Part two of our Scottish adventure started with the most anxiety filled of destinations, the rental car agency. After taking the return tram to the airport from Edinburgh, we picked up our car and started making our way to the Highlands. Our time driving through Scotland had begun. It wasn’t the first time we’d driven internationally but it would be the first time driving on the left side of the road. Little did I know when picking up the rental car that which side of the road we were driving on was the easy part.
Our first stop was the Kelpies in Falkirk which are the world’s largest equine sculptures. This stop was extremely close to the airport and it was nice to have a short initial jaunt on the road before stopping to catch our breath. After parking and walking towards Helix Park, the Kelpies started to rise up in the distance. Kelpies are shape-changing aquatic spirits that typically take the form of a horse. The Kelpies were impressive and unique but other than a few walking paths around the sculptures there wasn’t much to do as we were there extremely early in the day. But, it was a nice photo opportunity and I did get to eat ice cream for breakfast given nothing else was open so the day was off to a good start.
After arriving in Edinburgh, we took the airport tram exiting at St. Andrew’s Square and wheeled our well-balanced luggage the half mile to our first hotel of the trip. We were not the only tourists in town. The revamped Iron Throne was also touring the UK to coincide with the release of House of the Dragon. Lucky for us, its last stop was Calton Hill a beautiful vista point in Edinburgh which was only a short, although entirely uphill, walk from our hotel.
We hiked up the winding path and after a brief wait, my husband got his turn on the Iron Throne. We also got to enjoy the beautiful views of the city from this elevated spot. Arriving during a garbage strike took a bit of the shine off the experience but it was still a wonderful view. I knew immediately we were going to love the city.
After working from our hotel lobby the rest of the day, we headed to Hoot the Redeemer for some pre-theatre drinks. Walking down into the basement level bar, you’re immediately met with an art deco speak-easy crossed with a carnival vibe. A repurposed arcade claw machine sits against one wall where a three breasted temptress beckons you under a Pinch‘n Sip sign to let fate pick your drink flavors for the evening.
I put my Christmas decorations away last week. I love decorating for the holidays but come January I’m ready to box things up and reclaim my house. It feels cathartic. It’s how I mark the start of the new year. This year it felt especially important. A symbolic wrapping up of a rough year and the hope that the new one will be better although it’s off to a rough start.
While I don’t really do New Year’s resolutions, I do pick a word each year on which to focus. I’ve blogged about it before in my post: One Little Word® Memory Keeping Project. This year my word is Breathe. It seems appropriate coming out of 2020 as while things are more hopeful there is still a lot we will all likely need to continue to navigate in the coming months.
This was especially apparent to me when I headed into Portland to pick up a gift for a local business gift exchange. The exchange was organized by Portland Buy Local along with the Knack Factory, Black Owned Maine, and Portland Downtown as a way to support the many businesses impacted by COVID-19. While I already knew that the financial impact on businesses has been devastating, walking downtown and seeing so many closed shops was still disheartening.
Part of the One Little Word project involves setting goals around our word for the upcoming year. For this blog post, I wanted to focus specifically on my goals around helping my local community. Many businesses are on life support. But together I believe we can breathe new life into them.
~ One ~
Order Take Out or Food Delivery. We participated in the Maine Brewers’ Guild virtual Maine Beer Night over the summer. It was my first exposure to CarHop who managed the delivery of the local beers for the event. We don’t live in an easy delivery location but CarHop has opened up new options for us during the pandemic. We quarantined the two weeks leading up to Christmas so that we could safely spend time with family. Towards the end of quarantine we got a little antsy so we ordered take out through CarHop from one of our favorite restaurants. CarHop offers zero contact delivery which worked great. While I am not comfortable with indoor dining during the pandemic, we’ll continue to get food delivered as well as order curbside pickup and other takeout. My goal is to support local restaurants by ordering take out, curbside pickup, or delivery at least once a week.
~ Two ~
Donate to Impactful Non-Profits.Maine Needs is a new non-profit directly supporting Mainers in need during this unique time. The number of Mainers struggling has grown significantly with COVID-19. There are many great non-profits that do amazing work in the state. I like the variety of giving options and direct impact that Maine Needs is having. My favorite donation request is for various kits including: cleaning & toiletry, Covid care, a minute for mom, art therapy, and the mini warmth kit . I love the idea of putting together kits. It would let me purchase items from local sellers to be donated to people in the community. My goal is to create and donate at least twenty five kits to Maine Needs.
~ Three ~
Sign Up for Virtual Classes. A cooking class has been on my bucket list for many years but with all the pandemic restrictions and, prior to that, my persistent procrastination it hasn’t worked out yet. Fortunately, many restaurants and farms offering cooking classes have pivoted and are now offering virtual options. While most of the classes from Salt Water Farm are during the day, which doesn’t work for my schedule, they are hosting a benefit class for Finding Our Voices on a Friday evening in February. Bravo Maine also offers a variety of in person and virtual cooking classes. It looks like 2021 will be my year to finally check this one off my bucket list. My goal is to sign up for at least six virtual classes or online offerings from local businesses.
