A recipe for an unexpected meal

Edinburgh Expeditions

Following the success of The Recipe Given to Us by the Stoned Irishman back in May (onions, garlic, courgette, pasta and salmon in a cream sauce), we decided that we would have our entire meal planned by strangers. This included a toast, cocktail, and a three course meal.

Armed with a notebook, pen and bouquet of yellow roses, my friends and I hit the streets of Edinburgh to have locals and tourists alike plan our dinner party.

The cocktail was given to us first by a group of skateboarders in Bristo Square. The cocktail? A Jakeyboy, half Buckfast and half cider. We couldn’t find Buckfast, so this was nixed in favour of traditional cocktails.

An elderly gentleman gave us the starter–“You’ll want a soup,” he said. “A nice Scotch broth. Or perhaps borscht.” With the suggestion of borscht we also got a story about dining in restaurants in communist Russia. “And the ice cream. You never think of ice cream when you think of communist Russia, but they had the best ice cream.”

Our main was chicken/vegetarian curry (standard Scottish affair, but delicious nevertheless). The dessert a molten chocolate cake–I wasn’t around for either of these suggestions.

Our toasts came from a busker on the Royal Mile, a Portuguese saw-player who wears a top hat. “Salud” is the only one of the three I can remember. Other toasts came from ourselves, the British Navy of Nelson’s era (fittingly, the Sunday toast is ‘to absent friends’ and the occasion for the dinner was a going away party), and a favourite of one of my recently departed American friends which is not repeated in polite company.

We collected stories to tell through the night, including a very sweet one about what you see when you are falling asleep from one of the Royal Mile vendors. One of my friends is an accomplished harpist, so that night when I told the story, we had musical accompaniment.

We gave each person a yellow rose as a thank you for their contribution. The leftovers we used to make bouquets, and the roses are still going strong, sitting on one of the tables in my flat, fully blooming and only slightly touched by brown.

An eclectic evening, but a fantastic one, filled with friends, laughter and the happiest of memories touched with the sadness of our friend’s departure–but her adventures will be wonderful and I look forward to hearing about them.

Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Edinburgh Expeditions

Last night, my dad and I went to the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo. We’ve talked about going to this event for years, since I started playing the bagpipes back in the early 2000s (I don’t play any more). Finally, circumstances brought us to Edinburgh (well, my living here and his being in Scotland for work).

Around 8.30, we joined the throng walking up the Royal Mile, the maddening bunch of tourists, a few locals, masses of students. I felt a bit like a salmon swimming up river, particularly as I had to go up hill to get to the Castle Esplanade. It was chilly, a sharp contrast to the day’s comfortable weather and Saturday night’s warmth. Sitting up where we were, it was slightly windy, but not nearly so bad as on top of the seats–the flags flew wildly.

The Tattoo started at 9 with a fighter jet flyover, which I unfortunately could not see. Not a real loss though, we could hear the four jets. They fly over the Meadows, and I’ve seen them fly by before.

Spilling from the Castle

(C) Bethany Wolfe 2012

I didn’t really know what to expect from the Tattoo. Bagpipes, obviously, military bands, yep. Highland dancing mixed with modern dance to interpret the Industrial Revolution? Nope, did not expect that–nor did I particularly enjoy it. It was entertaining and shiny, but, quite frankly, watching modernish dance bores me a bit. As does ballet, to a degree. I digress.

Top Secret Drum Corps

(C) Bethany Wolfe

My favourite part of the evening was when the Top Secret Drum Corps of Basel, Switzerland. I had seen a video of their 2006 performance and was hopinghopinghoping that they would be performing at this year’s Tattoo. Lo and behold, they were! It was a fantastic performance. I grinned ear to ear the whole time. “You’re really enjoying this, aren’t you?” my dad said to me during the drum-stick-stage-fighting portion. I could only nod.

Top Secret Drum Corps

(C) Bethany Wolfe 2012

After the Top Secret Drum Corps came the King of Norway’s personal guard, a fantastic drill team and band. I like the patterns and movements created by drill teams, the precision and exactness (a bit strange that I can be bored watching choreographed dance and yet I really enjoy drum lines and drill teams…oh well).

Pipers and Others

(C) Bethany Wolfe 2012

The Tattoo ended with the lone piper on the Castle ramparts, playing a hymn for the fallen.

