know are one of my favorite animals, and Harry Potter. I went into the Lady’s room and found it covered in Harry Potter graffiti. Someone had written “Alohomora” on the lock! Very cool.  It was neat. A cup of tea and some tapenade was what we needed.

HP Graffiti

We decided to check out Mary King’s Close. Basically, there are lanes or paths leading off the Royal Mile called closes. Each one has a specific name. People lived and worked in them. Mary King’s Close got boxed in when they built a government building on it. Many of the lower levels (not leveled by the construction) have been preserved. You can take tours of the rooms and learn a little bit about the history. People of all classes would live in the close so we saw different styles of rooms. There are several places that were haunted. One particular room has a giant pile of toys, mostly stuffed animals, as a result of a psychic encountering a ghostly girl there. The pile itself was fairly creepy!

And there was an amazing story about a man who liked to show off his luxurious item: his toilet!

After our adventures in the underground warren of Edinburgh, we met up with a friend who had been living in Edinburgh for over a year. She brought us to some pretty nifty places. We had amazing cocktails at the Brambles, a bar that reminded me of the Violet Hour before it got too trendy. My husband had a drink with chartreuse in it and he said it was the first one that tasted good. I had my drink in a teacup! What a wonderful place.

And then, we went to a place so I could fulfill a dream I’ve had for 13 years. I finally had haggis. I had been wanting to try it since the summer before college. I remember driving home from a writing program in Iowa City and listening to Anthony Bourdain talk about it on an audio version of The Cook’s Tour. I remember him saying that if it wasn’t for the fact that it was served in a sheep’s stomach, it would be on every street corner in NYC. Our friend had the place to get top notch haggis and so we went.

The place was kinda like a comfort food place but for Scottish food. I ordered haggis with mash. And then it stood before me, my dream of 13 years. It was pretty good. It’s hearty and you really can’t tell it’s made from sheep innards. I liked it. I didn’t love it in the same way that Bourdain did but I’m really happy to have tried it. I would go onto have other versions of it in the coming days.

Our friend also shared with us some treats of Scotland, which was really awesome. She gave us a bottle of Irn-Bru, the national soda, tea cakes, and a tablet. Goodness, those tea cakes were amazing. They are basically marshmallow covered with chocolate on cookies. We ate them pretty quickly. I brought one box home and I’m sad that I didn’t buy more. The tablet is made from caramel and toffee (I think). Sweet and wonderful. As for the soda, not really our cup of tea. 🙂

Anyway, it was a super way to start off our honeymoon.

That’s all for now!

On getting married and what I wrote to Scott

Some of my readers know that I recently got married. What a fun and crazy experience. At some point, I’ll write a “What I learned” about my experiences with the wedding industry and planning but not right now. My husband makes a beautiful exploration about marriage to him and his letter to me here: https://scottpriz.wordpress.com/2015/10/13/on-getting-married-and-what-i-wrote-to-lisa/

I concur with pretty much everything he says. I want to reiterate how pleased we were that we could celebrate with so many wonderful meaning. They are our world and make us the people we are today. We are sad that we couldn’t invite everyone we wanted to. As anyone who has had a wedding knows, the guest list has to be the hardest part. We worked diligently on it but at the end budgets are a big deal.

I’m also including our readings since we really feel strongly about them:

The Busman’s Honeymoon by Dorothy Sawyers

‘How can I find words? Poets have taken them all, and left me with nothing to say or do ‘Except to teach me for the first time what they mean.’

He found it hard to believe. ‘Have I done that?’

‘Oh, Peter –’ Somehow she must make him believe it, because it mattered so much that he should. ‘All my life I have been wandering in the dark—but now I have found your heart—and am satisfied.’

‘And what do all the great words come to in the end, but that? – I love you – I am at rest with you – I have come home.’

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Next reading:

If you are Afraid of the Dark, Remember the Night Rainbow by Cooper Edens

If tomorrow morning the sky falls, have clouds for breakfast.

If night falls, use stars for streetlights.

If the moon gets struck in a tree, cover the hole in the sky with a strawberry.

If you have butterflies in your stomach, ask them into your heart.

