Wordless Wednesday: the year so far

Are you supposed to post just one photo for Wordless Wednesday? Are there rules for this thing? If there is a one-photo rule for WW, I’m going to go right ahead and break it in my first Wordless Wednesday post!

Resolution

winter tree

Staying in Bristol - overlooking the Avon Gorge

Scone Palace

An exhibition of costumes from Jane Austen movies

Dunstanburgh Castle ruins

October apple crop

A visit to Scone Palace

Scone Palace

Scone Palace

Scone Palace, near the city of Perth in Scotland, has an important place in Scottish history. The kings of Scotland, including Robert the Bruce, were crowned at Scone from the thirteenth through seventeenth centuries.

So, thanks to all at once and to each one,
Whom we invite to see us crown’d at Scone.

Macbeth, Act 5, Scene VIII

The house as we see it today was rebuilt in the early nineteenth century when the Gothic style was extremely popular. We saw a model of the house as it stood in medieval times before it was rebuilt in the Georgian period. It was interesting to see the comparison between the simple medieval architecture and the lavish Gothic-style palace.

Inside the house there are many wonderful paintings and portraits, including works by Joshua Reynolds and Van Dyck. We also saw many examples of beautiful furniture. I was especially interested in a little delicate writing desk which was a gift to the 2nd Earl of Scone from Marie Antoinette. It was fascinating to walk through the rooms, furnished with antique pieces, and imagine what it was like throughout history.

I found it interesting to learn that when portraits of the ladies and gentlemen of the house were painted, they used to sit while the artist painted the face. Then someone else, perhaps a maidservant or a footman, would sit wearing the same outfit for the rest of the body to be painted. This was so that the person whose portrait was being painted didn’t have to experience the tedium of sitting still in one pose for hours!

Photography is not permitted inside the palace but you can view photos on the official Scone Palace website – click here for photos. However, I took plenty of photos in the wonderful grounds. I was surprised by the lack of formal gardens but the natural wildness of the grounds created a relaxing atmosphere for a stroll.

The Butterfly Garden is full of different plants which encourage wildlife to visit the garden.

Butterfly Garden

Flowers

Butterfly Garden

The grounds were bursting with color from the spectacular rhododendrons and azaleas and as we walked to the Pinetum, we admired the lovely shades of purple, pink and crimson.

photo collage

The Pinetum is a beautiful wooded area with many different types of pine trees, including enormous sequoias (redwoods) and Douglas firs, named after the botanist and explorer David Douglas. Douglas was born in the village of Scone and worked as a gardener at Scone Palace before traveling to the United States on an expedition to discover plants. In 1826 he sent a Douglas fir seed home to Scone from the U.S. (the first Douglas fir to be introduced to Britain) and the tree which grew from the seed still stands in the grounds of Scone Palace.

Various pine trees in the Pinetum:

We enjoyed the walkway of laburnum trees and we weren’t the only ones: the trees were full of the sound of bees harvesting nectar from the blossom.

Laburnum

The avenue of cherry blossom is also very pretty:

And there is a beech hedge maze in the shape of a five-pointed star which represents the Murray family crest. It was designed by Adrian Fisher who has created mazes in more than thirty countries. His mazes include the Skyline Caverns Mirror Maze in Atlanta, the Chateau de Thoiry Hedge Maze near Paris and the Blenheim Palace Hedge Maze in Oxfordshire. It would be fun to travel around the world completing each one of his mazes.

Scone Palace maze

It took quite a while to navigate to the center of the maze at Scone! I was reminded of the scene in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, during the Triwizard Tournament, when Harry and the other tournament competitors battle their way through a maze filled with dangerous creatures and hazardous spells. Fortunately, our journey through the Scone Palace maze was somewhat less eventful!

Maze at Scone

We finished our day at Scone by admiring the pretty Highland cows which were grazing contentedly in a field. This calf stood still and posed long enough for me to take a picture,

Highland calf

before ambling over to mama for an afternoon snack:

Memorial Day

In less than a month, it will be the longest day of the year. Thursday, June 20th marks the last day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. The apple tree in the garden is in full bloom. Hopefully we will have a lovely crop of apples in a few months and I can bake to my heart’s content.

Apple blossom in the garden. Collage created with photovisi.com. Photos Grace @ Cultural Life copyright 2013

Apple blossom in the garden. Collage created with photovisi.com. Photos Grace @ Cultural Life copyright 2013

As well as celebrating the wonderful weather and the imminent arrival of summer, today is Memorial Day in the United States. Whatever your personal beliefs are regarding the issue of war, spare a thought for families who have loved and lost on this Memorial Day. I have relatives – now deceased – who served their country and it is important to remember the sacrifices they and countless others have made and are still making.

