What’s New, Pussycats?

I know my writings have been few and far between lately. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with something new and exciting or even worthwhile to write about. Sometimes, it’s just that I get doing mundane everyday things, that I either forget to write, or just don’t allow myself the time to do it.

And with lockdown dragging on like a slug, there hasn’t been much of interest happening anyways. I remember last year, when I was put on a “temporary” medical leave, due to being at a higher risk of catching Coronavirus. Being able to sleep and wear whatever I wanted in was great for awhile. But it got boring in a hurry. Then I was asked if I’d like to contribute a short story for a compilation book about making changes in our lives. So, in between selling some of my personal belongings and preparing for my move home to Scotland, I ended up actually writing four pieces for the book. The book was a hit, and became an Amazon top 5 best seller, so I felt very proud of all of the wonderful authors who shared some very personal and heart warming stories.

Who would have guessed though, that Coronavirus would plaque us (sorry, no pun intended) for a whole year. It has been hard on everyone affected, either with their careers, travel plans or health-wise. But a lot of good has come out of it too. Creative talents who had never before been heard of emerged, people cheered for brave and hard-working healthcare workers, and checked up on their neighbours stranded at home due to lockdowns. Lots of people started or took up once again, a favourite hobby. And home-based business opportunities gave us something useful to do with our time, and earn at least a little while laid off or stuck at home.

I also have been doing some of the above mentioned things. Trying to do more writing, with a couple of book projects either in the works, or planning stages. I took a couple of free online courses (which were also popping up all over the place), and created a photography calendar and essential oil products to sell at a Christmas craft market. My most recent venture was re-joining Avon. I used to be a representative for several years back in Canada, and since I like their products and excellent value, I thought it would be a good idea to join Avon UK. I like that I don’t necessarily have to go out canvassing with brochures if I want to stay safe (from Covid, that is…). Avon has a web link that I can share with my customers and also a digital brochure. All very easy to use, and helps to keep our customers safe. Ordering online also means delivery directly to their own address, so no middle man (or woman). And being a household name is also a plus.

I’ve also been training my kittens to do some tricks. Yes, it is possible! There are even Instagram accounts showing off how to train your cats. Tomorrow my fur-kids, now 8 months old, are off to their vet for their neutering’s. I believe in being a responsible pet owner, plus I want to take them outdoors when the weather warms up. But there are other cats around, so I want to keep them safe. And they’ll only be outside under my close supervision when they do go.

So, what has everyone else been up to? Have you started a new hobby, written a song or poem, learned a new skill? Accidentally joining a Zoom meeting as a cat? Lol! Whatever you’ve been doing during this pandemic, just remember to hang in there. If we all keep taking the necessary precautions, hopefully it will be over sooner rather than later.

I’d like to thank you for taking time to read this post! Please show it some love by clicking the “Like” button, and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog. And if you’d like to support me during these trying times, please consider donating. Below, you’ll also find the links to my Avon (UK) store and Facebook page. If you are in the United Kingdom and would like to sign up as a rep, please go to my store, or message me directly.

My Avon store

My Avon Facebook page

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Wordy Wednesday

Funny Scottish Words

So, in keeping with the Rabbie Burns celebrations, I thought I’d offer up a sampling of funny Scottish words, slang and phrases. So, here goes. The first one is one of my personal favourites…

Haud yer wheesht! (Be quiet. You can also shorten it to just Wheesssht!)

Blether (noun: a blether is someone who likes to talk a lot. Verb: to have a blether is to chat with someone.)

Haver (to talk nonsense)

Hodjur (Hold your… See image below)

Ah dinnae ken (I don’t know.)

Tattie (a potato. Personally, I LOVE mince and tatties, a staple meal made from ground beef with vegetables and gravy, and tatties.)

Dreich (Cold, misty or rainy weather, as in “It’s a dreich day.”)

Yer aff yer heid (You’re off your head, as in a little bit daft or crazy.)

Baffies (slippers)

Clype (noun: a tattle-tale. Or as a verb: To “clype” on someone is to tell tales about them.)

Shoogle (to shake. Something that is “shoogly” is shaky or wobbly.)