The Lone Piper

(C) Bethany Wolfe 2012

The Spontaneous City

Edinburgh Expeditions

One thing that I love about Edinburgh, and indeed my friends, is the spontaneity that exists like a heartbeat. The city is magical, alive with its own way throwing things at you, opportunities wonderful to behold, that must be grabbed and enjoyed.

I was returning home from an event in Leith and got off at the wrong bus stop–not a problem, as it was only slightly more out of my way. If I hadn’t departed the bus at the National Museum of Scotland, I wouldn’t have stumbled upon a group of my friends having an outdoor dinner (complete with table and chairs) being serenaded by two-thirds of the Balkan folk group Bobok.

Never being one to turn down the opportunity to hang out with friends (and listen to awesome live music), I pulled up a chair, sat down, and enjoyed a glass of wine. We laughed, danced, chatted as the sun continued to fall.

Being Edinburgh, the darkening sky brought some rain, and the musicians were anxious to keep their instruments dry. We scurried beneath the Potterrow underpass, bringing our table and chairs with us. The concert continued, with the Balkan music reverberating in the under-road pass. People passed us by, admiring our full dinner set up, and the musicians playing.

Needless to say, everyone who walked by wished they were with us.

Dancing like a classy, talented person

Edinburgh Expeditions

When I moved here, I decided to take up a new hobby. Something fun, to keep me active, and take my mind off of my studies. I don’t want to get overwhelmed and go mad.

So, in thinking of ways  to get involved, I went to what I enjoyed before hand. Film clubs, theatre groups, even art club. But something stuck at the back of my head. I don’t know how to dance. Oh, I’ve done several types of dance as a kid and teenager, but I don’t really know how to dance.

So I’ve taken up the lindy hop. Why lindy hop? It’s fun. It’s cheap. It’s a social dance. I don’t have to be all serious like in tango, and if I mess up on the steps, I can easily fix my mistake.

That, and the social aspect of the club is really, really awesome. If I want, I can go dancing three times a week. Which, time permitting, I’ll go at least twice.


One of these days, I’ll be this good! But probably not for a couple of years.

STREEETCH: My favorite writing exercise

The Twirl and Swirl of Letters

And one, and two, and three, and four! Okay writers, time to stretch!

I’d make a crappy aerobics teacher. But that’s okay.

When I was in middle school, my awesome English teacher taught my class this writing exercise. It’s great for group meetings, but can easily be adapted for individual use.

I call it “The Paper Bag Game”. It’s pretty simple and pretty quick.

Here’s how it works.

First, you gather five paper bags and lable them as “Main Character”, “Secondary Character,” “Location,” “Plot,” and “Object.”

Second, distribute pieces of paper to the group. Have the members write up descriptions for each of the categories. They can be as simple or complex as you want. For example: “MC: An old man who was a convict but is now reformed.” “SC: Persistant police officer” “L: Paris”, “P: A cat and mouse chase through the years between MC and SC” and “O: Silver candlesticks”.

Let these get silly.

Next, put these into their appropriately marked bags. Shake. Withdraw ONE from each category. Set your timer/watch/cell phone alarm for 5-7 minutes and get writing.

At this point, the group can decide whether to hold on to the used sheets or throw them out. The unused characters, etc. ought to remain in the bags, with new ones being added each meeting.

As I said earlier, this can easily be adapted for solo writing fun. Come up with many different characters, plots, objects, etc. and pull at random.

The writing time (5-7 minutes) can be extended for any length of time, but the short time works well for groups, as those who want to share afterwards can.

Don’t worry if you can’t get all of the components together–this is just meant to get your brain thinking.

In which Beth goes to Hell (merrily)

Florentine Scribblings

I have the greatest term paper topic ever. I’m taking a class on Dante, Petrarca and Boccaccio this semester, and for my term paper, I get to pull together my own version of Hell.


So what does this entail? Well, May’s short story will be written by Thursday (nothing like a little pressure). And I get to explore Hell, complete with my own guide, decide which sins end up where, the punishment, and so forth. It’s going to be great.

At this point, I’m part of the way through Hell. I’ve been through the antechamber, down through the first two levels. By this afternoon, I’ll have made it through all six. Why six? From what I remember from my Biblical literature courses, six is an imperfect number. There will be seven sections to my Hell, and an eighth section occurring outside of Hell (creating the seven days of one’s life and the eighth day of the Resurrection…what I’ve learned here in Florence).

Well, I’m off to Hell. I’ll be back soon.