Welcome to Lamb Cottage. It's a real place, and this is where I live with my dear husband. We even have lambs. This is a personal blog, especially concerning life as an American expat in Scotland, life as an over-50, life with lambs, and life as an Orthodox Christian. You're most welcome to come and visit awhile. I hope we can be friends!

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Swans on the Loch

Last week we went walking on a forest trail around a loch nearby. The bird life was absolutely amazing, and all the flowering trees were just starting to bloom. Spring was in the air! My Dear Husband took this lovely photo of a pair of swans on the loch. We are so blessed to have lots of Whooper Swans in this area. They are so beautiful.

This week, the weather has been so changeable and most of the time horrible! You'd not think it was the same place. There is new snow on the hills. We had snow here over the weekend. It's times like these that I really worry about all the new baby lambs in the area. 

At the moment, it depends on which window you look out of! You will see threatening clouds and snow on the hills out the front; and out the back, you will see blue skies and sun. Sigh. I told my Dear Husband that I found this constantly roiling, changing, drastic weather completely draining. 

You have to grab those "swans on the loch" days when they come!

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Tuesday, April 28, 2015

St Margaret's Shrine

Driving around Dunfermline a few weeks ago, looking for how to get to the Abbey, we literally stumbled upon this: St Margaret's Cave. It is situated in a public parking lot, off in one corner. The little building stands over a stepped walkway which descends through a tunnel to St Margaret's Cave. Once again, I stand amazed at how callous and cold-hearted people can be. The cave was St Margaret, Queen of Scotland's special place to which she would go for private devotion and prayer. The city of Dunfermline filled in the ravine which held the cave and put a parking lot over it. Can you even imagine? Oh, believe me, Scotland is full of stuff like this: the remains of a brutal Reformation mindset, destructive and full of error and vandalism. But I digress... Anyway, we joyfully went to pay homage, as we were on a pilgrimage in honor of St Margaret. The tunnel which was built, and the very-well-done information boards along the way, as well as the sacred music playing, is maintained by a private group who obviously feel some devotion to St Margaret, and thank goodness for them! It was odd approaching her cave this way, through an underground tunnel, when she would have approached it from without, and been near the outdoors. It took a great deal of imagining to try to figure what it was like for her. Nevertheless, pilgrims do still wander there, and as recently as the 1960s, there were something like 10,000 pilgrims who visited her cave. How far have we fallen?
The man who was maintaining the little shop and information booth in the building over St Margaret's Cave directed us as to how we could walk from the car park to the Abbey. I have written a bit about the Abbey, and you probably already know the importance of Dunfermline during the time of King Malcolm III and Queen Margaret. Both Malcolm and Margaret were buried there, as well as their family.

There was, at one time, a glorious shrine St Margaret. It was the site of massive pilgrimage during the Middle Ages. Once again, the Reformation took care of that, and as to where St Margaret's relics are now, we can only speculate. Possibly Spain, in an attempt to save them from that viper John Knox and his brood.

All that is left of St Margaret's Shrine today is a little fence with a sign, and the very base (too heavy to move and destroy, perhaps?) of the actual shrine. The Shrine was established in 1250, after she had been canonized in 1249. There was a chapel and a beautiful wooden casket decorated with gold and jewels. The Shrine would have been elevated so that it could be seen behind the high altar. Today, all that remains is the stone base or plinth. It does not even stand inside the church. Again, the Reformers made sure no saint was enclosed in their plain church building. Too close to God for their liking, perhaps?

I have a great deal of feeling towards the shrines and relics of saints, and it just makes me weep to see what destruction men have wrought.

Nevertheless, the Reformers and the non-believers and everyone else who is so offended by saints and their shrines really cannot ever take away what a saint is and what that person means to the faithful. 

All in all, Dunfermline was a bit of a disappointment to me. It felt very secular and political, and as if it has been profaned. Still, I'm glad to have been where St Margaret once was. We made our pilgrimage, and probably we will go back.

