Saturday, October 27, 2018

By the Numbers

I have been bogged down lately due to my habit of taking literally thousands of photos when I travel. My recent trip to Scotland was no exception! I snapped crazily away at every waterfall, every mountain, every castle, every sheep, every island...well, you get the picture heeheehee. So far I have "sent to trash" around 1,000 photos due to being blurry, uninteresting, bad light etc. I hope to delete at least another 1,000 over the next few weeks, hopefully more.

So I thought I would do a "by the numbers" post as October has provided a number of numbers...groan...significant ones from my point of view. As the month is rapidly coming to a close this post could also serve as a budget update. Killing a few birds with a couple of big numbers, sort goes.

  • 290 + 145 = 435 pounds Sterling still in my money belt after the trip! That's never happened before, usually I spend all of my cash and then turn to credit cards. The 290 is what I had leftover, the 145 was what my brother had leftover and which he gifted to me towards my next trip. He's planning a trip for next year to Ireland where he'll be spending Euros instead. The 290 that I brought back is almost 1/3 of what I took with me (900 pounds) - my brother taught me a thing or two about how to be frugal while travelling :) 
  • $411 Canadian dollars each - the total for 3 weeks of renting a car plus gas came to $411 each. I tried to put the 145 pounds he gave me towards the rental car but my brother wouldn't let me - he was quite adamant that it go towards my next trip. What a guy...but really, that was quite economical I thought thanks to my daughter who was working at Enterprise at the time and gave us a hefty discount. Thanks Kazi!!
  • $1,000 - sent to savings this month.
  • $55.97 - electricity which is quite high for this time of year but I was informed that the hot and humid weather lasted all through September requiring the continued use of A/C. Next bill should be lower. I've allotted $45 for November's budget.
  • $45 - I've also allotted $45 for natural gas for November which is higher than October's bill as the furnace has started to kick in. My last bill was $33.08.
  • $82.98 - my cell phone bill was a whopping $4.00 higher - I turned my phone on a couple times to use the GPS; my fingers are crossed that my next cell bill is back to its usual amount of $79.00. Yes, cell phones are expensive to operate in Canada.
  • $280 - my food budget. I know I overspent on food as I stocked up my pantry for soup making, Scottish oat scone baking, crockpot recipes etc. I could find out how much I overspent but I don't really want to was BAD!
  • ZERO!! Gas for the car budget line. Yup. I had about a quarter tank when I returned and I had a $25.00 Esso card. Now at the end of October I have about half a tank still. I've been driving a little but still walking and biking a fair bit.
  • $86.27 misc spending budget line was quite low this month though I did make a few small purchases: about $20 for a hockey stick, yes for me, I'm now playing ball hockey! Also bought new knee pads for volleyball for $25. I purchased 3 books from Amazon. While away we went to a number of bookstores, used and new, and I took photos of the covers of books I would like to buy as I can get them cheaper from Amazon. That amounted to $33.27. The other thing was $8.00 for a good pair of goggles hoping to stretch out the biking season a little. Cold air makes my eyes water, especially when biking so I'll see if the goggles cut the breeze a bit. Worth a shot. I had allotted $500 to my misc budget so the leftover amount went to paying down my mastercard. 
  • $100 - The outstanding amount still on my credit card. $111.00 is what I have left in my chequing account. I am going to pay off my credit card and will have $11 left to spend until Oct. 31 when I get "paid".  That's a bit of a stretch but I've starting putting money in my snowflake tin once again. I was able to stash $200 this month. So if I have any sort of emergency like running out of Miss Vickie's salt and vinegar chips then I'll have to use a snowflake or two!
  • 73,000-68,698 = 4,302!!!!!!!!! This is my most significant number as of yesterday. I saw my odometer turn over to 73,000kms. When I purchased my used Honda Civic it had 68,698kms on it. I purchased it in September 2017. So in 13 months I have driven only 4,302kms (which equals 2673.14 miles) The average is 20,000kms per year. I am thrilled with that number! You will remember I wanted to go car free but then decided it would be too difficult. I have achieved a compromise that I can live with....for now.
  • 15 - doing all that walking and biking over the past year has helped me achieve one other goal - to lose 15 lbs! Yay me! Those extra lbs have been really hard to shift thanks to menopause, my age and my metabolism slowing way down. 
So that's it for now. I will share more photos after another round of editing..but will leave you this one til then...

Traffic jam on the Isle of Skye!

Sunday, October 14, 2018

Och Scotland!

My brother, Kim, and I started our adventure in the town of Stirling and then headed to Dollar for two  nights. We spent one day exploring Dollar, its glen and castle. Because I had next to no 
experience driving on the left side of the road we didn't go too far the following day. We spent the
day in Kinross (about 30 minutes from Dollar where Loch Leven castle sits on a tiny island in the loch. This castle,
built around 1300, has ties to Mary Queen of Scots who visited the castle in 1565 and then was imprisoned there until her escape in 1568. 

There are two other homes/castles that look out across the loch but they are behind locked gates - I 
wish now I had climbed over one of them!
What's the worst that could happen?

Kinross Castle cemetery 

Root man

Loch Leven Castle - I have zoomed in; it's not really this close.
 This is the only photo I could get of the house called Kinross House.

