Monday, August 23, 2010

 

Scotland by Air




I am a window seat junkie and I'll never understand why the map view of flights on United planes seems to have diminished a bit. I really loved being able to photograph Siberia and use Google Earth to figure out that I'd flown over Attu Island.

The sky was fairly clear as we flew out from Scotland and I'm always hoping we'll go far enough north to see some of the Hebrides. My father in law told me that he always hopes so too, but that most routes go further south. So you can imagine how excited I was to see views like these from the plane.



This, though, then led me to wonder exactly what I'd seen. Lazily, I sent the photos to Scotland and about 48 hours later, got this email:

Having compared your photos with an atlas, and the northerly course near Greenland, I can see that you flew North-west over Mull. Mull was probably cloud-covered, but also under the plane. The small island is Kerrera, which guards Oban Bay, with the Firth of Lorn beyond. You can see the town of Oban in the curve of the bay. The inlet to the North is the entrance to Loch Etive, at Connel.

In the other picture, the island is Coll, with possibly a bit of its neighbour Tiree in the bottom left corner. They are the outer of the Inner Hebrides. You must have flown directly over Saffa (and Fingal's Cave), and then out over Barra, the southern tip of the Outer Hebrides.


Greenland you say? Yes, that's right. I was watching the map view the whole time, hoping we'd go far enough north to catch some of Greenland, and we did. I took some photos, but they don't show up well. And we weren't close enough to see any bobbing iceburgs, though I could certainly see glaciers and lots of snow. Humbling. Again. Another place I may never get to go.

The email made me feel lazy, so I pulled up Google Earth again (reinstalling it, to be accurate) and spun the globe a bit to pull these images.

Here is the isle of Coll.




And here is Oban, which is unmistakably what I saw from the plane. Oban, you might recall, was the site of a huge seafood feast we enjoyed two years ago. Hoping to get back there in early March.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

 

Scotland

Hours and hours of sunlight. We can go running at 8:30 and it's still light at 9:30. Everyone tells me that in June, the sun sets at 11 PM. I've never gone to Scotland in the summer before because it's the most beautiful time of the year, which means it is also the most expensive. This year, however (I think due to the runway closure at JFK), every time of the year is expensive and so we decided to bite the proverbial bullet and travel in the summer.

And since it's so gorgeous here in the summer, I'm afraid I'm now hooked and will want to be back next August.






View of the castle from the hotel window. Below, Ewan poses with the view.



We walked down the Royal Mile. Yes, I know it's tacky but it's also a nice way to view the festival. And I was on the hunt for a baby kilt (which I also know was tacky of me.)





Marie found the mini-kilt (and hat and jacket) of her dreams. The jacket--a sample--was a one of a kind (and not photographed).



And Ewan met his first cousin--Ellie!







Gordon managed to get us a table at the Witchery, which he's long wanted to go to with me--and Ewan got to go too.

We walked down a little cobblestone path . . .



The ceiling is decorated with images from the Tarot.





The Witchery was in fact once a witchery--more witches were apparently burned here than anywhere else. And now it is a restaurant with a lovely room and lovely views.





Ewan sat on everyone's lap.












Fish Pie and Haggis.





Scenes from Edinburgh and the Fringe Festival.










Usher Hall, where we heard a lovely concert of music by Wagner and a symphony by Nilsson.



Bagpipe playing members of some regiment, coming down from the castle, during the Tattoo.


Thursday, August 05, 2010

 

Japanese Baby Food

Here's what I don't understand (and non-baby people, just skip this post as it will likely annoy you as much as it would have annoyed me when I was a non-baby person).