St Margaret, pray for us!

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Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Bit About Dunfermline Abbey

Dunfermline Abbey dates back to the days of St Margaret of Scotland and her husband Malcolm III (Canmore) in the 11th century.  The view above is of the new portion of the abbey church, and was completed in the early 19th century.  You can see that the tower says "THE BRUCE".  Personally, I have issues with this.  Robert the Bruce is indeed buried in the new portion of Dunfermline Abbey, but he was not a saint, and it just feels to me that the church is too politically aligned, rather than spiritually aligned. 

It does make for an impressive view, if you are merely looking for aesthetics.  I was quite captivated by it.  But we were in Dunfermline for its connection with St Margaret, so The Bruce was very much secondary for us.  We did see the tomb (set into the floor, and oddly enough, with a huge, ornate, carved wooden pulpit directly over it).  You can also see a replica of his skull on display in what would have been, at one time, a chapel within the church -- before the Reformers came and vandalized everything.

You may realize by now that I have major problems with the Scottish Reformation (and all of the Reformation, for that matter) and the enormous destruction it wrought, as well as the fact that the people leading it were (a) people and NOT Christ, who is the Head of the Church, and (b) very politically oriented.  And personally, I think John Knox was, at the least, mentally ill, and more likely, demon-possessed.


Above you can see the old abbey in the foreground and the newer portion in the background, with the graveyard surrounding them.

This is one view of the inside of the old abbey.  The pillars were massive, and some had a very unusual chevron pattern on them.  The State maintains the old abbey and associated buildings.  The Church of Scotland (sigh) has the newer portion.  And... SACRILEGE... St Margaret's Shrine is purposely left on the OUTSIDE of the church.  Once, it was on the inside and was a major pilgrimage site.  As for her relics -- again, victims of the Reformation.  Who knows where they are?  Some say they are in Spain.  That they were carried away to Europe before the Reformers could destroy them. What makes people so vile like that?

This photo is just because the light through the stained glass was lovely on the stone walls.

Above is a view of some of the buttresses outside.  These are gone from the newer part of the church.

And this view above is of the refectory.  I doctored the photo.  I liked the detail that came out, almost like a 19th century etching, when I used a black and white filter.

And below...

The one spiral staircase in the world I would not go down (or up)!  Now, I have been inside of caverns, pyramids, all kinds of close places; and have climbed up the Scott Monument, lighthouses, pyramids, even the Leaning Tower of Pisa (back when you could).  And this little staircase leading to the Palace at Dunfermline stumped me!  It wasn't even long.  I had just gone up and down lots of little close staircases in Craigmillar Castle, for goodness' sake!  At first, I said NO.  So, my Dear Husband went down by himself.  Then, I thought, oh for heaven's sake, go.  I started down, got about halfway, then panicked!  I came back up, and never made it.  Defeated!

I will have to try again some day!

I plan to post about St Margaret and her Dunfermline affiliation, so more about the Abbey then. 

May God bless you!

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Craigmillar Castle Once More

I think this will be my last post on Craigmillar Castle. It is just such a fine ruin, and has such an interesting history. I took loads of photos and enjoyed it immensely. Above is a photo of the main or Great Hall, in the old part of the castle. It would have had a brightly painted wooden ceiling and tapestries along the walls. The laird would have had his table directly in front of the fireplace, which is huge!

On either side of the fireplace, in the outside walls, were two wonderful window seats. I can imagine the ladies sitting here, or a lady and a gentleman, sharing great secrets!

Another view of a window seat with its built-in stone benches. Considering the weather in Scotland, I'm guessing these seats were use a lot!

We used them! I am listening to my Dear Husband reading from the guidebook.

And a closer look at the massive fireplace. We could stand up in it!

If you are ever in Edinburgh, be sure to visit Craigmillar Castle. You will not regret it!