My brother, however, was more determined than I and climbed on a bench to snap a
few photos. He said he'd share...

Inscribed into the bench are these words:
"The lairdie frae his muckle hoosie spies the watters whaur his fush wull rise.”
Which translates to - The Lord of  his large house sees the waters where
his fish will rise....
I think! 

This is a beautiful area with gently rolling hills and lots of trees.
In fact, Perthshire is well known for its very tall trees.

The sky changes constantly - it rained several times while we hiked many kms on the trails
surrounding Kinross House. But never for very long at a time.  Just enough to
make my camera lens wet :(

A new sky! 
We spent most of our day here putting a lot of kms on our hiking boots. 
We had an uneventful drive back to our BnB... thankfully. 
I was really glad that I had done a lot of reading about driving in Scotland 
as well as watching a lot of youtube videos. I gradually became more accustomed to the 
roads but struggled with the roundabouts which were pretty complex with up to
half a dozen different roads branching off the roundabouts. If my navigator wasn't quick enough telling me which exit I needed I had to go around twice! 
I'm sure I wasn't the only one.
Once I realized that no one else was following the rules that I had
read about I did much better! 
The most challenging roads were the one lane roads with "passing places." 
(photo below)
If someone was coming toward you you would have to pull over into the nearest passing
place on the left side of the road OR the person coming toward you would pull over
into a passing place on their side. This would sometimes require you to back up
a ways til you could find a passing place. 
The one pictured below is in very good shape - most single lane roads are crumbling into the are the roads which are full of  HUGE potholes. I read a few news articles while I was
there which said the "Beasts from the East" (terrible winter storms last winter) followed by a very hot
spring and summer have turned the roads into a big mess. 
The other challenge is to make sure you don't go an inch too close to the left or right as there
is no verge on either side, just a sheer drop-off into the ditch. 
I'm very thankful that my rental car held together in one piece (I think) after
the terrible jolts it experienced in the many potholes I wasn't able to avoid.
I got used to the left side driving and the very narrow roads to the point where I didn't even
have to think about them anymore. 
But the first week was hell really and truly. My brother thought I did an
amazing job and looking back I'm glad I didn't give up as it did gradually become instinctive. 
As with everything there is a learning curve and I really came to enjoy exploring every little road, especially on the Isle of Skye which had a lot of roads which vehicles over a certain size were prohibited from using. We drove for ages without encountering
another vehicle.
One of the most frustrating things about driving there (as if that wasn't enough!) is there is nowhere to turn around! If you miss your turn you could go for miles and miles before finding a spot to turn around or you could try to make a thousand point turn and hope no one else comes along while you're executing it! 
By the way - the passing place shown below would be for the driver coming towards me as it's on the right not the left! Did you catch that?

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Wild Weather

It's been awhile... both my brother and I feel like we were away for three years not three and a half weeks! It was kind of cool here in London, ON while we were away and we didn't feel much heat while in Scotland - the warmest days were the last couple we spent in Glasgow when it reached 15c. Now it's +21c in Scotland!!! That's ok, though, I didn't pack any shorts!

However, now that we're back we are getting another blast of summer heat and humidity. I've been out on my bike, the sun has been shining, the temps with humidity taken into account are up into the +30c range again and I've been taking Lily outside to the patio so she can check for mice - so far so good!

But now both Scotland and parts of the U.S. are experiencing some very wild weather with the potential for great damage and loss of life. Fellow blogger McVal let me know about the flooding in Oban, Scotland. We stayed in Oban for six days and while there was some light rain (more like mist) we had moved on by the time the torrential rains, flooding and rockfalls began. 

And now Hurricane Michael is battering the southern states while many people haven't yet recovered from Hurricane Florence! When will it end? 

After spending time in Scotland I now understand (FULLY AND COMPLETELY) how they say a person can experience all four seasons in one day! The fall colours are way ahead there and there's not a single midge to be seen, or felt!, snow can be seen on the peaks of the Munros and far below I can see my breath. Gentle rain can fall several times a day interrupted frequently by warm sunshine which made my rain gear steam and my clothing get soaked by sweat. I was glad we had a car as we had to carry a lot of gear and extra clothing. My boots were waterproof thanks to rubbing wax into them daily - that stuff really works! My gore-tex raincoat was also waterproof (on the outside) but underneath made me sweat profusely - I'm sure the 2.5 lbs I lost while away are directly contributable to sweating so much. Oh the price we pay to lose weight!

Village of Dollar

Our first bnb was in the lovely village of Dollar, not too far from Stirling. After landing at Glasgow airport my brother and I took a train to Stirling where we picked up the rental car. (More on that later - my adventures of driving in Scotland deserves its own post!!)

While in Dollar (seen above) we hiked through Dollar Glen and climbed our way up to Campbell Castle. Our ancestry includes the Campbells so I was excited to see the castle.
Dollar Glen

Campbell Castle

Campbell Castle

Looking out over the Village of Dollar

Dollar Glen
I hope to spend the next few days getting caught up with blog reading and writing. I'm also sorting through my photos and deleting the blurry ones. I took a LOT of photos so need to delete the duplicates and focus on the best ones.

Talk about a winter project!