If you heart catches in your throat, ask a bird how she sings.

If the birds forget their songs,listen to a pebble instead.

If you lose a memory embroider a new one to take its place.

If you lose the key, throw away the house.

If the clock stops, use your own hands to tell time.

If the light goes out, wear it around your neck and go dancing.

If the bus doesn’t come, catch a fast cloud.

If it’s the last dance, dance backwards.

If you find that your socks don’t match, stand in a flowerbed.

If your shoes don’t fit, give them to the fish in the pond.

IF your horse needs shoes, let him use his wings.

If the sun never shines again, hold fireflies in your hands to keep warm.

If you are afraid of the dark, remember the night rainbow. 

If there is no happy ending, make one out of cookie dough.

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Selected reading from Mike Royko:

And now you are what you are: A young married couple.

That gives you something in common with all the young lovers, and older lovers, of a world that sometimes seems loveless.

Nobody is really sure what love is. Shrinks mess around with trying to define it, and just make it sound more complicated than it is. Poets, as neurotic as they are, do a much better job.

I’m not sure what it is myself, except that it leaves you breathless, makes everything else seem unimportant, and can cause you ecstasy and misery and drive you crazy. And also drive you happy.

You are really lucky, you know. You are lucky because you are in love and are beginning a life together. And that’s more important than anything else you do, your work, your place in history, or the opinions, approval, or disapproval of others.

Now when you’re down, someone will take your hand and help you up. When you’re crying, someone will dry your tears. When you’re frightened, someone will hold and reassure you. When you’re alone, someone will tell you you’re not.

That, young prince and young lady, matters more than all the ringing of the bells and the blowing of the trumpets. It’s something almost everybody wants, and not everybody has.

So, kids, good luck and don’t blow it.

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So here is my letter to my new husband:

It’s remarkable to me that we’ve dated for over six years. It doesn’t feel that way. Each year has been a marvel with you. Since we’ve been together, you have taught me so much about the world and myself. You have taught me that while life can get you down, you can choose to see the magic in it. So far we’ve made a magical life for each other. Since we’ve dated, we’ve thrown a 7 hour circus fundraiser and 2 First Ward Balls, performed as temperance workers at a bar and a beer festival, gotten chased by an elephant, hiked in the foggy mountains of Wales and so much more. We’ve made our little nation of one. We’ve made life magical because we chose it.

There’s so much that I love about you. You are a kind, sweet person. You sometimes only remember the good things people do, and willfully forget the wrong they’ve done to you. It’s something that I aspire to. Forgiveness is hard but you have mastered it. You show kindness to everyone, helping friends in any way you can. You help people move, you give hugs, and so much more just to make the world a tiny bit better.

Everywhere you go, you make people happy and cheerful just by being yourself.  Joy emanates from you like light from the sun. I love your silliness and your creativity. I love that I never quite know what is going to happen next. Maybe a fish in suspenders?  I can’t wait to see what new things the —— Brothers are going to get into in the future.

You are witty and brilliant. You astonish me with your knowledge of history and more. I love story time with you even if my nonsense alarm goes off a lot. I love how you weave truth and fiction together into a story, especially stories about Chicago. I’m so proud you are in law school while working and taking circus classes. It’s remarkable how you handle all three (and me) with grace and excellence.

I love that you are willing to take risks. You’ve tried and excelled at trapeze, tight wire, acrobatics, and now law school. You’ve emboldened me to try new things.  That’s been a big thing for me. With you, I feel more confident about myself to take risks, to try things that I barely dreamt of. I feel more like myself than I ever have because of your encouragement.

I am excited about spending the rest of our lives together. Each year has been better than the rest, which were all pretty damn good. I know that our lives together will be a wonderful adventure. After all, this marriage started with a cross-city scavenger hunt involving 16 of our friends (and their children) with clues, feats of daring do, and more.  I can’t wait to see the world with you. I know that things will happen good and bad, and I know that we’ll have the strength and courage to keep calm and carry on. Maybe we’ll get chased by another elephant.

I love you. I can’t wait to drink tea together for the rest of our lives.

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That’s all for now!