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Saturday, April 11, 2015

Great and Holy Saturday :: Waiting

By mine own will the earth covers me, O Mother, but the gatekeepers of hell tremble as they see me, clothed in the bloodstained garment of vengeance: for on the Cross as God have I struck down mine enemies, and I shall rise again and magnify thee.
(from the 9th Ode of the Canon)

Joyful Sadness.

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Friday, April 10, 2015

Great and Holy Friday

Today is hung upon the Tree, He Who did hang the land in the midst of the waters. A Crown of thorns crowns Him Who is King of Angels. He is wrapped about with the purple of mockery Who wrapped the Heavens with clouds. He received buffetings Who freed Adam in Jordan. He was transfixed with nails Who is the Bridegroom of the Church. He was pierced with a spear Who is the Son of the Virgin. We worship Thy Passion, O Christ. Show also unto us thy glorious Resurrection.

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Thursday, April 9, 2015

Another Look at Craigmillar Castle

We have come inside the inner courtyard now. See how a tree grows on either side of the doorway in? They were so gorgeous, and almost mysterious, to see in real life. On the left you can see the main, original tower portion of the castle. The small doorway open to a later addition.

More of the trees. They fascinated me. And the castle seems to be a home to many birds, particularly pigeons, doves, and jackdaws. 

Here is a view of the outer curtain wall. I really liked the many details in the stonework. It all looks very romantic, doesn't it?

And back in the bright sunshine, looking straight up at one of the corner towers. Again, the stonework is amazing. This castle dates from the late 14th century, the main tower house being the oldest part. Some of the walls are 3 meters thick (about 10 feet), and the tower is 17 meters high (about 56 feet). The castle was originally built and held by the Preston family, and later, in the 17th century, it was bought and restored by the Gilmour family.

If you love ruins and castles...and have the time and money to explore, then Scotland is the place for you! You can't throw a stone without hitting...well...a stone! Some kind of ruin, dating anywhere from Neolithic times to the recent past. Case in point: where we live there are hut circles, Pictish stones, castles, and even buildings left over from WWII. Sometimes, the ruins on top of ruins can make your head spin!

A tiny bit more about Craigmillar Castle still to come...

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Fairness of Life

How easy it is to say, "life isn't fair!" My dear husband has gone off to Inverness today for a Service of Anointing. Our priest came all the way from Edinburgh to hold this service for us. I am home, absolutely wracked with a bad head and chest cold. And my inner spoiled brat wants to say, "Life isn't fair! WAH WAH WAH!"

My dearest friend in the world is beginning a vicious battle with her husband against his recently diagnosed cancer. Life isn't fair. She maybe has the right to say that. I certainly don't.

How many examples could we all give? And the very fact that we ALL can list reasons or examples why life isn't fair should prove to us that life isn't even meant to be fair. Now that's a thought. It goes against the grain of modern life ~ this modern idea that we are all entitled and deserve whatever. Where on earth has everyone gotten that notion? And how on earth have people fallen so low as to watch endless hours of television and believe everything they see and here? It's Madison Avenue that is telling us we deserve / want / need everything the modern world can provide. And that attitude is straight from the pit of hell.

Life isn't fair. Nope. It isn't. And it's hard, for most of us. Nevertheless, whatever we're feeling, God is good and righteous and faithful and true. He is the only Truth. Cling to the Truth...and spit in the eye of everything that is not.


We are halfway through Holy Week. As we follow Jesus up to Jerusalem, it is to be crucified with Him. Are we carrying our crosses?

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Monday, April 6, 2015


What is it about doorways? And windows, for that matter. Maybe they represent opportunities, or new vistas. I don't know, but I have always been intrigued by doorways, and I have always been just a little repulsed by an ugly door or window. And oh my goodness, there are so many like that. What a shame!

Castle doorways and windows are especially fun. These are a few photos of our approach to Craigmillar Castle. The first photo shows my dear husband at the opening of the curtain wall. The next photo shows me at the opening of the inner courtyard wall. See the tree behind? It's inside the courtyard.