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A Toast To Rabbie Burns

So, anyone who has any type of connection to Scotland, Scottish roots, family ties, whatever…knows that tomorrow, January 25th, we celebrate the birth of Scotland’s Bard, Robert (Rabbie) Burns. And this year, January 25th also marks the 6-month anniversary of the day I left Canada to return to Scotland for good.

During his short life, Burns wrote many poems, mostly about love or nature. Some of his most famous works include “To A Mouse”, “Tam O’ Shanter”, “Address To A Haggis”, which is traditionally read at Burns Night suppers. And of course, the song we all sing at midnight to welcome in the New Year, “Auld Lang Syne”. He wrote a lot of his works in the Scots language as well as English, but with a Scots dialect.

Robert’s parents were tenant farmers. He was the eldest of seven children and lived much of his life in poverty. The family moved frequently from farm to farm, but never improved their circumstances. He had very little former education, learning reading, writing and arithmetic from his father in his early years. The house Rabbie was born in was built by his father, and is now the Burns Cottage Museum.

The traditional meal for Burns Night supper consists of haggis (of course). It’s an acquired taste, not for everyone. Luckily, I lived my early years in Scotland and did acquire it! The meal also includes mashed turnip (neeps) and potatoes (tatties). This is accompanied by a good Scottish whisky, which is used at the end of the poem recital to “toast the haggis”. At formal Burns Night events, the haggis is served on a fancy platter and “piped in” by a bagpiper. Traditionally, a Scottish person is the one chosen to recite the Address. Don’t worry, I won’t gross you out by telling you what haggis consists of. If you really want to know, Google it, lol!

Haggis from a Burns Night I photographed a few years ago.

So tomorrow, along with many people around the world with a love of Scotland, I will be celebrating Burns Night. I made sure to have some haggis and black pudding in my freezer for the occasion, and may even have a wee dram with it. With Coronavirus and the continuing lockdown, we can’t celebrate in a pub with our friends. However, there are quite a few virtual events being held by various locations and Scottish groups online. Edinburgh Castle is hosting a free event, and there are many others too. So, grab yourself some haggis, a good dram of whisky, and enjoy the day!

Address To A Haggis

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o the puddin’-race!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o’ a grace
As lang’s my arm.

Read more

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Scottish legend of the enchanted ‘Faery’ bagpipes of Kinlochmoidart

Not everyone has a fondness for bagpipes, but I do. And an appetite for Scottish history. Even more so for interesting and little known details that are not common knowledge. So, with that in mind, here is a story I discovered about the “faery pipes”.

Made by a MacIntyre piper more than 800 years ago, the ‘Faery’ bagpipes of Kinlochmoidart, are thought to be the oldest Highland pipes. The legend is that the MacIntyre piper had a dream where a “faery” (fairy) came to him…

Click on the link to read the entire article.

Source: Scottish legend of the enchanted ‘Faery’ bagpipes of Kinlochmoidart | Transceltic – Home of the Celtic nations

The Physics of Santa and His Reindeer

* Please considered yourselves warned; this piece is satirical and intended for humorous purposes only. Please do not allow children or overly sensitive adults to read this!*

The following piece is something I found online many years ago, that I saved as a document and read every year at Christmas-time for a laugh. I don’t recall which website I found it on, so I apologize for not being able to credit the author.


No known species of reindeer can fly. BUT there are 300,000 species of living organisms yet to be classified, and while most of these are insects and germs, this does not COMPLETELY rule out flying reindeer which only Santa has ever seen.

There are two billion children (persons under 18) in the world. BUT since Santa doesn’t appear to handle the Muslim, Hindu, Jewish and Buddhist children, that reduces the workload to 15% of the total — 378 million according to Population Reference Bureau. At an average (census) rate of 3 .5 children per household, that’s 91.8 million homes. One presumes there’s at least one good child in each.

Santa has 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and the rotation of the earth, assuming he travels east to west (which seems logical). This works out to 822.6 visits per second.

This is to say that for each Christian household with good children, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park, hop out of the sleigh, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snacks have been left, get back up the chimney, get back into the sleigh and move on to the next house. Assuming that each of these 91.8 million stops are evenly distributed around the earth (which, of course, we know to be false but for the purposes of our calculations we will accept), we are now talking about .78 miles per household, a total trip of 75½ million miles, not counting stops to do what most of us must do at least once every 31 hours, plus feeding and etc.