~ Four ~
Subscribe to my Local Paper. I’ve been thinking about this one a lot. After watching The Social Dilemma on Netflix, the messaging around how our information silos are formed and the AI algorithms that continue to divide and push us further away from one another, really stayed with me. Finding accurate, unbiased information and doing the due diligence to really understand all sides to a story are so critical. We need journalism to grow and thrive. My goal is to purchase a digital subscription to my local paper and read it weekly.
~ Five ~
Support Local Music and Theater. I am happy that the Save our Stages Act was included in the latest COVID-19 relief bill but worry that it is not enough to save some of the smaller music and performance venues. We’ve already lost Port City Music Hall where I saw JoJo and Bruce in the USA . For #GivingTuesday, I donated to the Maine Music Alliance and I want to continue to find ways to support our local stages. My goal is to attend at least four shows this year either virtually or in person and to purchase merchandise from local venues.
~ Six ~
Support Local Farms.As restaurants have closed or seen their sales plummet, the farmers who supply them have been impacted as well. We’ve done a farm share for a few years now and plan to sign up for this year’s share as soon as they become available. If you’re looking for a CSA, I highly recommend Bumbleroot Organic Farm. They’re fantastic. There are also ongoing farmers markets and farm stores where you can buy local food directly. My goal is to renew our CSA shares for both food and flowers as well as purchase food locally whenever possible.
~ Seven ~
Support New Endeavors. Many businesses have come up with new business models, changed how they get product to consumers and generally been creative in staying afloat. We participated in a Virtual Wine Dinner early in the pandemic. Our amazing craft brewers were offering curb side pickup almost as soon as COVID-19 hit and we’ve utilized it many times during the pandemic. Restaurants such as The Lost Kitchen started offering a local online market or selling groceries from their eateries. The chef/owner of the Lost Kitchen also has her memoir coming out in April: Finding Freedom. I’ve already pre-ordered it! My goal is to purchase at least six new products offered by local businesses.
~ Eight ~
Shout Out on Social Media. This is something I have always tried to do, but I am definitely upping my game. I like to share posts about products, restaurants and other local businesses that I love on social media. This Christmas I focused on buying local and small as much as possible and found so many great local artisans. I also posted reviews for local businesses on Facebook. My goal is to post on social media at least once a week about a local business or product that I love.
~ Nine ~
Buy Local. When I need a book, video game or other media, I always check out Bull Moose or Print: A Bookstore first. Before I click buy on amazon or other large online retailers, I do research first around whether it’s something I can get locally instead. I’m often surprised to learned what local options are available. For example, I want to send print birthday cards to my friends and family this year. It’s always fun to get mail and I think we could all use a smile after the last year. After some research, I discovered that there are some great local card companies such as Borealis Press and other local artists who have cards available too such as Gray Day Studio. My goal is to purchase at least twenty birthday cards that are made locally.
~ Ten ~
Try Something New. While I’ve been trying to support the local businesses I know and love, there are so many I don’t know about that are struggling too. I’m thinking of reaching out for recommendations on Nextdoor or my neighborhood Facebook group to get suggestions for favorite local businesses and products. I’ve also been listening to the Makers of Maine podcast and have already discovered some new artisans creating some fun things. Learning about new Maine based businesses is one of my favorite things. My goal is to find at least ten new local businesses to purchase from this year.
~ Eleven ~
Buy Gift Cards. I bought a few gift cards at the beginning of the pandemic but haven’t purchased any recently. I’m not a huge Gift Card person although I know this comes up all the time as a way to help local businesses. I’ve just never warmed up to the idea. I think it is because I really enjoy picking out gifts for friends and family. The Gift Card route seems impersonal. It’s time to change that up. I can buy gifts cards for my family that we can use later, as well as pick up a few to send to friends as a surprise. If it helps local businesses, I can get past my bias. My goal is to buy at least six gift cards this year.
~ Twelve ~
Triple the Impact.Cooking for Community is another new organization that came about to fill a need during the pandemic. This one is a triple win. It helps struggling restaurants who prepare healthy meals using as much locally sourced food as possible to donate to people in need. We donated to similar causes early during the pandemic such as Feeding America and Feeding the Frontline but I really love how Cooking for Community is helping multiple Maine communities in need with one wonderful idea. My goal is to support endeavors like Cooking for Community through donations or volunteering my time.
Of course there are many other ways to support our local communities during this pandemic. I know that not everyone is in a position to be able to give money right now. So many of our neighbors are struggling. So far, my family is doing okay and I want to do more to help our community. It’s time to start taking action on these goals.
Here’s to supporting local in 2021 and always.
Do you have a unique way that you’ve supporting your local community during the pandemic? Please share! I’d love to learn more ways I can help.
A few weekends ago we were surprised with unseasonably warm temperatures. We jumped on the opportunity to enjoy dinner alfresco with friends. It was beautiful and all the sweeter because we know those days are numbered.
Winter is coming and with the pandemic’s second wave in full force, it’s inevitable that there will be less opportunity to go out. The problem is that I live in Maine. When winter arrives it will bring snow, ice and incredibly cold temperatures.
We were in the home stretch almost ready to claim our prize and revel in our bragging rights. Our tattered, well-worn beer trail map held together with generous amounts of packaging tape, has only TWO blank spaces left. We planned to finish our visits in the spring but then the world paused.