Craigmillar Castle is one of the best-preserved castle ruins in all of Scotland. It is now engulfed by Edinburgh, but at one time, it would have been outside the city, in the country. Mary, Queen of Scots liked to go there for the respite, and for outdoor sports like hawking and hunting.

Step into the courtyard, and in the next post, I will show you around!

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Sunday, April 5, 2015

Palm Sunday

In the West, it is Easter Sunday...but in the Orthodox Church, it is Palm Sunday. Our Pascha (Easter) falls on April 12 this year.

So, I wish a blessed Palm Sunday to all the Orthodox faithful, and a Happy Easter to the faithful in the West!

Our Holy Week is beginning, and Lent is over, and the fasting and prayers increase. It is hard to be patient this week!

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Saturday, April 4, 2015

Home From Our Pilgrimage :: A Sneak Preview

When we awoke at 6:00 AM on Wednesday, April 1, and looked out the window...SNOW! Not a lot, mind you, but still. It's springtime. Snow? These are some of my daffodils. I took this photo out the bedroom window.

By the next day, April 2, in Edinburgh...SUN! It turned out to be a glorious day with mild weather. Still a chill in the wind, though. Here is a quick view of Craigmillar Castle. It is one of the Historic Scotland properties, and it is wonderful! We are so glad we visited.

And the view from Craigmillar Castle, looking west towards the city. I number some of the sights by placing number directly above what you could see of the Royal Mile. Number 1 is Edinburgh Castle. Number 2 is the Sir Walter Scott Monument. Number 3 is above the dome of St Giles Cathedral. You couldn't see Holyrood Palace from Craigmillar Castle. Arthur's Seat is in the way!

We were only gone two full days and one overnight, but it was a wonderful (and much needed) little break for us. More on our visit to St Andrew Orthodox Church, Craigmillar Castle, and our pilgrimage to the Shrine of St Margaret of Scotland...coming up!

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Friday, April 3, 2015

A Girl of the Limberlost

Another reason why I love Guteberg.org.  I am three quarters of the way through this book.  I know it has been around for a long time.  I even had it on my reading shelf in one of my classrooms when I was teaching.  But I'd never read it till now.  WOW!  If you have not read this book, read it.  It is available for free on Gutenberg.org.  It is beautiful.  I have not read a modern novel -- that is I personally have not found anything written in recent decades that I have found as stunningly beautiful as some of the books I have downloaded and read from Gutenberg.org -- books that are no longer in print.  

Perhaps I shouldn't be quite that harsh.  But I have read a LOT in my time, and truly, the older books have been the best.  There are exceptions.  I will have to think on that.

What are you reading right now?

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

A New Fasting Recipe!

Click on my Fasting Recipes page to find a new recipe (at the bottom).  We had a Prawn (Shrimp) Stir-Fry on Sunday.  It was wonderful!  Simple, quick, and nourishing.  A one dish meal, and only two pots for cooking.  It is fast-friendly, and if you wish to serve it on an oil-free day, just steam instead of saute.  I hope you enjoy!

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Wednesday, April 1, 2015

St Margaret and Dunfermline

I confess, I am writing this post on the 31st of March. However, I hope I am here on the 1st: Dunfermline Abbey. It is our plan to visit on our way to Edinburgh. I have an especial fondness for St Margaret of Scotland, her rough-around-the-edges husband Malcolm, her life, and her faith. I hope I am visiting her shrine. It's a little mini-pilgrimage, incorporated into a slightly larger pilgrimage which takes us to the St Andrews Orthodox Church in Edinburgh for the Liturgy of the Presanctified Gifts, in which we have never participated before. There is SO much to see and do in the area surrounding Edinburgh. I wish we had more time, but alas, we only have one overnight. Nevertheless, we hope to see a little bit on our way down, and the next day before heading back. It's 188 miles the short way, and we're taking a longer, more meandering way, so it will be a busy little trip. 

Let's hope there will be lots of photos and good stories to share when we get back!

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