This means that Santa’s sleigh is moving at 650 miles per second, 3,000 times the speed of sound. For purposes of comparison, the fastest man-made vehicle on earth, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a poky 27.4 miles per second – a conventional reindeer can run, tops, 15 miles per hour.

If every one of the 91.8 million homes with good children were to put out a single chocolate chip cookie and an 8 ounce glass of 2% milk, the total calories (needless to say other vitamins and minerals) would be approximately 225 calories (100 for the cookie, give or take, and 125 for the milk, give or take). Multiplying the number of calories per house by the number of homes (225 x 91.8 x 1000000), we get the total number of calories Santa consumes that night, which is 20,655,000,000 calories. To break it down further, 1 pound is equal to 3500 calories. Dividing our total number of calories by the number of calories in a pound (20655000000/3500) and we get the number of pounds Santa gains, 5901428.6, which is 2950.7 tons.

The payload on the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium-sized lego set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying 321,300 tons, not counting Santa, who is invariably described as overweight. On land, conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that “flying reindeer” (see above) could pull TEN TIMES the normal amount, we cannot do the job with eight, or even nine. We need 214,200 reindeer. This increases the payload (not even counting the weight of the sleigh) – to 353,430 tons. Again, for comparison – this is four times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth. 353,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance – this will heat the reindeer up in the same fashion as spacecraft re-entering the earth’s atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer will absorb 14.3 QUINTILLION joules of energy. Per second. Each.

In short, they will burst into flame almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them, and create deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team will be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second. Santa, meanwhile, will be subjected to centrifugal forces 17,500.06 times greater than gravity. A 250-pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim) would be pinned to the back of his sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force.

In conclusion: If Santa ever DID deliver presents on Christmas Eve, he’s dead now. (My apologies!)

Well, I hope you enjoyed reading this post! Please show it some love by clicking the “Like” button, and don’t forget to subscribe to my blog. And if you’d like to help support my writing, please consider donating below. Even the smallest amount is greatly appreciated!

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Scotland’s Hidden Secrets

Perhaps my opinion is biased, but this country is fantastic! So rich in history, and such beautiful scenery, as people far and wide already know.

But it has so much hidden, or should I perhaps say, forgotten history too. Little nooks and crannies tucked away in the places we visit on a regular basis. Places off the beaten track that only the person with an explorer’s heart sees. I found one such gem last year while I was on my holiday here.

I had planned a solo day trip to North Queensferry, on the edge of the Firth Of Forth River, settled in between the three bridges connecting Fife to the Lothians and Edinburgh. I had gone there after finding out that the famous “Flying Scotsman” would be crossing the iconic Forth rail bridge that morning. It was something I couldn’t miss, and I wanted to find a good vantage point. I had expected there to be a lot of other photographers around, considering the location and great views of the bridge. As it turned out, there were only about 1/2 dozen of us…

Anyways, after seeing the train and having a bite to eat, I wandered around the streets of the town. The village is set on the side of a hill, and at one point, I noticed an old set of stone steps going down towards the river. “Explorer Jen” decided to investigate! The winding narrow steps led down to a causeway with high walls on both sides, with ivy hanging over the edges. And at the bottom, tucked in the corner was an iron gate built into the wall and a dark cavern inside. There was a sign on the wall saying that inside the cavern is Willie’s Well. It sits below the edge of what used to be the ancient village washing green (17th and 18th centuries). It used to be the main source of fresh water for the village. And local legend has it that anyone who drinks of its waters will always return to the “Ferry”. And that’s just what I did…

Willie’s Well, North Queensferry. Image copyright ThruJensLens Photography

When my friend and I went out a couple of weeks ago to take in and photograph more of Fife’s beautiful coastline, we finished up in North Queensferry. The sun was setting, and we got some great images of the bridges. And I was telling my story of the last time I was there. It felt like I had truly come full circle, and that I was finally really home. Last year, I may not have drank from Willie’s Well, but I did have a coffee at Rankin’s Cafe just around the corner from it. And today, I remembered that my image above is now on a website of British historic buildings! It is also on my 2021 calendar, “Out And About In Scotland”. I’ll leave the links below. It is also going to be mentioned in my upcoming book project….keep your eyes peeled for it!

