On New Year's Day, we had nothing better to do with our time but go for a walk. Germans are pyromaniacs, and the firework displays the night before ensured that there would be lots of rubble left around our neighbourhood to rummage through. We decided to collect Champagne corks. The girls raced around, trying to outnumber their sister and we were left with buckets of the things. Time for a craft.

These keychains are touted as DIY gifts for the boat enthusiast on your list, because if they drop their keys in the water, they'll float. If you have such a person in your life, go you. Otherwise, just consider them cute, personalized and an inexpensive way to let someone know you think they're great.

You will need:
A cork
Acrylic paint
This do-hickey that you can find at any key cutting place. They're about a dime a dozen. Figuratively speaking.
I started by having the girls paint them a fleshy colour all over, let that dry, did the hair, and then the clothing. I was in charge of the accessories and facial expressions.
et Voila! A keychain to call your own. Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents, we did them all. And because I really am the worst, you'll probably never get them, because I'll probably never mail them. It's the thought that counts though, right?
Eloise was with me as I was getting into my pj's last night. 

"Mommy!! The baby is so big! I think your belly is about to crack!"

As she pointed at my stretch marks.
Apparently the market to live in some ramshackle Scottish cottage is mighty fierce. Which means that my trip was a complete and utter waste of time and money. Both of which would have been better spent in sunny Seville. Where there is a 40 euro seat sale from Dusseldorf Airport at the moment. At least it's warm under my bed covers, which is where you will find me if you happen to be wondering. 
Author's Note:
This is an entry that was pre-fabricated on the back of an airplane puke bag.

Thought #1

How I know I'm heading back to Germany: 
The stewardess has permanent frown lines and her hair is grazing the ceiling of the plane.

Thought #2

After being given his tiny pack of pretzels on our hour delayed, regional flight, the man sitting behind me remained hopeful. For when the drink cart came our way, he confidently asked "May I have some Cognac, please?" He seems happy enough with his apple juice.

Thought #3

Canadian politeness is nothing compared to the sincerity of the North-Eastern Scot. In two days, I managed to experience more personal exchanges than I have my entire time in Germany. I suppose I relished using my native tongue unabashedly, whereas I smile & nod through most German interactions.

This morning, Aaron called the hotel/inn/lodge for me, at the same time as I was sharing a coffee with the "local man" (who turned out to be the innkeeper) who had dropped me off at the edge of a wood only two days before. I think we were all surprised when he answered "yes, she's right here" and passed me the phone.

On the topic of the woods ... The innkeeper's famous last words that fateful morning were "Don't fret, you won't get lost." Oh, ye of little faith! So horribly lost was I that I had started to imagine giving birth in the snow under a tree. I had my keys for surgical tools and my scarf to swaddle the little one in. I was sure my screams would have me found, and I would eat snow, gladly. 

Instead, I trespassed. I left the trail and headed to the distant sound of civilization. I hopped a fence and landed up to my knees in a slushy mud puddle. I found a gravel road and walked (in the wrong direction) until I found a sign. That sign told me I had walked 3 miles out of the way. 

I am highly anxious about having to turn around and instead opted for hysteria. A car was coming up ahead and I took a chance on Scottish hospitality and sheepishly waved at the woman behind the wheel.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"Sob." I replied.
"Alright, get in the car, you're coming to Inverurie with me. They'll fix you a cuppa while I get my hair cut, then I'll drive you back to Kemnay."
And that's how I met Christine-Lyn, my sponsor for the local Woman's Institute. No joke.

Before arriving in Scotland, the strangest thing I expected to encounter was viewing the property to rent at Castle Fraser. After which I would have to sit down for a slice of humble pie. Self talk here - "Tara, you're going to a castle to find a place to live. When did your life become so fucking weird??" But that was nothing on its own, but just a sweet addition to the medley of madness that took place. 

One property, the old Farmhouse of Barthol Chapel, came with no address. "The Farmer" regretfully was going to a cattle auction and instructed me to meet his son under the statue of the old soldier, in the town cemetary. As far as landmarks go, this was essentially it. 
I arrived an hour early, so went to the public house for coffee and warm sticky toffee pudding. Oh sweet Jesus, it was good. The bartender warmed up to me after I asked about the mountains out the window and soon was sitting next to me, sharing pictures of his 3rd grand-baby. Who was accidently delivered on the living room floor by his son, not a week prior. 

Saying our goodbyes, I went up to meet the farmer's son, who instead had sent his mum to fetch me. Except, he told her that I would be at the old SAILOR statue, while I was actually standing among headstones. Veronica was no exception to the type of person I was likely to meet and soon enough I found myself helping to make coffee for all the farmers who had just returned from auction.

Being made to feel like an old friend, it seems, is more defining than any plate of haggis could ever hope to be. This tiny trip was so worth taking. Even if I didn't find the house we were meant to live in, I certainly found us a place to call home. 
Somewhere a little cozier than this. But perhaps that goes without saying.
Thought #4

Even if you're the coolest suit on the plane, you'll still press your face against the window to watch the world as you come down.