New mothers have this incredible pressure on them to breast feed and even to breast feed exclusively. The ones who breast feed exclusively--heretofore known as EBF, as it is referenced on message boards--can, at times, lord their perfection over others. Somewhere I read that baby formula ought to be available by prescription only. This debate rages and continues and new mothers get together and slowly figure out who is supplementing with formula and who isn't and who might be "cool" with the whole issue of formula and who might not and are relieved to find non-judgy kindred spirits. Dr. Sears, the current baby guru, spends pages and pages on breastfeeding, reminding us that "breast is best," and citing studies which correlate breast milk with everything from IQ to obesity (studies which others are ready to challenge). Most mothers I know--and this is anecdotal--suffer some sort of guilt or insecurity over breastfeeding and this is made all the more annoying when some paragon of female perfection, aka Gisele Bundchen comes out and declares that breastfeeding ought to be THE LAW.

So, this goes on and on . . . and then around 4 to 8 months, depending on who you are, you realize that your baby actually has to eat. Food. And then the debate switches to safe foods and textures. And that's kind of it.

There's a big part of me that wants to say, wait. What? The debate was over breastfeeding versus formula and now it's over? Didn't anyone read the article about how we literally are what we eat? As a country, we are about 30 percent obese and 60 percent overweight. And this, mind you, is despite the fact that breastfeeding rates are rising. Breastfeeding. That activity which is supposed to just maybe prevent obesity.

I don't understand why we aren't talking about what babies eat after the initial milk only phase is over. I don't understand why there is a paucity of material on what to feed your baby and how to do it correctly.

What's more, I'm starting to think that we really as a culture don't love food all that much, or at least, that we can't seem to tell the difference between what is good for us and what supposedly makes us feel good.

Here's the list of foods that Dr. Sears recommends for a 6 month old baby.
bananas
rice cereal
pears
applesauce


What is rice cereal? It's cooked rice that has been sapped of all moisture so you can reconstitute it with breast milk or formula. It's like instant oatmeal.

From 7 to 9 months, baby may eat:
avocados
peaches
carrots
squash
prunes
sweet potatoes or yams
mashed potatoes
barley cereal
teething biscuits
pear and apple juice


No meat. A lot of sweet foods. The prepackaged baby food companies oblige, and go along with this kind of food progression. When I went to look at some organic jar foods to see if there was something I could take for Ewan on a trip, I found lots and lots of sweets and fruits. About the only non-sweet thing for a young baby was a jar of peas.

Here are the foods the Japanese baby food book recommends for babies aged 5 to 6 months:
rice (cooked and reboiled and mashed)
bread (again, softened and mashed)
soumen noodles (see above)
potatoes
tofu
flounder
bream
shirasu (white anchovies, which must be rinsed of salt and mashed)
plain yogurt
carrot
broccoli
apples
strawberries
melon
watermelon




Around 7 to 8 months, the Japanese baby food book recommends adding:

udon
soybean powder
egg yolk
snapper
cottage cheese
chicken breast
spinach
egg plant
tangerine
kiwi




There are recipes too, in the cookbook, on how to make a broth with kelp and fish, so you can season rice and potatoes and virtually anything else. The instructions are clear: aim to give your child carbs, protein and veggies with every meal. Sound familiar? Sure--that's what you want your child to eat as he gets older. In other words, the whole idea behind Japanese baby food is that your baby is eating. He is eating your food. He is not adapting to texture. He is eating and enjoying the things that you already love.

The cookbook is gorgeous. The photos appetizing. I taste the baby food and think that if I were a baby, I'd eat what I am making. Would I eat jarred prunes and spinach? No. Yes, babies have to get most of their nutrition from formula. But how can you eat a healthy diet as a baby when you have to chow through a container of prunes? I find, too, that by following these instructions, I think about what I should eat. If he is eating some egg, I'll eat some egg. If he can now eat spinach, I'll eat spinach. These are all things I should be eating anyay.




So why is the debate about what we feed children not more charged? Why don't we worry more about what we are eating from a very small age? Why is there no gorgeous baby food book that makes cooking fun and eating fun? And I guess that last statement sort of answers the question--people in Japan love to eat. It's fun. It makes sense that you want to share what you love with your child. If you don't value food or what you are eating, then how can you pass on healthy habits to your own children?

*steps off soap box*

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