“Peace is more important than all justice; and peace was not made for the sake of justice, but justice for the sake of peace” – Martin Luther

Many other countries are celebrating holidays today too. In the UK, it is a Spring Bank Holiday, in Bolivia they are observing a Mother’s Day holiday, it is Children’s Day in Nigeria and the President of Ghana has recently declared that today is a public holiday for the country. Are any other countries celebrating public holidays today?

A blogging milestone

This post marks the 100th post and the third blogging milestone for Cultural Life, after my first ‘blogiversary’ in June 2012 and the delightful surprise of being Freshly Pressed in February this year!

All milestones should have cake or some form of dessert. 😉 And so I celebrated my 100th blog post by baking this apple streusel cake:

As a Brit, I was initially confused by the name of this particular cake. If you say “coffee cake” the image that springs to the minds of most Brits is something like this: Nigella’s coffee and walnut layer cake. In England, coffee cake has coffee in it. It’s always interesting to learn how cooking and baking terminology varies on each side of the pond.

Linguistic differences aside, this apple streusel coffee cake turned out to be very delicious indeed, despite the fact that I unintentionally ignored the instructions to bake in a baking dish and not in a round cake pan. Hence, the flatness of my cake!

Recipe text from this page reproduced with kind permission from Mama’s Gotta Bake. Do check out her lovely blog….your mouth will water!

Apple Streusel Coffee Cake

Adapted from Gale Gand’s Brunch!

The Cake

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 large egg
1/2 cup milk
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 apples, peeled and cored, and chopped (I like to use a tart Granny Smith apple)
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped

Streusel Topping

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut up
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a pastry brush and melted butter, grease an 8-inch baking dish.

2. For the cake, sift together the flour, baking powder, sugar, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl. Set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer (or I used an electric hand-mixer) beat the egg and then mix in the milk and melted butter. Add the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix until everything is incorporated. Add the apples and walnuts to the mixture and pour into the baking dish.

3. To make the streusel topping, mix the sugar, flour, cold butter and cinnamon in a medium bowl by pinching them together with your fingers until combined. Spoon the mixture over the top of the batter.

4. Place the oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden, and when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan, and then cut into squares.

January, we had fun

January was a great month on the blog.

I made some delicious soup (Honey-roasted parsnip and carrot soup), took part in a photo challenge (highlights below) and published the post which was Freshly Pressed, to my delight, on February 1!

I kick-started January with the First Thirty-one Photo Challenge, welcoming in 2013 with a photo a day.

Browse highlights from my entries below:

Day 1: Resolution:

Resolution: to get outside and go places

Resolution: to get outside and go places

Day 10: Gorgeous hand-knitted socks, knitted by a friend

socks

A wintry photo entry for day 14’s “Frost” theme

snowy tree

Day 19: Fur

fur

Day 31: snowdrops signal the end of winter

snowdrops

I also enjoyed challenging my writing skills with challenges from The Daily Post

My dream trip: a writing challenge about traveling set my imagination on fire.

Another writing challenge: Starting Over, a short story set in Mexico.

Cultural Life celebrated the 200th anniversary of the publication of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with this post:

January 28 1813.

And on January 31, I published this weekly writing challenge post, about saying an emotional goodbye to my mother at the doors of the operating suite. It was Freshly Pressed! I don’t often use the word “awesome” but being Freshly Pressed was the embodiment of that word. Thank you to everyone who commented, liked and shared my post. Welcome to my new followers and thank you for helping to create a great blogging month here at Cultural Life!

Photo challenge day 31: End

It’s day thirty-one of the First Thirty-one Photo Challenge from Fourtuitous, celebrating the first thirty-one days of the year with a photo a day, and that means it’s the end.

Snowdrop flowers signal that winter is coming to an end and spring will soon arrive.

 

Snowdrops signal the end of winter

Snowdrops signal the end of winter

First Thirty-one Photo Challenge catch-up

I have missed a few days of the First Thirty-one Photo Challenge over at Fourtuitous. Here are the photos for days 27, 28, 29 and 30 of the challenge.

DAY 27 – Something beginning with ‘J’

A pretty journal cover:

journal

DAY 28 – Windows

“A house without books is like a room without windows” (Horace Mann)

A pile of books; two of them I am reading for the first time, two of them I am re-reading.

Books

Books

DAY 29 – Kin

Challenging theme today! I chose to post this photo of a gnome garden I made for my niece one Christmas: the gnomes look like kin!

VLUU L110, M110  / Samsung L110, M110

DAY 30 – Sign

When I put these shoes on, it’s a sign I’m ready to go dancing. The chunky heels are perfect for salsa!

Dancing shoes!

Dancing shoes!