Willie’s Well fact sheet

Out And About In Scotland 2021 Calendar

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How To Celebrate The Winter Solstice Like The Ancients

I love the ancient traditions of my ancestors. Christmas-time, Yule or Winter Solstice, whichever you prefer to call it and celebrate, is a magical time of the year!

I stumbled upon this article, and thought I’d share it here with everyone. Some of the traditions listed, my parents did when I was young, and I continue to follow to this day. But there are a few on here I didn’t know about, and would like to try.

Learn how to celebrate the winter solstice with your friends and family using some of these great ideas! I hope you enjoy, and have a safe and happy Holiday Season!

Source: How To Celebrate The Winter Solstice Like The Ancients

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Hello

Did you know that today is World Hello Day? Neither did I, until this morning. But after doing a bit of research, I discovered some interesting facts about it.

World Hello Day was originally started in autumn 1973, as a response to the Yom Kippur war happening between Israel and Egypt. It was supposed to send a message to world leaders, encouraging them to use communication and not force, to resolve conflicts. Today, people in 180 countries observe it. By communicating verbally, we can contribute to a landscape for creating peace. To find out more, go here.

So, “Hello” to you, my followers. Or, if you prefer, “Bonjour” (French), “Hola” (Spanish), “Ciao” (Italian), “Nǐ hǎo” (Chinese), or “Halò” (Scottish Gaelic)…because I just had to throw that one in!

… Or in whatever other language you prefer. To participate in World Hello Day, just say “Hello” to 10 individuals, either on social media, in person, by phone, or email. It doesn’t matter how you do it, just say “Hello!” I think it’s especially important this year, because many people are feeling isolated and alone, due to the Coronavirus pandemic. So, go ahead and spread peace and cheer! How many languages can you say “Hello” in?

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A Fishy Tale

I was recently asked to be interviewed online by a tropical fish enthusiast acquaintance of mine, for his Facebook aquarium group. He was doing a collection of group member profiles. I have been in the fish hobby and business since I was 11 or 12 years old, and was happy to participate.

I thought I’d share that interview here today.

Where are you originally from and where are you based now? I was born in Perth, Scotland. Moved to Canada in 1980 at the age of 10 with my family. I returned to Scotland in July 2020, some 40 years later…

How long have you been in the hobby? My dad bought our family a used aquarium when I was 11 or 12. It became a favourite project for my mom and I. Over the years, I have kept & bred a variety of fish, including African cichlids, livebearers, including Goodeids and rare varieties, catfish, plecos and loaches. I adore Neocaridina and Caridina dwarf shrimp. As I have recently just gotten back into the hobby after my move, I only have one 35 gallon community aquarium set up. But that will change! One of my favourite all-time fish is the Rummy-nose tetra. Their little red noses make me think of cute little drunk guys!

Rummynose Tetras

Are you an all-rounder or do you have specific knowledge in some areas over others? As I mentioned previously, I love the livebearers and Goodeids. I have received my Senior Specialist certificate for breeding livebearers. (CAOAC award). I also breed plecos and dwarf shrimp. I have kept lots of varieties of fish; tetras, African cichlids and catfish, a variety of South American catfish, loaches and botias, rainbow fish, bettas and more. I have also had several ponds over the course of my adult life. One of my favourite goldfish is the Shubunkin. No two are alike!

If you were to give any advice to someone starting out in the hobby what would it be? Take it slow. Ask questions! People are willing to help you. Don’t overfeed, and get yourself some healthy, good quality fish from a decent LFS or breeder.

What’s the worst thing that’s happened to you in the hobby, tell us about it? *Embarrassing moment alert! When I was 19, I worked for the brand new Big Al’s aquarium store in London Ontario. A couple of months in, we had word that Big Al himself was coming to visit the store. We had it in tip top shape. I was working that morning, and doing water changes on a saltwater aquarium. My manager came around the corner to introduce Big Al to me, just as I was sucking water down the siphon hose. Yep, I got a big mouthful of salt water and ended up gagging into the pail. What a first impression!

What’s the best thing that’s happened to you in the hobby? I find it rewarding when my fish are healthy and breed. Watching baby plecos come out of the breeding tube for the first time is great! But I was super excited when my crystal red Caridina shrimps bred. I was looking in as I fed them one day, and there, toddling along the substrate, was a teeny, tiny mini shrimp! That colony bred several generations for me, and are now with a friend of mine in the hobby and still doing amazingly well. Taking my fish to the shows and having them place in the top 3 of their classes is also rewarding. As well as receiving my livebearer specialist and advanced specialist awards.

Tell us a couple of things about you that members would not know and would be interested about? I recently became a best-selling author, thanks to my contributions to a collaborative book project. I am also a photographer and blogger, and working on a couple of new book ideas. I am a photographer also, and am currently awaiting my latest calendar of Scotland photography to be printed. Since coming back to Scotland, I have been active on Band (aquarium forums) and started a group for people in my local area to buy/sell/trade tropical fish and supplies.

I really enjoy keeping tropical fish. I find aquariums to be relaxing and therapeutic, and a great way to introduce youngsters to the natural world. It’s also a great way to make new friendships! Aquarium clubs are a great place to learn and get your hands on some amazing, healthy, and often hard-to-get tropical fish. I have often been heard saying, “Aquariums are like potato chips; you can’t have just one!” You can check out my aquarium YouTube channel here.

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Happy Hallowe’en

Also known as Samhain, All Hallow’s Eve, or All Saints Eve.

It is celebrated on October 31st in many countries around the world. It is associated with pumpkin carving, trick or treating, scary movies and ghost stories. But what is it really? Where did it come from?

The ancient Celts celebrated a Pagan festival they called Samhain, which marked the end to their harvest season and the Celtic New Year (November 1st) which marked the beginning of the long, dark winter. It is known that Celtic days started and ended at sunset, so the celebrations began after sunset on October 31st and ran into November 1st. They gathered en mass, ate huge feasts, and had large bonfires to ward off ghosts and wore disguises to protect themselves from evil spirits.

They also believed that the veil between the world of the living and the Otherworld was thinner at this time of year, as well as the Spring fire festival of Beltaine. Spirits and fairies could travel to our world, and the souls of the dead could visit their homes, so a place was set for them at the table. The Pagan gods were also offered gifts of food and drink, and it is said that sacrifices were made to appease them and bring good fortune for the coming year.

As with many Pagan holidays, the early Christians incorporated it into their own religious beliefs. In the eighth century, Pope Gregory III deemed November 1st to be All Saints Day. Over time, this holiday began to include some of the traditions associated with Samhain, and eventually became what we know as Halloween.

One of the pumpkins I carved last year.

In western societies, carving pumpkins, wearing costumes and trick or treating are all standard Hallowe’en activities. But I remember my Hallowe’en evenings living in Scotland. We would have the fireplace going, there would be traditional roasted nuts, and we would “bob” for apples. And we would have a turnip lantern carved by my mum. Pumpkins were not commonplace in the UK back then. “Guisers” (people in disguise) would come to our door, but they had to perform to earn their treat. A song, or a poem. These are just a few of the commonplace traditions in Ireland and Britain. Fortune telling games are also still popular, including “scrying”, or mirror gazing. Gazing into the fires was also a method of divination.

Hallowe’en didn’t reach North America until Colonial times, and it wasn’t well received by the Puritan societies of New England. However, with the immigration of thousands of Irish and Scottish in the late 18th and into the 19th centuries, it became more popular and spread across the country, with peoples of different race, social stature and religions.

Hallowe’en this year is a different beast altogether. Thanks to Coronavirus, trick or treating has been cancelled. Large groups are not allowed to gather, so no parties either. But there are still treats to be eaten, scary movies to watch, and traditions we can still participate in at home. So if you celebrate, grab a blanket and flashlight (torch) and tell ghost stories, cuddle up on the couch with a pet and a good Hallowe’en movie, or read about haunted places. Whatever you do, have a safe and spooky night!

Sources: Wikipedia, history.com

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